Titambe West African Dance Ensemble at the Landmark Center during a celebration of Ghanaian culture in the "Urban Expedition" series on Sunday, February 13, 2022. Photo: Panashe Matemba-Mutasa/Mshale

The Ghanaian Association of Minnesota (GhanAM) held its second “Urban Expedition” at the St Paul Landmark Center. The event was held in celebration of Ghanaian culture.

According to GhanAM President Isaac Owens, the last Ghanaian Expedition took place over a decade ago. Since then, GhanAM has expanded its presence across the state, coordinating events in the Twin Cities and beyond. Owens expressed an appreciation of local Ghanaian entrepreneurs, as well as a desire to celebrate the country ahead of their country’s Independence Day, which is commemorated on March 6.

“This was all a collective effort of us here at GhanAM, the Landmark Center, and the Ghanaians of the community,” Owens said. “With Independence Day coming up soon, we wanted to share our rich culture.”

Guests featured at the event included various small business owners like Emmanuel and Taniellia Boateng, a husband and wife who recently opened a store at the Mall of America. Their brand, United People Apparel, designs clothes inspired by diverse cultures. The couple, who hail from Ghana and Jamaica, respectively, aim to maintain a brand identity that reflects their core values of multiculturalism and unity.

“We’ve gotten customers who traveled from as far as Australia, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand, and Hawaii,” Taniellia said.

United People Apparel also includes a brand called Ahenfo. While the former offers products that feature more general designs, Ahenfo adopts a more Afrocentric aesthetic and incorporates it into apparel, artwork, drinkware, and accessories.

Emmanuel shared what inspired him to create Ahenfo, as well as the significance behind the name. He said that many of the times when people think about African history, they default to slavery. While Emmanuel and Taniellia value all aspects of African history, they wanted Ahenfo to reflect the often-forgotten history of African kingship. Their slogan, “Royalty Expressed,” was selected with this theme in mind.

“In the Akan language, Ahenfo means royalty,” Emmanuel said. “The brand is intended to encourage noble living in all of us—to remind us all that we are descended from greatness. We opened our store because not everyone can make it to Africa. This gives people a chance to experience her beautiful culture.”

Another featured guest, Rosemond Owens, is an author and founder of Lion’s Historian, her publishing company. Owens calls herself a born storyteller. She’s been writing books for 4 years and currently has six published works. Her passion for writing, however, goes much deeper than being a wordsmith. Owens said she was driven by the lack of racial diversity in children’s book characters. Specifically, all her kids’ books feature a protagonist of color.

“I write so that children, especially Black children, can see themselves in books,” Owens said.

One of Owens’s books is “Yaa Asantewaa: The Fearless Queen”, which is about the life of a Ghanaian girl in the 1800s—who when the men from the village were too afraid to fight off the British invasion—stood up and became a heroine.

“This is a story about courage, bravery, and female empowerment,” Owens said.

Owens’s nickname and name of her publishing company, “the Lion’s Historian” was inspired by the late renowned Nigerian author Chinua Achebe’s famous quote: “Until the lions have their own historians, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” Owens said she set out to write because historically most books glorified the history the white dominant society.

“I created this series of children’s books because I want to retell the stories of our ancestors,” she said. “So often African history is shared through a lens of whiteness, and our children need accurate and corrective representation about themselves and their history.”

Urban Expedition: Ghana also featured members of the Titambe West African Dance Ensemble. The entertainment company specializes in music and dance from various regions across West Africa, with members from Senegal, Ghana, and Liberia. The group shares their talent with the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota through travel.

“Our ensemble reflects Ghanaian culture and tradition. We want to share that with Minnesota,” said Ghanaian Titambe Artistic Director, Christian Adeti.

Adeti also shares his heart for music through teaching. He teaches West African music at the Minnesota Department of Education “COMPASS” program. And has also taught a semester of dance at St Olaf college in Northfield, MN.

Adeti calls the learning of African music, “the unlocking of ancestral vibration.”

“I love being able to teach people about my country’s musical traditions,” he continued. “For so long peoples’ tastes have been skewed toward Western music. It’s time we shared our sound with the world.”

Urban Expedition is a project of the Landmark Center, a nonprofit organization founded in 1892 to create, promote, and preserve educational programs that spotlight Minnesota’s cultural diversity.

About Panashe Matemba-Mutasa, Mshale Reporter

Panashe is a general assignments reporter.

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