In our series of letters from African writers, media consultants and trainers, Joseph Warungu writes about plans to build a huge museum in Ghana (so that Africans, not foreigners, control their history and heritage) , to reflect the history and heritage of Africans.
A new African migration is coming.
Maasai in Kenya and Tanzania, Himba in Namibia, Somalis in the Horn of Africa, Zulu in southern Africa and Mbenga in the West Congo Basin – and many other communities – may soon move to new Homeland Ghana.
More than 4,000 years ago, Africa’s most important popular mass movement began when large numbers of Bantu-speaking people left their original homes in southern West Africa to settle elsewhere on the continent.
Newcomers will travel in the opposite direction.
Like their predecessors, they do not require visas or travel documents.
Their relocation was not material, but cultural and spiritual. Their histories, their philosophies, their beliefs and their stories are about to find a new home.
The new home is located in Pommard Hills, Winneba. The 10-acre site in Central Ghana is located approximately 60 kilometers (40 miles) west of the capital, Accra.
It’s a place to see, with undulating terrain and tree-lined terrain.
If all goes according to plan, an impressive six-storey building, the Pan-African Cultural Museum, will be built by next August.
“Migrants” will enter their new home in Ghana via Winneba, just over an hour’s drive from the point of no return at Cape Coast Castle, where millions of Africans were forced off the continent and into slavery.
The museum under construction has a key goal – to use African voices, tools and cultures to curate and tell African stories.
The great thinkers behind the project say it is necessary because others have been telling stories about Africa for a long time.
They argue that when other people tell your story, they tell it from their own perspective so they will look good.
So the museum seeks to own the African narrative by bridging what the founders say is the widening gap between people of African descent for more than 400 years.
This is a museum that seeks to teach, heal and inspire.
Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo said the museum would “provide a natural home and resting place for all looted cultural artifacts from our continent, which will be housed in foreign museums and will be returned to us”.
This is following Senegal, Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeriaand comes at a time when Europe is increasingly accepting that items confiscated from Africa during the colonial era should be returned.
Judging from the recently launched digital version, the museum will be a stunning building towering and visible from a distance – a monument to Pan-Africanism.
As an ardent Pan-Africanist, I visited the virtual museum.
As you enter, your eyes are drawn to the exquisite works of contemporary art created by great artists of African descent.
Soothing saxophone sounds, accompanied by soft piano notes, relax you.
As if on cue, I was immediately drawn to this wonderful painting by Nigerian artist Doba Afolabi.
The piece, titled Nite Voltron, depicts a passionate musician happily emptying the contents of his lungs into his saxophone.
After a few virtual steps, I came across Tangled Trickster – an interesting work by American visual artist Aisha Tandiwe Bell, known for her use of mixed media to create myths and rituals.
According to her, the woman portrayed as a liar “summarizes our modern fragmented, hyphenated identity and multiple consciousnesses”.
The idea of targeting our collective African identity and history by harnessing, celebrating and curating African culture in a unique pan-African museum emerged in 1994.
The man behind it was Kojo Acquah Yankah, a former editor of Ghana’s Daily Bild, who served as a MP and cabinet minister in the government of the late President Jerry Rawlings.
He told me he was inspired when he attended the 375th anniversary of the forced arrival of the first 20 Africans on the coast of Jamestown, Virginia, the birthplace of American slavery.
“More than 5,000 people of African descent from around the world attended the event to celebrate their historical memoirs,” Mr. Yanka said.
“This inspired me to create the Pan-African Heritage Museum to unite Africans and people of African descent and to increase the confidence of Africans as a people with a rich history and heritage.”
But why bother with this museum when there are so many other museums in Africa?
“There are less than 2,000 museums on the African continent, compared to more than 30,000 in Europe and the United States,” said the man who also founded the African University School of Communication in Ghana.
“The museum is special because it is the only museum that brings all African heritage under one roof.”
The project’s lead architect is James Inedu-George, a Nigerian known for capturing the spirit of African culture and incorporating it into his designs.
The emblem chosen for the museum is the horn, a communication tool announcing the renaissance of Africa.
Funded by donations, the project is estimated to cost around $50 million (£40 million).
But its main backers, including President Akufo-Addo, believe the cost will be worth it.
“It will not only benefit the peoples of the world, but will give all of us a deep awareness and understanding of the goals and ideals of Pan-Africanism.”
In addition to artefacts and research materials, the museum will have a sculpture garden, a herbal garden and space for festivals, concerts, film screenings and exhibitions from the Pan-African world.
The Museum’s Innovation and Creativity Centre will be a space for young people to build new ideas for the future after visiting the facility.
The museum will set aside a two-acre plot to replicate a selected number of ancient and modern African kingdoms.
It will showcase their history, their art, their culture and learn from their skills, crafts and Aboriginal knowledge, which continues to this day.
A large number of African “immigrants” will make their homes here.
Mr. Yankah hopes his vision will correct our distorted traditions.
“Our heritage is stolen, our confidence is dimmed by paralyzing narratives of the past and even the present, so we disregard the wisdom proverbs and indigenous knowledge of our own people and eloquently cite sources in our daily lives that have nothing to do with us. “
Indeed, as the late Nigerian literary giant Chinua Achebe said, “Until the lion has its own historian, the history of hunting will always honor the hunter.”
Well, we Africans now have pens, brushes and big canvases – it’s time to tell our story.