Timeless beliefs underlying African spiritual practice becomes even more apparent as one scrutinizes the complexities of meanings attached to ideas of of reincarnation. Linked with this is a belief in the inevitability of rebirth for the majority of humanity. For this mural, we examine the lives of these remarkable Ghanaian women, as reincarnating spirits who sought manifestation amongst humans from other realms of existence in order to change the cause of history within the Ghana project, which is also a product of a series of imagined realities. More critically, it seeks to reignite the memory of these women who have been erased from our collective history as a country. Melody Millicent Danquah , Mabel Dove , Efua Sutherland , Rebecca Naa Dedei Aryeetey aka Dedei Ashikinshan , Theodosia Okoh , Annie Jiagge , Esther Ocloo , Laura Adorkor Coffie must be situated within our contemporary subjectivity as mothers of Pan-Africanism.
Locked deep within these traditions, we can discern the hidden mechanisms of nature and the eternal rhythm of manifestation as described in the traditions of peoples the world over. These women also represent majority of humanity’s contestation within this world of material attractions in order to attain true self-consciousness of their inner spiritual nature, for which reincarnation becomes a necessity. As their bodies appropriate different stages of evolution wear out, their eternal spiritual selves continue from one existence to another through a series of rebirths, clothing itself in the appropriate vehicle through which it can manifest its realities.
The mural is an in-depth overview of these women, questioning their silent legacies and the significance of masquerade culture, in art and society. They are a symbolic resurrection of Ghanaian mythologies and folklore that celebrates a time of wonder and mystique.
From top Left :
Laura Adorkor Coffie left the shores of Accra in the early 1900s to the U.S with the sole purpose of repatriating African Americans to Accra, to create a culturally independent community. she was a powerful, inspiring public speaker. In the early 1920s, she joined the Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), as a field director. At the time, the UNIA was much larger and more influential than other African American support groups such as the NAACP or the Urban League.
Joining the UNIA would prove to be a critical turning point in her life. She travelled throughout the south of the U.S recruiting for the movement.
She made plans to build sawmills in Alabama to pay for leased Japanese boats to facilitate a mass exodus of African Americans to Accra.As early as 1925 Laura was considered a leader in the “Back to Africa” movement, particularly in the South. In May that year, while on tour and still ostensibly representing the UNIA, and was credited with securing thousands of new members to the UNIA. The American press hailed her as a “real conscientious race lover…and a radical one too.” Adorkor had a “burning message” from the Gamashie authorities of the Gold Coast, West Africa…that the door is now opened to the four hundred million Negroes of the world, and no power can shut it out until all have entered.”
In 1927 she founded the African Universal Church, based in Jacksonville Maimi. Her followers called her “Warrior Mother of Africa’s Warriors of the Most High God’. By this time, Laura had become a Black liberation icon and fallen out with Garvey; he accused her of being a fraud publicly and distanced the UNIA that she had expanded into a formidable movement from her.
Garvey’s men assassinated Laura Adokor Coffie on March 8th 1928 while she delivered a sermon in Jacksonville. Her breakaway church had become too powerful and her initiative to repatriate African Americans to Accra made her a target of powerful interest groups. The state of Florida honoured her by naming the community where the African Universal Church is built Adorkaville. The commune still has her tomb and a small museum to this day.
Efua Sutherland – Ghanaian playwright, poet, teacher, and children’s author, who founded the Drama Studio in Accra (now the Writers’ Workshop at the institute of African Studies, University of Ghana, Legon). She was also one of the first African women to produce work for children during the post-independence era. She was also instrumental in the creation of PANAFEST in Ghana.
Yaa Asantewaa – was a galant queen mother of Ejisu in the Asante Kingdom who resisted Southern armies in the Gold Coast in their last push against the abolishing of human trafficking in the region.
Melody Millicent Danquah was a Ghanaian pilot and the first female pilot South of the Sahara, becoming the first Ghanaian and among the first African women ever to fly an aeroplane solo at a time when most women of African descent across the world hadn’t dared to dream.
Rebecca Naa Dedei Aryeetey aka Dedei Ashikinshan was a Ga industrialist who funded Kwame Nkrumah’s CPP to victory at the height of the independence struggle. She also funded CPP anti-imperialist campaigns across West Africa and was responsible for mobilising women across the country to create the CPP’s women’s wing. Dedei Ashikinshan bankrolled Ghana’s independence struggle with significant contributions that oiled the CPP’s machinery that led the independence movement. A true mother of Pan-Africanism.
Bottom Right to Left:
Annie Jiagge – born Annie Ruth Baeta was a Ghanaian lawyer, judge and human rights advocate. She was the first Ghanaian woman to become a lawyer; she was also the first woman in Ghana and the Commonwealth of Nations to become a judge. Judge Jiagge was very instrumental in the drafting of a document on the elimination of discrimination against women in the 1960s, an important precursor to the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. Jiagge was also very much involved in the organization that metamorphosed into the Women’s World Bank. Annie Jiagge was part of the constituent assembly that drafted Ghana’s 1991 constitution.
Theodosia Okoh – Ghanaian stateswoman, teacher and artist known for designing Ghana’s national flag in 1957. Madam Okoh’s flag inspired many African nations during a period of anti-colonial struggle on the continent. She also played a leading role in the development of hockey in Ghana. During her tenure as President of the Ghana Hockey Federation, the country qualified for both the Hockey World Cup and the Olympic games.
Esther Ocloo – (Born Esther Afua Nkulenu) was one of Ghana’s most industrious entrepreneurs. Ocloo was founder of Nkulenu Industries Ltd, a food processing company in Ghana and one of the founders of Women’s World Banking in 1976. She is remembered for her role in promoting local industrialisation and popularising the micro-lending scheme.
Mabel Dove – She was the first woman to be elected member of any African legislative assembly. She was one of the earliest women in West Africa working as a journalist, becoming the first female newspaper editor in West Africa and author.
In the coming weeks, we will be posting articles and short films about the silent legacies of these Ghanaian women. Stay tuned.
photos by Gloria Omari Wiafe