A recent post spotted by Africa Billboard on Ghana’s most successful female DJ and radio entertainment personality DJ Ohemaa Woyeje was a motivation that everyone can relate.
Be proud of yourself! Don’t force yourself on people who don’t want you. You deserve better ♥♥♥ #AdjoaRasta 100 – said DJ Ohemaawoyeje
From the picture concept (exhibition), the famous Ghanaian DJ over the decades totally depicts Africanism as usual. She looks very happy and nothing shows sign of depression or rejection as the post portrays. We believe she just decided to take this post on her timeline to encourage people to be strong in times of rejection and hard times.
Elements in the picture are well designed African (print dress, beaded jewellery, hair braid “dreadlock”), Ghana flag and pot.
What actually was the famous DJ trying to portray? Lets take a look at the elements in the exhibition and their significance in the African culture.
In Africa, pots are like data, they provide insight into the cultural interchanges of African societies; the life they led, the path they trod, the needs they had and the skills they possessed.
As this exhibition demonstrates, it is an object of economic and social value, a compelling medium for expression and playing out issues of gender.
By investigating the ceramic practices of several African societies, we can gain a fuller understanding of the significance of visual culture in Africa and how Africans mold gender issues into artistic forms.
The exhibition of DJ Ohemaa Woyeje presents six African elements; African print dress, beads, African beaded jewellery, African styled hair braid, Ghana national flag and pot.
These elements should be thought of as fluid rather than fixed. Consider the pot exhibited here: its nature would typically indicate a ritual function, but on this example, they bear no ritual significance. Instead, this domestic pot is used for storing and serving water for visitors.
Although women create the pots and often control beer consumption, men offer them as bride-wealth. Ultimately, African pots embody a multiplicity of economic, social, and in some ways, spiritual meanings and uses, all communicated through their aesthetic form.
THE GHANA FLAG
The Ghana national flag has four colours – red, gold, green and black five-pointed star in the center of the gold strip. It is the second African flag after the flag of the Ethiopian empire to feature these colours.
The red represents the blood of those who died for the struggle for independence from colonial masters, Great Britain. The gold represents the country’s abundant mineral resources. As you may be aware, Ghana is the second country in Africa after South Africa with the largest gold reserves. It also has bauxite in large commercial quantities. The green symbolizes the rich forests and natural wealth of the land. Ghana is rich in green vegetation and has lots of natural wealth such as timber which has long been one of the country’s leading exports. And lastly, the black star. The black star is a symbol of African liberation (freedom) from slavery. As it is rightly known, Ghana is the first country in Africa to gain independence. And it needed a symbol to inspire other African countries to also fight for freedom, hence, the black star was a symbol to depict “Hope In Africa”.
THE BEADED JEWELLERY ON HER WRIST AND EARS
In some African settings, women in some tribes wear beaded pieces as a sign of wealth, marital status, health and to denote the number of children they have. For instance, if a woman’s first child is a boy, she wears many earrings. The same applies to women with several male children. Similarly, traditional wedding collars have several beaded strands hanging off them. This represents the amount of dowry paid for that bride.
Also, women wear these pieces as a sign of beauty and wealth while men wear beaded pieces and different symbols on different parts of their bodies to mark their achievements.
To girls, a crimson collar of beads is given to her by her father which indicates that a husband has already been chosen for her, but she is not yet engaged. Once engaged, the crimson collar will come off and is traded for brass earrings, which signifies marriage.
Each coloured bead represents a specific and significant aspect of African culture, however these may vary from tribe to tribe.
THE HAIR BRAID
The hair braid (dreadlocks) of DJ Ohemaawoyeje is a popular African styled hair braid women do to depict simplicity, individualism and uniqueness. The African women would like to show how different or unique they are in the society. As many African women have developed strong interest for artificial foreign hair for braids nowadays, only few have stick to the natural way of braiding or locking their own natural hair. This looks beautiful and it boosts the ego of the African woman.
THE AFRICAN PRINT (DJ OHEMAAWOYEJE’S DRESS)
Symbolism is one of the major attributes of African culture. In light of this, the indigenes of Africa generally take delight in beauty and symbolism and would mostly want to be projected as such. One way of exhibiting this is through the use of colourful and unique African prints known popularly as “Mummy cloths” in Ghana and other similar prints in the West African sub regions. These cloths are made up of wax, java and fancy with conceptualized designs which are symbolic and significant to African culture.
There are designs depicting images of proverbs, local emblems relating to traditions of kingships or authorities of chiefs, designs with educational significance, and commemorative cloth depicting individuals and events.
Nowadays, they are primarily made in Ghana and have strong cultural, social and economic importance. African prints have philosophical significance. The prints have names that could easily depict or explain the beliefs, practices and culture of Ghanaians. The patterns in the prints tell stories of relevance to the wearer, such as proverbs, poems and traditional African fables.
The colours also hold philosophical significance as they can represent social standing, age, tribal orientation and marital status. In the 1960s and 1970s, textile prints had names that could easily depict or explain the beliefs, practices and culture of Ghanaians. Women bought clothes according to the names of the cloth which circulated quickly. They built wardrobes of high quality symbolic African prints for future generations whereas others bought and wore cloths with symbolic designs to cast insinuations, yell insults at their rivals, exhibit their love, and to serve as a means of distinguishing and projecting one’s social status.
Some of the popular titles from the fledging Ghana Textile Printing Company (GTP) in Accra and cloths imported from Holland were “Akyekyedee akyi” which means, the back of a tortoise in Akan language. Others were “meho yefe kyen mekora,” which literally means I am more beautiful than my rival, “Dua koro gye nframa a ebu”, meaning if a single tree faces the storms alone it breaks, and “Fathia fata Nkrumah”, which means Fathia is suitable for Nkrumah referring to the first President of Ghana Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and his Egyptian wife Fathia, “Ahonnee pa nkasa” which is literally translated as precious beads make no noise, or in other words, empty barrels make the most noise or a good person needs not to blow his own horns, among others.
The design in Plate 1 with the name Achimota commemorates the founding of the Achimota School and College in 1927 by the then Governor of the Gold Coast, Gordon Guggisberg. The logo of Achimota, the black and white keys of the piano (as shown on the top part of the cloth on the left) symbolizes harmony and unity in diversity.
The design in Plate 2, Koforidua Flowers symbolizes urbanization, economic prosperity and conspicuous consumption. The name was deduced from the expression; “Koforidua nhwiren, dea mede wo reye” which is literally translated as; “Koforidua flowers, what use do I have of you”. The name was given to the cloth to reflect the issue of conspicuous consumption by some rich people during the rapid urbanization of Koforidua following the success of the cocoa industry, and later the diamond mining industry in the Eastern Region of Ghana at the turn of the nineteenth century.
The design shown in Plate 3 is known as “ABCD” from the proverb; “Suukuu nko na nyansa nko” which suggests that attending school does not mean that one would be wise.
Plate 4 shows a print design called “Afe bi ye asiane”. The name is taken from the expression, “Afe bi ye asiane”, meaning some years are inauspicious or unlucky. It is a symbol of misfortune, bad luck and inauspicious times.
“Afa me nwa” which means you have taken me cheap and as easy as the snail, is the design in Plate 5.
Plate 6 is a design generated from the proverb “Ahonnee pa nkasa”, meaning precious beads make no noise. That is to say that empty barrels make the most noise. This suggests that a good person needs not to blow his/her own horns.
The design in Plate 7 is “Akekyedee akyi” deduced from the proverb “Huriye si akyekyedee akyi a, osi ho kwa” meaning the tsetsefly sits on the back of the tortoise in vain, it cannot suck any blood through the hard shell. This suggests that engaging in futile enterprise serves one no good.
The eighth design (Plate 8) is “Gramaphone Apawa” referring to an old record album which was popular in the 1960s. The design reminds its users about the good old days when disc music was reserved to the privilege few rich people in the society.
The design in Plate 9 is “Adukuro mu nsuo” that is, Grove water which comes from the expression; “Adukuro mu nsuo akonno-akonno, manya bi ama me mpena anom”. Literally meaning, may I find some sweet grove water to offer my lover! It is a symbol of love, affection, friendship, and satisfaction.
The design in Plate 10 is known as “Nkrumah Pencil”. It is a symbol of authority. The cloth signifies the power Dr. Kwame Nkrumah had to use his pen to sign deportation and detention orders as a method of controlling his political opponents.
Inferring from the sampled classical designs, it is palpable that all the designs bear symbolic significance which can visually be seen through the kind of patterns depicted in the prints.
Generally, the kind of clothing a person wears determines his or her personality and social status or class. In light of this, most African prints in the past were made with symbolic patterns for the various classes of people in the society and to grace special social gatherings or events.
Lastly, the prints serve as a means to boost the ego of the wearer through the use of brilliant and symbolic colours and motifs. Religious groups and tribes were identified by the kind of local prints they wore through the use of symbolic African print designs.
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