"Black African cinema did not develop under the same circumstances as European or American cinema. Besieged by European colonizers, African cinema was not controlled by Africans until the 1960's, when Africans began to achieve independence and make their own feature films."
Kwaw Ansah expressed remorse about the issue himself during an interview with Kofi Anyidoho when he stated, "I feel the governments of Africa should really see the need for film as a developmental tool for the continent. Developed countries would not have attained their level of development without film playing a central role."
The African has been misrepresented through mass media and mediums such as film for such a long period of time in history that redemption time has come. Film is a very powerful means of persuasion and if we are able to use it to reconstruct the African within his own terms, social consciousness will begin to gain momentum within the African community. I am a film major at Columbia University and throughout my studies I have not seen many films of African subject matter. I was blessed enough to have a class entitled "Africa in Cinema" taught by Professor Kaiama Glover, which in fact sparked my interest to learn more about Africa's position within the world of Cinema. My exposure to film and the history of the Diaspora has led me to want to understand more about how film has been used as propaganda pitted against the rise of the African consciousness as well as how Africans use film as a medium to express, promote, and represent their culture. In the few readings I've encountered about African film I noticed that themes of colonialism and imperialism are very prevalent throughout most films because they are issues that the African is struggling with on a whole. My specific interest with treatment of Kwaw Ansah's work has been inspired by his acclaim within Ghana. I have a very intimate connection with this project because I aspire to create films that will inspire the elevation of the consciousness of my people in the same way that Kwaw Ansah does. In this treatment of Ghanaian cinema and the themes that transcend from social, political, and cultural issues into art work I wish to gain a deeper understanding of the African and the core of his bereaved existence. "The Colonial Film Unit treated everything African as superstitious and backward and valorized Europe at Africa's expense, as if they needed to downgrade traditional African culture in order to demonstrate European efficacy." The history of film in Ghana is one that is entrenched within the history of the African and the oppressor. Film is a medium used to construct cultural identity and the realities of individuals within societies and inevitably African film is a reflection of the African's existence and struggle to gain independence of thought and identity. Thus, film as an art form is that with which the African can use to deconstruct and reconstruct identity as it pertains to gaining an autonomous voice to tell the story of the African people.
When trying to figure out how to construct a research project on Ghanaian film that would involve more than being contained within a room watching films all day I was in a mental rut. In the preliminary stages of my research I desired to do a complete analysis of Ghanaian film including the history of films as propaganda within Ghana, the history of celluloid vs. video and analysis of the themes within such films. However, I quickly realized that the time restraints placed upon the project would not allow for such extensive research. I attempted to do some preliminary reading on Ghanaian film- making before I began my interview process but reading material is as scarce as the access to the actual films. I was fortunate enough to gain access to Ukadike's Black African Cinema and Diawara Manthia's African Cinema but on a larger scale literature about African cinema is quite rare. Ukadike's book aims to "examine black Africa's cinematic practices which, in conjunction with traditional forms of communication and representation, offer a cultural means of expression-a coherent systematic definition of social life, politics, and conflict-spanning the colonial and neocolonial periods." Diawara's book seeks to evoke many of the similar issues of African cinema but on a smaller scale. I also looked for various Independent Study Projects on Ghanaian cinema only to find out that they did not exist. When I went to The National Film and Television Institute (NAFTI) I accidentally came across an ISP done by an arts and culture student about the history of the Ghanaian film industry (an in depth look at the plight of celluloid and video). Skimming through this work and speaking with Francis Gbormittah (a researcher at NAFTI) helped me to realize that I would have to narrow my scope down to something that I could manageably manifest into something of depth and substance. Thus, I chose to narrow my scope to just looking at celluloid films . Initially I wanted to use "No Tears for Ananse" ( 1977), " I Told You So" (1970), "Genesis Chapter X" (1977), "Love Brewed In an African Pot" (1981), "Heritage… Africa" (1988), "His Majesty's Sergeant" (1984), "Kukurantumi: The Road To Accra" (1984), "Juju" (1986), "Handsworth Songs" (1986), and "Testament" (1986). All of these films are celluloid films that were created in Ghana. Performing a close analysis of this many films would have also become a huge task considering the time constraints. Instead, I chose to narrow my scope to the works of a specific time period and a specific director due to the limited access of the films. I chose to do a close analysis on Kwaw Ansah's films Love Brewed In The African Pot and Heritage Africa.
My research is comprised of observation, participatory screening of the films, literary review of the films, in depth literary / field work analysis of the historical background surrounding the political and historical themes within the films, and participatory/ discussions and interviews regarding the films. I have chosen to do a very meticulous analysis of the two films, which requires repeated (at least three) viewings of the films. My analysis of the films is based on a close critical reading of the film's themes. I have decided to watch each film at least three times to make sure that my research and my analysis is substantially truthful and not rushed. The first screening of the film will serve to be purely spectator based so that I may absorb the film and all of its elements purely as a viewer and the second and third viewings of the films will be strictly for close analysis of the films taking into consideration the comments and discussions I have had with primary sources regarding the films. The two films that I have chosen to analyze were chosen in part because of the access factor. They are just now being mass-produced and distributed in Ghana and they were also the most mentioned Ghanaian films when I performed my query about film in Ghana.
The purpose of my research is to delve into the aspects of colonization presented in Kwaw Ansah's films that affect the African psyche thus causing a neo-enslavement. Demonization and adulteration of traditional religion, values, and concepts has been a very prominent theme at the forefront of my scope. I have also chosen to explore themes that lie within the realm of acculturation, politics, social and cultural values, classism, imperialism, and traditional versus western values in the context of defining the African identity. I am looking for themes that transgress and permeate Ghanaian society and transcend time periods. Ultimately all of the themes are facets of colonialism and emanate from the machine created by colonialism. The initial thrust of my research will be restricted to the effects of colonial and post- colonial structures within society thereafter and contemporary Ghanaian society. My research will have historical and political undertones as well as close analysis of how these undertones permeate the visual images in the films of Kwaw Ansah.
Upon choosing this project I my advisor immediately directed me to NAFTI, the film school of the University of Ghana at Legon. I chose my interviewees by way of going to NAFTI (National Film and Television Institute) and speaking with Kofi Middleton-Mends who is a prominent actor and advisor at NAFTI, who in turn recommended a few people to me that were experts in my field of interest. I sought to choose several different categories of authoritarians on my subject matter including: actors, critics, producers, writers, and researchers. Through this quite hectic process of selection I met people who referred me to new people thus enriching my research and providing solid information to support my thesis. I interviewed: Kofi Middleton-Mends (professor, actor), Seth Ashong-Katai (director, writer, lecturer), Kofi Bucknor (actor), Nanabanyin Dadson (news columnist), Evans Hunter (Actor), Mark Coleman (film editor for TV3/ GAMA Films), Dr. Esie Sutherland-Addy, Professor Addo-Fening (Institute of African Studies), and Kwaw Ansah (the director of the films). During my preliminary interview process I discovered that the questioning process was very instrumental in gaining particular information specific to my field of interest. Mark Coleman was the first person I went to for my research. The information he provided in his interview was helpful to me but it did not penetrate the specific topic that later developed from my reconstruction of my questions. Had I decided to do my research on the film industry Mark would have been a perfect source, but my scope was partially out of his means of expertise.
Initially when I interviewed him I still wanted to use all of the films I mentioned and I found that it was just not possible to create a precise reading of particular themes with so many variables. My interview with Kofi Bucknor was much more helpful because at this time I had decided that I wanted to focus my research on two specific films, one in which he was actually the main character. The type of information he provided was very intimate and specific to his actual experience creating and acting in the film. The subsequent interviews that occurred after this one were of a much more centralized field than the preliminary interviews because my scope began to become clearer. Many of my interviewees have worked very closely with Kwaw Ansah or written various critiques of his work. It is quite difficult to locate some of the people within the film field because they primary sources that I need are quite busy with their projects however many people were quite willing to rearrange their schedules to provide information for my research. Luckily, I was able to get a personal interview with Kwaw Ansah himself to enhance my knowledge of his intentions and the places from which his creative expressions have been born. When conducting my interviews I asked a variety of questions that would help me to gain a more concentrated and intimate insight of how the colonial themes within Kwaw Ansah's films should be interpreted and what they immediately imply about the African psyche. (See Appendix A)
After doing an in depth analysis of the films it was important for me to gain some historical feedback on the elements that I analyzed within the films because they are directly linked with political and historical occurrences in the history of Ghana. Thus, I sought to interview qualified professors with expertise in the area of history that would frame my study. My research is cushioned by my further analysis of the films through literary analysis including the opinions of authors such as Ukadike, Diawara, and Frantz Fanon.
I advise that the reader view the films before reading my analysis of them because the films will definitely provide the reader with a deeper understanding and conceptual connection with what I have presented in the project. Photos of the films and diagrams of the social structures presented within my paper can be found in the appendices to provide further understanding of the presentation.
Chapter I: (a.) Behind the Scenes of the Director
Kwaw Ansah is a filmmaker who comes from 'humble beginnings' and has emerged in the enclave of independent film making as a creative genius with the making of his two celluloid films Love Brewed in The African Pot and Heritage Africa. His father J.R. Ansah was a professional photographer, painter, dramatist and musician and wanted Kwaw to be a textile designer. He states that he can remember back to secondary school when he had to sit for the common entrance exam and the headmaster asked his father if he was prepare to pay the school fees and his father said no because Kwaw had not washed his car. Kwaw didn't want to be a photographer and he didn't "wash his father's car" so he had to find something else he was interested in. Despite his father's wishes he joined the textile designing team and was trained by Unilever. Growing up in an era in which the masses desired to go to the colonial master's country to further their education Kwaw Ansah decided to go to The Manchester College of Art. During his time at Manchester Ansah was more of a teacher than a student so he moved his studies to Regent Street Polytechnic. From 1962 onwards he studied at Regent Street Polytechnic. His cousin Ato Yarney was producing a student film at school and he wanted Kwaw to design the set for him. Kwaw did a magnificent job of designing the set and thus he began to do more work of the kind and became interested in film. He decided to continue his studies in the United States where he attended the American Academy of Musical and Dramatic Arts in New York. Richard Burton's father discovered that Kwaw's work could easily be transposed to film and he asked him if he would like to pursue a film career after the Academy. Kwaw was awarded a grant to study filmmaking and he went to California where he trained at a few production studios as an apprentice. He created Adoption and Mother's Tears, which were both produced off-Broadway in New York in 1964. He left the states shortly after this to return to Ghana so he could work on honing his craft as a filmmaker.
Today he owns a production and broadcast company called TV Africa, which aims to enhance the future generations of Africans by promoting self-elevating programs. He also owns Target Advertising, which is an affiliate of Saatchi and Saatchi. Love Brewed in The African Pot is his first feature. It was very hard for him to exhibit a film like Love Brewed in 1980's because many distribution companies felt that African would not draw an audience that would make the film commercially and economically yielding. He was able to present the film at the Commonwealth film festival where it go rave reviews and a representative from Kenya was interested in distributing it through the Kenya Film Corporation. Though the KFC was quite reluctant to take the film once they started showing the film it was in more demand than James Bond. Heritage, Kwaw's second feature did not do as well as Love Brewed because of its stringent political and cultural messages but it was pirated and even though sales dropped people got to see the film. The films are now two of the most critically acclaimed films in Ghana and Kwaw fortunately did not have to sacrifice his artistic autonomy for the sake of making his films.
Celluloid film making is very capital intensive in Ghana and today it is very difficult to get banks and other financial institutions to finance such films thus Ghana has gone down the path of creating video films. However the quality of the content within video films has been sacrificed because they are so easy to make. Kwaw's mission is to motivate the young African youth and educate them so that they understand that being black does not make them inferior. The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Kwaw Ansah believes in the power of film to impact social change within the African community thus he believes that it is important to invest and make sacrifices for the art of film because it can be used as a medium to help remind us that we as Africans are cutting our roots in desperation and we need to save ourselves from self destruction. The films of Kwaw Ansah blend many elements of African society to reveal the contradictions between traditional and western values, they denounce acculturation and attempt to raise the consciousness of the characters through having the characters go through a psychological metamorphosis to shed colonial thought processes and values. Kwaw Ansah is a freedom fighter through his artwork and work deserves a close treatment of analysis in order to synthesize understanding.
Chapter I: (b.) Brief History of Film in Ghana
After independence, Ghana was one of the only countries that sought to integrate film into its cultural policy as an element of development and entertainment. The Ghana Gold Coast Film Unit became independent in 1950 before the British Colonial Film Unit ceased to operate in Africa. "Ghana's film unit saw its purpose as making educational and entertainment films to distribute in and outside the country. Rejecting the aesthetic of the Colonial Film Unit, it embraced current narrative styles of fiction films and documentaries." Sean Graham helped to organize the Film unit and he worked with his team to make films about city life, independence movements, and acculturation. The greatest success Graham had was with The Boy Kumasenu (1952). Even though Graham sought to create socially and politically educational films for Ghanaians the company did not set up any type of production unit that could be solely operated by Ghanaians. The Ghana film Corporation remained dependent upon foreign operators in London to function properly. The students who worked with Graham and attended the Accra Film Training School were never allowed the chance to direct their own films.
In 1957 once Graham left Ghana, the Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah made film distribution and production a national responsibility. "Between 1957 and 1966, the Nkrumah regime built the most sophisticated infrastructure of film production in Africa, including editing studios and 16mm and 35mm processing laboratories." Foreign directors made many newsreels, documentaries, and propaganda films in the studios in Ghana due to the fact that there were not yet any Ghanaian directors. When Nkrumah was overthrown during the coups the new military regime seized the films produced between 1957 and 1966 because they supposedly enhanced the radical views of Nkrumah. The government branches that handle the film industry in Ghana are now the Ghana Film Industry Corporation (GFIC) presently known as GAMA (taken over by the Malaysians), the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC), and the National Film Institute (NAFTI). These companies manage production, distribution, censorship, education, and training within the film and television industry. Many film makers such as Chris Hesse, Ato Yarney, Thomas Ribiero, and King Ampaw have emerged from these institutions producing such films as: I Told You So 1970, Genesis Chapter X 1977, The Visitor 1983, His Majesty's Sergeant 1984, Kukurantumi 1984, and No Tears For Ananse 1977. Today Ghana's film industry has been inundated with Nigerian video films however with the hopes of getting the government to realize that film should be an integral part of societal development the industry will begin to rebuild itself into an industry that is as reputable as it was in the beginning.
Chapter III: Introduction and Contextual presentation of the political and historical themes in Heritage… Africa and Love Brewed In The African Pot.
Both Love Brewed in The African Pot and Heritage…Africa emerge from within a time period in which colonial rule was pervasive. "Colonialism is the policy by which the "mother country" the colonial power binds her colonies to herself by political ties with the primary object of promoting her own economic advantages." 'Colonialism was imposed after 1874. The British did not know what to make of our culture particularly our traditional authority. By the turn of the 20th century they adapted indirect rule, which is ruling through the existing traditional authority. Prior to colonialism ruler ship was inherent to the stools. The chief represents the link between the dead and the living. He is the bridge of communication between the people and the spiritual realm. 'The chief personifies the ancestors and through him the respect sanctioned by religion is carried into the political field.' The British gave the chiefs different functions and they became the agents of colonial rule. There was no defined rule for the "educated" person. The British policy differed from the French policy in that it was not designed as an assimilation policy. It was rather designed for the greater good of production and economic yield. Albert Sarraut, the colonial secretary of State for France in 1923, said, "At the start colonization was not an act of civilization, it was not a desire to civilize. It was an act of force motivated by interests. The origin of colonization is nothing else than enterprise of individual interests, a one-sided and egotistical imposition of the strong upon the weak." The French were prepared to allow natives who were educated to become governors and political leaders, however, Africans under British rule were gradually phased out of the judicial, medical, and social fields that mattered in the societal setting. The educated African was worse than the savage. As the civil service expanded and they allowed blacks to climb the ladder of European affluence blacks aspired to be like the European and there was an influx of imitation of the white man's values.
Professor Addo Fening remembers his mother insisting to carry his suitcase during the 40's because he was considered a "white man" since he was educated. Kwaw Ansah criticizes the implications of this very mentality in his portrayal of Bosomfield and the triumph he has to go through to go back to his roots. There was a lot of high handedness during this period. A person who was an official of the colonial rule, such as Bosomfield, was almost considered immortal. The Catholics and the Protestants started schools to convert the young to Christianity. Starting in the early 1900's the missionaries would inculcate the scripture into the children before they were old enough to understand that they were being indoctrinated. Every Sunday the children were required to go to church and as part of the conversion biblical names were also given in place of traditional names. Later on in the 40's and the 50's as Africans began to understand more and more about European society as it infiltrated their identity they began to adopt the European names on their own. By Nkrumah's time the European craze began to die off. Professor Addo Fening says that when his last daughter was born she was "just plain" Ama.
During 1951-1957 there was an internal self-government. Nkrumah was partially in charge along with the big six. There were still certain ministries run by the Europeans though, including Finance, Foreign Affairs, and Internal Security. Nkrumah's influence was very strong starting in 1947. In 1951 the new constitution proposed direct elections, which would in turn give a little power and ministerial responsibility to the CPP. "The immediate aftermath of the war of the Gold Coast at first largely evaded the labor agitation typical of most colonies. Yet social tensions ran high. In 1948 a demonstration of ex-servicemen outside Christianborg Castle, the seat of government in Accra, was fired upon by government troops." Rioting ensued in many parts of Accra during this period. "The high point of militancy was the general strike of January 1950. It was initiated neither by Nkrumah nor by the CPP, but fell into their laps as the ideal pressure point against the colonial regime, which began to fear that if collaboration with Nkrumah was not established a far more serious threat to capital in the Gold Coast might ultimately emerge." These incidents highly influenced the portrayals of political tensions within the film Heritage… Africa. During this time period there was a lot of repression and agitation. The Nationalist government imposed a lot of pressure upon the European influences. When the ex servicemen came back from Burma in 1948 and demanded the jobs and better wages that they were promised they were forcefully rejected. This clash caused the Anti-white riots in Accra, which spiraled into the independence struggle. The big six lead by Dr. J.B. Danquah struggled for political positioning and power with Nkrumah and the Convention People's Party. At this point Nkrumah was able to function for six years in the position of colonial premier where he established a close relationship with the British governor, Sir Charles Arden-Clarke. The transitional period under the auspices of Nkrumah and his party was very instrumental for the schemes established to maintain continuity during the transition from colonial rule to the independent African rule. The CPP government carefully carried out the previously established plans of "colonial development" with emphasis on education.
During the period of 1951-1957 up to the period of WWII colonial rule did not institute any useful development plans for Ghana, instead they attacked African religion because they knew it was the pillar of the strength within the African community. Western Europeans have established a very distinct dichotomy between the church and the state however one cannot do so in Africa where the dead, living, and the unborn are a continuum of each other and depend on each other to exist. The dead definitely have an influence over the present.' "The "spirituality" of a people refers to the animating and integrative power that constitutes the principal frame of meaning for individual and collective experiences. Metaphorically, the spirituality of a people is synonymous with the soul of a people: the integrating center of their power and meaning." The Europeans sought to corrode the connection that the African had with himself and his ancestors through his spiritual devotedness. These very themes that emerged within the African society during the pre colonial and neo colonial periods are the very issues that Kwaw Ansah has chosen to deal with within his two films.
The issue of class is also a subset of colonialism that emerges within the films. The creation of the indigenous bourgeoisie is apart of the plan to divide the African nation from within. Through forging unity between the interests of colonialism and the indigenous elite the colonizers are able to further division between the elite and the struggling class because they can't relate to each other. With the influx of commodity production the colony began to become a vestige of exploitation. Capitalism and colonialism developed simultaneously as the wave of private enterprise created an emerging "petty bourgeois class and then an urban bourgeois class of bureaucrats, reactionary intellectuals, traders, and others, who became increasingly part and parcel of the colonial economic and social structure." At the end of the colonial period the European infrastructure also created an "intelligentsia, completely indoctrinated with western values; a virtually non-existent labor movement; a professional army and a police force with an officer corps largely trained in western military academies; and a chieftancy used for administering at local level on behalf of the colonial government." Kwaw Ansah implements all of these elements surrounding the political climate of the post colonial or neo colonial period of Ghana in his films Love Brewed and Heritage Africa