IAS Archives named after Emeritus Professor J. H. Kwabena Nketia

The Institute of African Studies at the University of Ghana, has held a ceremony to name its archives section in honour of world-renowned Ethnomusicologist/composer and authority on African music and related arts, and first African Director of the Institute, Emeritus Professor J.H. Kwabena Nketia. The ceremony drew crowd from the University community and beyond.

Nketia_Archive_2Nketia archives
The Deputy Minister for Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts, Mrs. Abla Dzifa Gomashie, who was the guest of honour, in brief remarks, stressed on the importance of archives. She noted that archives ensure that the records of today are preserved for future generations, adding that archived records are useful materials for study and help in understanding the life, ideas and thoughts of their original creators, thus linking the past, present and future. Mrs. Gomashie expressed the hope that the archives can help foster and promote the sense of community and identity among the people of Ghana.


The Director of the Institute, Professor Akosua Ad omako Ampofo, acknowledged the work of Professor Nketia and his research team which actually gave the basis for the establishment of the Archives at the Institute. She stressed that the Institute and the university authorities deemed it necessary to name the after no other person than Prof Nketia, because he deserved the honour. She called on researchers and other people to donate their research holdings to the archive to expand the collection.


The Archivist in charge of the archives briefed that the audience that the archive serves as one of the resource units of the Institute, and facilitates the research, teaching and related activities of the six units within the Institute (Music and Dance, Language and Literature, History and Politics, Media and Visual Arts, Societies and Cultures, Religion and Philosophy). She further stressed that the Archive enhances the educational and cultural role of the University of Ghana, in the preservation and dissemination of the world’s music, dance, history and oral traditions. She emphasized that the earliest recordings by Prof. Kwabena Nketia are the largest and the most systematic set of recordings made by an African Musicologist, spanning forty years of field research. She further recounted the milestones that the Archives has covered over the years and called on researchers and students in performance studies and related disciplines to make good use of the archive.


On his part, Prof. Nketia, thanked the Institute for the honour bestowed him. He recalled some memorable moments during his infancy, school days and working life, and acknowledged some people who had impacted his life. Prof. Nketia mentioned in particular the role the late Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia, (former Prime Minister of Ghana and a former head of Sociology Department at University of Ghana), played in his life when he was collecting the field materials. He recounted how Prof. Busia provided him with a car, a driver, a tape recorder and a technician at the beginning of his career, to collect the historical materials. He also paid tribute to his grandmothers for imparting traditional knowledge to him which he said had served him well in his career.
He encouraged the guests to visit the archives frequently so they can be abreast with relevant historical records.
The Pro-Vice-Chancellor in charge of Academic and Student Affairs (ASA) Professor S. Kwame Offei who chaired the function, later cut a tape to symbolically open the newly named archives.


Professor S. Kwame Offei, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (ASA), cutting a tape to symbolically open the newly named archives. Looking on are second from left Prof. Akosua Perbi, (Department of History and Daughter of Prof. J.H. Kwabena Nketia), Prof. Akosua Adomako Ampofo (Director of the Institute of African Studies), Mrs. Abla Dzifa Gomashie, (Deputy Minister for Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts), Prof. Samuel Agyei-Mensah, (Provost-College of Humanities), Prof. J.H. Kwabena Nketia and Mrs. Judith Opoku-Boateng (IAS Archivist)

The Archivist in charge of the facility, Mrs Judith Opoku-Boateng, took the guests round the facility to see the on-going project and the repositories.

Read More

Dancing to the Reality of MAARA – The success story

In the early 1950s, research fellows like J. H. Kwabena Nketia started capturing important ceremonies/events on sound and photographic media. This collection, according to an oral history by Nketia (2013), formed the basis of the establishment of the Institute of African Studies (IAS). As part of IAS developmental plan in 1974 the Media Centre was set up to compliment the already existing Sound and Photographic Archives to capture cultural events on sound, photographic and moving image media. This expanded the collection.

Far along in 2008, IAS inherited the audiovisual heritage collections from the renowned International Centre for African for Music and Dance (ICAMD). The ICAMD audiovisual archive was founded in 1992 by Professor J. H. Kwabena Nketia. The aim was to serve the needs of scholars, researchers, and artists by collecting and producing audiovisual documentation on Ghana’s unique dance and music traditions as well as other attractive cultures around the world. The audiovisual carriers containing this rich collection spanned from quarter inch open reels, digital audio cassettes, micro cassettes, U-matics, Beta tapes, VHS, S-VHS, 78 rpm shellacs, LPs, Video8, Hi-8, audio cassettes, Mini-DVs, CDs, to DVDs. In terms of notable content, story-telling, songs, dances, and other oral and performance traditions formed part of the heritage materials that had been documented.

The greater part of the collections were essentially locked away on obsolete media formats, affected by mold and the inherent vice of sticky shed syndrome, whereby the tape becomes gummy and sheds the magnetic particles – the very particles that hold the content. The condition of the tapes is very common for archives in tropical areas and presents very real obstacles for preservation.

As the Archivist appointed to manage this important collection with such rich history and research value, but with inadequate staff, my task was a tough one. The archive had limited intellectual control over the contents of its collections and most importantly there was lack of awareness about the collection by potential users.  (more…)

Read More