Chiefs from the various southern Ghanaian ethnic communities in Tema had turned up in their unique traditional attires, including different designs of Kente with Ahenema (traditional sandals) and necklaces, anklets, beads and bracelets to match.
But the Northern, Upper East, and Upper West Regions were not left out, as their chiefs showed up at the durbar ground looking resplendent in exquisite smocks depicting their ethnic backgrounds, with leather boots to complement and horse tail whisk in hand.
Cultural groups from the various ethnic communities were given the opportunity to display their dancing skills to the audience as they welcomed everyone to the durbar grounds.
A lady Adowa dancer stole the show when the Asante Kotoko Adowa Kuo, which represented the Asante Community, hit Adowa and kete notes on their set drums. Dressed elegantly in Kente, she gracefully, choreographed a body movement that matched every single beat of the Fontonfrom.
The Ewe’s Boborbor female dancers put up a great show as they moved with calculated steps, gyrating their waists rhythmically and occasionally touching their chests and waists, with intermittent waving of handkerchiefs to the admiration of all, especially the men.
The Fante women, dressed in Kente and their tekuwa (traditional headgear) and atofo (padded buttocks), who danced to the Apatanpa and Adeinkum dances, also had their fair share of admirers.
The Bamaya or Tubankpele dance, which is said to be a harvest dance in the Dagbon, in the Northern Region was also displayed by the energetic dancers, who were mainly men, to present the beauty in diversity.
They vigorously shook their bodies and stamped their feet as the rattles secured around their legs and ankles made thrilling sounds.
Tema, being a predominantly Ga Community, could not celebrate its culture without the input of its landlord, the Tema Manhean.
Consequently, a number of youths grouped into two: Asafo, or Kple groups, from the area, and dressed in red, moved on the durbar grounds amidst the display of flags and singing of cheer songs.
MERIFEST is aimed at promoting the culture of the various ethnic groups in the Tema Metropolis, which is cosmopolitan, industrial, and the host of the country’s largest harbour.
Tema, which is the traditional home of the people of Tema, who are Gas, is said to originally bore the name ‘Torman’, which means a town of gourds. This name has over the years, reportedly, gone through some linguistic changes to become Tema.
History has it that, the natives of Torman during their journey to the Tema Meridian area, where they resided before moving to Tema Manhean (Tema Newtown), brought along with them the seeds of gourd. The seeds reportedly thrived very well and produced lots of gourds, which became their identity.
Tema, which is headed traditionally by Dr Nii Adjei Kraku II, Tema Mantse, has expanded beyond its traditional boundaries, thus boasting of a huge industrial reserve with an ethnically diversified work force.
As the industrial hub of Ghana, and a harbour city, Tema attracts all manner of people with different ethnic backgrounds, making the city, a big melting pot.
The “harbour city” is situated about 30 kilometres on the East of Accra, bordered on the East by the Kpone-Katamanso District, on the West by the Ledzokuku-Krowor Municipality, Adentan Municipality-the Northwest, Ashaiman Municipality at its Northeast, and bordered on the South by the Gulf of Guinea.
As a cosmopolitan city with different ethnic communities co-existing and interacting with one other, there was the need to create a platform to foster and maintain unity and cultural appreciation among the residents, thus leading to the birth of the MERIFEST.
MERIFEST, according to Mr Isaac Ashai Odamtten, Tema Metropolitan Chief Executive, is to promote tourism in Tema and to appreciate all the cultures in the Metropolis.
Mr Odamtten said the TMA had identified a number of potential tourist attraction sites in Tema to be developed.
Key amongst them is the Meridian or black rock, which is located in the sea and believed to be the centre of the world.
One can view this rock from the premises of the Ave Maria Resort, the former Halcrow Beach, which is said to have been a favourite resort of Ghana’s first President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah.
The Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park, which is also located near the Tema Development Corporation’s office complex in Tema Community One, is another identified tourist site.
He said the park, which had been abandoned for many months, was initiated by the former Tema MCE, Mr Robert Kempes Ofosuware, in 2012, to acknowledge Dr Kwame Nkrumah’s vision for building Tema, as the first well-planned city in West Africa.
The other sites, he mentioned, are the Tema Port, the Greenwich Meridian Line, and the Shajootso (baobab tree) located on the premises of the defunct Meridian Hotel, the original settlement of the natives of Tema, before the construction of the harbour in the 1960s.
Mr Joseph Nii Laryea Afotey Agbo, Greater Accra Regional Minister, who graced the durbar, urged all non natives not to consider themselves as visitors but as partners sharing a common destiny and contribute their quotas to the development of the area.
Unfortunately the colourful maiden durbar to mark the Greenwich Meridian Festival, was not witnessed by many residents to fully appreciate and benefits of this laudable initiative.
Culture is said to be the way of life of a people; the characteristics of a particular group of people, defined by everything from language, religion, food, social habits, music and arts, among other things.
In this light, the initiators and organisers of MERIFEST must endeavour to include some food bazaars, which would throw light on the various types of foods eaten in the various communities.
Emphasis should be placed on their preparations, and most importantly, their nutritional benefits. Food, we all know, is very fundamental to the cultural identities of the people of Ghana.
Again, MERIFEST being a platform to promote and celebrate culture in a cosmopolitan and modern settlement like Tema, must be well structured, taking into account the modernist attributes of the Metropolis.
It should also be well publicized to adequately prepare the hearts and minds of residents to fully participate.
But the downside notwithstanding, the organisers should be commended for creating a cultural platform , which would form the basis for future formal cultural interactions in the first place, for as the adage goes, “A journey of thousand miles, begins with a foot step”. A beautiful step of sounds and sights, from near, indeed!
By Laudia Nunoo Sawer