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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:A performing national archive: power and preservation in the Ghana Dance Ensemble
Author:Schauert, Paul
Periodical:Transactions of the Historical Society of Ghana (ISSN 0855-3246)
Notes:biblio. refs.
Geographic terms:Ghana
West Africa
History, Archaeology
Ghana Dance Ensemble
Cultural property
Abstract:From its inception in 1962, the Ghana Dance Ensemble has been an overtly nationalist project designed to encapsulate and display Ghana's culture. Members of the ensemble were given the task of 'developing new artistic forms of expression' while 'preserving the essence of these dances without destroying their cultural integrity'. The author explores the ways in which the GDE has 'preserved' African music and dance traditions and particular political ideologies by focusing in particular on the power relationships between indidviduals, notably those who represent the nation. Guided by Nkrumah's African Personality and Pan-Africanist political ideologies, a small group of political and academic intellectuals combined and transformed the expertise of indigenous artists to produce a singular vision of Ghana's dances. Especially influential were Kwabena Nketia, director of the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ghana, where the GDE was located, and Mawere Opoku, the GDE's artistic director. Since Opoku's first choreographic pieces were completed in the mid-1960s, the performance of these traditional dances has changed little. Opoku's works persist due to ideologies of preservation, notions of artistic copyright, lack of funding for the ensemble, acceptance by many local and even spiritual authorities, local and global power relationships (i.e. academic credentials and indigenous status) and other political agendas. With regard to this 'traditional' core of repertoire, the GDE has acted, in part, as a kind of performing archive for Ghanaian music and dance, as well as the nation's political history. Bibliogr., notes, ref. [ASC Leiden abstract]