Ghanaian Folklore: All you need to know

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ghanaian folklore

What is folklore?

Folklore is the totality of a people’s intellectual and spiritual tradition passed on by word of mouth. It comprises customs, beliefs, material culture, dramatic art, festivals, music stories, proverbs, and riddles among others. The term folklore was originated by William Tom, an Englishman, in 1846. According to him, Folklore relates to past events but has a link with the society from which it emerged.

Ghana consists of over a hundred different ethnic groups with different and unique folklore. This diversity is responsible for Ghana’s rich cultural heritage, and it ranges from the Larabanga mosque in the north to the Kpanlogo dance of the Gas in the south.  The traditional foods like Fufu, Kenkey, Tuozaafi etc. plus traditional games such as ampe, oware and chaskele down to the traditional practices, beliefs, and festivals all make the rich, unique Ghanaian folklore.

Why is folklore important?

Folklore is the identity of a people. We identify the Gas by the Kpanlogo dance and Akans by the Adowa.  Ghana is identified on the world stage as the home of the popular Kente Cloth.

It is also a source of revenue generation. Local artists make money with the inclusion of folklore in their crafts. It constituted 1.98% of Ghana’s Gross Domestic Product.

Why do we need to protect folklore?

Urbanisation and migration are gradually causing the death of Ghana’s folklore. For instance, many school-going children in our urban cities can’t speak their mother tongue well and have no idea of traditional cultural practices aside from the watered-down versions in their textbooks.

Other persons through exploitation make money at the expense of the owners of Ghanaian folklore. An example is a use of the Kente Cloth in the Black Panther Movie and the alleged sale of Ahenema slippers by an Italian Brand for over USD 1000.00

Who protects folklore?

To protect our folklore, the National Folklore Board (NFB) was constituted. The National Folklore Board(NFB) is an agency under the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture that is mandated by law to exercise the ownership rights to folklore on behalf of the President for the people of Ghana under Copyright Act, 2005 (Act 690).

The core mandate of the NFB is to promote and protect the folklore of Ghana.  The agency does this through programmes like celebrating World Folklore Day, establishing folklore clubs across the country, promoting cultural tourism, organising National Traditional Game competitions, and running public campaigns to educate people about Folklore.

What is the authorised and unauthorised use of folklore?

Since by law, the NFB is also to ensure that Ghana is duly compensated for unauthorised use of her folklore both locally and internationally, it is important to understand authorised and unauthorised use of folklore.

Generally, the use of expressions of folklore for commercial purposes and/or for purposes outside the customary context, i.e. outside the normal usage of an expression of folklore, requires the permission of the NFB. For example, a Ghanaian artiste who uses Ghanaian proverbs in his song, will not request permission from the NFB since proverbs form a part of our language, and are employed in everyday conversation. However, on the other hand, a foreign artiste will require permission to use Ghanaian proverbs in his/her song since Ghanaian proverbs do not form part of his everyday language. Also, the use of an Adinkra symbol by a company in Ghana will require permission from the NFB since such purpose is to sell and make a profit. Permissions granted for unauthorised use come in the form of royalties and compensation paid to the NFB.

Revenue from fees, compensation and royalties are to be used towards the promotion of folklore which is also part of the national development of Ghana.

What can I do?

  • Contact the National Folklore Board about the use of folklore in your craft.
  • Partake in activities organised by the NFB
  • Join JBKlutse to facilitate the sensitisation of Ghanaian folklore by spreading the word.

In conclusion, folklore has the potential of generating revenue to contribute to the development of this country. However, the NFB will need the right support from all stakeholders, of which JBKlutse is part, in fulfilling its mandate of promoting and protecting our folklore.

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