FAILING OUR ANCESTORS, KINGS AND HEROES; THE CASE OF THE DAGBON STATE

In the beginning, there was culture, not markets nor economic growth, not experts nor profits, no civil societies nor global environmental problems, no religious movements nor globalisation. “In the beginning, there was culture and in the end hopefully, culture remains” Jean Bertrand Aristide 1997. Culture has been the forgotten part of our development. Every group of people must have a foundation to develop and that foundation is their culture. It is not possible for a people to develop by building upon the culture or identity of other societies or people.
Dagbon has suffered so much and would still suffer more because of our abdication from our culture. We aren’t Arabs and we can’t become Arabs. We aren’t Hawsa people and we can’t become Hawsa. We aren’t Fulanis and we can’t become Fulanis. We are Dagombas, Mamprusis and Nanumbas and we can only remain so. It should be within common knowledge that even if we want to make ourselves Arabs, the Arabs would not admit us.
The Dagbon kingdom was formed by powerful people & kings whose organisational and war skills were unrivalled and they succeeded to a very large extend in creating a formidable state. They had an enviable art, skills and power. A look at the lands these heroes put together from Yendi to Tolon, Gburimani and beyond clearly indicates that these were indeed great people of a higher pedigree.
As a child, I learnt that some great kings who fought to conquer the land we live in today died through wounds they sustain in wars. Others made great sacrifices to the gods. The role of kings like Naa Nyagsi in establishing our present day Dagbon (including its namship) cannot be gloss over. But what have we done to them? What have we done to their memory? Our chiefs now sell the lands Naa Nyagsi conquered with reckless abandon without doing anything to immortalize the very Naa Nyagsi who gave them the land and namship.
It is shocking to realize that in the whole of Dagbon up to Mamprugu and Nanun, we don’t have a single monument in hounour of Naa Sitobu, Naa Nyagsi or even Naa Gbewaa himself, yet we claim they are our heroes. Why can’t our kids see the visual images of our heroes? I would like to see how Naa Gbewaa looked like. The history of every people is written in its monuments. They reveal, without diminishment or partiality, their mores, their beliefs, their institutions. This observation is true for all eras and applicable to all societies. In the Ashanti region in Ghana, every important public place or roundabout have a monument of an important king or cultural artefact or sculpture. This is how you keep a culture alive.
Monuments have been created for thousands of years, and they are often the most durable and famous symbols of ancient civilizations. Building monuments and statues to commemorate important kings or events, has become relevant to every civilization. Great monuments can generate public interest and get listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In modern cities, monuments are frequently used to improve the appearance of a city or location. Examples are all over Ghana. They can be used to educate the populace about important events or figures from the past.
Monuments are also often designed to convey historical or political information, and they can thus develop an active socio-political potency. They can be used to reinforce the primacy of contemporary political power. To fulfil its informative and educative functions a monument needs to be open to the public, which means that its spatial dimension, as well as its content can be experienced by the public, and be sustainable. The former may be achieved either by situating the monument in public space or by a public discussion about the monument and its meaning, the latter by the materiality of the monument or if its content immediately becomes part of the collective or cultural memory.
Monument and Statues seek to use the past to stimulate a feeling of communal solidarity. Dagbon needs that so much and it needs it now. We need to create new statues to honour the memory of the Kings who had contributed to the glory of the Dagbon State. Our Sigil as a people is a Lion. Where is a statue of a Lion in the whole of Tamale or Yendi? Where is the sigil in our palaces?
At this moment, I know some of my readers will should out, we are Muslims! We can’t build monument and statues. Yes, there will always be people making this argument because they do not study religion and their understanding of Islam is often base on cherry picked information. Firstly, we should know that religion doesn’t annihilate the culture of a people and we saw that clearly in Saudi-Arabia itself. When Islam was introduce, all core cultural foundations of Saudi Arabia was made a part of it. The Circumambulation and veneration of the Kaba (Hajj), Ablution, kissing of the black stone, dress codes etc. were all existing and were core foundations of Arab culture before Islam, but the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) never cancelled them and adopted them into the new religion. Secondly, Saudi Arabia itself (the foundation and seat of Islam) have monuments and statues. So what Islam are we practicing that wouldn’t tolerate our culture and art? The symbol of the Moon and Star we placed on top of our mosques are Ottoman symbols that was included into Islam long after the Prophet Muhammad. Religion is supposed to help you immortalise your culture not kill it. The Ottoman’s knew that very well. Under no circumstances whatsoever, should we allow dodgy and extremist interpretations of religious scriptures to alter our history nor our culture. To end with this, we should also know that our ancestors and kings such as Tohazie, Naa Gbewaa, Kpugnumbo, Zirli, Tohagu, Sitobu, Nyagsi, Zulandi, Liro among others, were not Muslims. They were Dagban-dabba and should be honoured as such.
We know so well that our ancestors rode on horses to fight wars but where are the monuments to show it? They said our people were skilful in using spears and arrows, why can’t we see it in physical art?
As a matter of agency, I am proposing that Yaa Naa Abubakri Mahama II should make it a policy to compel all land selling chiefs to build 4 to 5 monuments/statues in honour of our kings and queens who conquered the lands we are enjoying today.
I end this with a presentation of a few pictures I have seen in other parts of Ghana, where the memory of ancestors and kings are kept alive.
Contact: profkassim05@gmail.com

Monuments of important cultural issues and kings in Ghana.

Monuments of important cultural issues and kings in Ghana.

Paintings of important cultural significance at the Royal Blue hotel in Lartey, Eastern Region of Ghana

Paintings of important cultural significance (this is a clear appropriation of Dagbon culture) at the Royal Blue hotel in Lartey, Eastern Region of Ghana

Paintings of important cultural significance (this is a clear appropriation of Dagbon culture) at the Royal Blue hotel in Lartey, Eastern Region of Ghana

One thought on “FAILING OUR ANCESTORS, KINGS AND HEROES; THE CASE OF THE DAGBON STATE

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

%d bloggers like this: