NATIONAL FOLKLORE BOARD
The core mandate of the NFB is to promote and protect the folklore of Ghana. In seeking to promote our folklore, the NFB continues to consciously initiate and execute plans and programmes (including the celebration of the World Folklore Day) that will ensure that the folklore of Ghana is put high up on that pedestal which we can all be proud of as a people.
WHAT IS FOLKLORE?
From the colourful hand - woven Kente cloth of the Ashantis and the Ewes, to the mouth-watering tuo-zaafi meal of the people of the Northern regions of Ghana, and the stimulating dance and rhythmic movements of the Ga people during the Homowo festival; Ghana can pride itself in being a nirvana of folklore.
The laws of Ghana define folklore as the “literary, artistic and scientific expressions belonging to the cultural heritage of Ghana which are created, preserved and developed by ethnic communities of Ghana or by an unidentified Ghanaian author ...” Consequently, the long tentacles of folklore stretches to cover our music, dance, art, designs, names, signs and symbols, performances, ceremonies, architectural forms, handicrafts and narratives, and many other artistic or cultural expressions.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
As defined in the UNESCO Recommendation on the Safeguarding of Traditional Culture and Folklore (1989), “folklore (or traditional and popular culture) is the totality of tradition-based creations, of a cultural community, expressed by a group or individuals and recognized as reflecting the expectations of a community in so far as they reflect its cultural and social identity; its standards and values are transmitted orally, by imitation or by other means. Its forms are, among others, language, literature, music, dance, games, mythology, rituals, customs, handicrafts, architecture and other arts.”
Any person who intends to use expressions of folklore for commercial purposes and any purpose other than as permitted under Act 690, is required to apply to the National Folklore Board for permission for the use and to pay the applicable fees as prescribed by the National Folklore Board.
The focus is not one particular unauthorized user. The National Folklore Board has identified institutions in Ghana and abroad, using our Adinkra symbols, kente and other expressions of folklore for commercial purposes and outside the customary context. We have also reached out to the relevant embassies (including China) and Ministries to assist with the textile issue as it is more complex in identifying the manufacturers.
It will interest you to know that currently Starbucks acknowledges its coffee made with coffee beans from Ethiopia and they have a benefits sharing arrangement with top coffee companies including Starbucks which has greatly improved the lives of coffee farmers in Ethiopia. The same is being done by the Masai people of Kenya who benefit sharing arrangements for commercial use of their Masai cloth by multinational companies.
The National Folklore Board has been in existence since 2005. Currently, there are twenty two (22) companies that have duly sought permission. These include Vodafone Ghana Limited, Scancom PLC (MTN), Databank Ghana, Accra Brewery Limited, etc.
For the past 20 years, WIPO (World Intellectual Propety Organisation) member states have been deliberating on an international legally binding instrument to protect traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions (folklore). The general consensus has been that the existing Intellectual Property rights cannot effectively protect traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions. This is due to factors such as term of protection, requirements of originality, national definitions of public domain, etc.
There is a famous American series in which Ananse is being invoked as a spirit and one movie in which Kevin Hart refers to himself as a Nigerian Prince even though he was adorned in Kente. These misrepresentations could have been avoided if they had sought the requisite permission.
There is the risk of misrepresentation or inappropriate usage of our folklore, if we do not insist on this need for permission by foreign interests. In the movie Ride along 2, Kevin Hart beautifully adorned in kente refers to himself as a Nigerian prince. Today there is a needless debate as to whether or not Azonto is Ghanaian or Nigerian and this is because we sometimes fail to assert our ownership rights over what belongs to us.
However, the National Folklore Board requires support of the media to ensure that we project what is ours and create the needed awareness.
The National Folklore Board is well aware of the competing claims to kente by our neighbouring countries. However this does not stop us from laying claim to what is ours. In the event that any of our neighbors raise a competing claim we can consolidate our claims into one and share the benefits that accrue to us for commercial exploitation of our kente.
In such instance, ARIPO (African Regional Intellectual Property Organization) may be entrusted with settling concurrent ownership claims from communities of different countries.
The law requires that royalties and compensation paid to the NFB must be used to promote folklore. The benefits that can be derived from monies collected are numerous. Our creative arts and tourism industries will benefit immensely from an efficient system regulated by the NFB.
It is interesting to note that, the NFB is tasked by law to ensure that Ghana is duly compensated for the unauthorized use of her folklore. Any person who uses an expression of folklore outside the authorised scope must be granted authorisation (at a fee) by the NFB.
Various discussions have been generated around the commercialization of our folklore by some foreign entities - the alleged sale of ahenema sandals for over USD 1,000 by a popular Italian fashion brand, the use of Kente in the famous Blank Panther movie and the sale of “Ghana Must Go” bags by the famous fashion design brand Louis Vuitton.
ACTIVITIES OF THE NFB
World Folklore Day
In commemoration of this year’s World Folklore Day which fell on the 22nd of August, the NFB organised a three -day event from the 20th of August to the 22nd of August 2018. The curtain –raiser for the celebrations was the Launch, Symposium and Eat Ghana Brunch which brought together stakeholders to deliberate on the relevance of folklore to us as a people, and related matters.
The World Folklore Day creates the avenue for cross- cultural communication and tourism with some 11 countries showcasing their culture during the celebrations.
The NFB has established folklore clubs in 7 schools in Accra, with plans to establish the clubs nationwide. This will enable the Ghanaian child familiarize himself/herself with the rich Ghanaian folklore through storytelling sessions, arts and crafts and performing arts.
We execute comprehensive awareness programmes about the cultural and historical underpinnings of festivals; This sheds light on the wonderful historical renditions that accompany festivals in Ghana.
National Traditional Games Competition
The NFB organises periodic traditional game sessions which have proven to be captivating, and fun!
Know Your Folklore Campaign
The campaign includes the ‘Did You Know’ Series which was outdoored prior to the World Folklore Day Celebrations.