DID WE GET IT WRONG WITH THE DOWRY?
Date published: February 15, 2012
As a boy growing up on the sandy beaches of Keta and partly in Denu, in the Ketu South Constituency of the Volta Region, I witnessed sisters, aunts, cousins, mothers and siblings of friends and relations, whose hands had been given out in marriage and the striking variety of items packaged as dowry to the betrothed.
Chit chats from married, single and growing women had been centred on clothes, shoes, scarfs and many feminine items, either given out by their brothers or received from prospective bride -grooms by their families.
What ran across is the preference for imported textiles and Holland-made fabrics instead of woven kente and Guaranteed Textile Prints from the factories of local industries.
I once asked my late Mother, out of curiosity, where Holland was and what they do there. I hardly recollect what her response was. I have since maintained that question until I transited Schiphol in Amsterdam only to be disappointed that it was a place partially sitting on water and surrounded by huge farms.
My curiosity was not only limited to textiles but the names, shape, colour, size of bottles and designs of all kinds of alcoholic drinks used at marriage ceremonies, graduation ceremonies and other rites of passage in our culture. I use culture advisedly with my experiences in the Volta Region of Ghana.
Akpeteshie remains the most popular alcoholic drink in Ghana till date, and palm wine is used as the base drink for other equally intoxicating and important traditional drinks within the context of traditional history, especially for those of us who belonged to one royal family or the other, irrespective of clan and tribe in Ghana.
How then did we abandon our local fabrics, drinks and packaging among others, and have religiously cringed to imported ones at the detriment of local businesses and the stagnation of our local economy?
Another industry worth mentioning is the goldsmith and blacksmith industry of the past. I remember precious minerals are bought from merchants and given to these local artisans who transform them into very authentic and stylish ornaments and jewellery for use by clients.
Today, that industry is almost extinct. Your guess might be as good as mine; we have abandoned this trend for the Gucci’s, Versaces, and imported ornaments from designers we hardly know but for the media propaganda from their paid publicists.
We are losing the battle or better put, we lost the battle from the very beginning in sustaining our local industries. If palmwine, Akpeteshie and other brewed local drinks like pito and solom, were preferred for such occasions in our cultural settings, I am not sure imported drinks would have dominated the local market as we are witnessing today.
Indeed, some local entrepreneurs have been smart enough to generate varieties of local drinks with very interesting names that has caught up with patrons, but I wonder if any family will accept such from a young man over imported Brandy, Whisky and Rum.
Again, I shudder to think if a conscious effort would be made by the Culture and Chieftaincy Ministry to get back to the basics and agree with traditional authorities to begin encouraging the use of only local textiles as bride price in communities where it is applicable instead of the imported ones from Holland and elsewhere which are far more expensive.
Our local economy deserves a conscious push before we collapse it altogether, owing to our tastes and preferences. I don’t want to believe we got it wrong from the days of our great grandfathers who traded with Europeans, were introduced to Whisky and Brandy and totally forgot the economic bait in these gifts given them by the merchants.
Once you get hooked on it, you will pay for it and that has worked since the 18th century, and amazingly we have paid more than was ever negotiated in our time.
Our local industries are collapsing and theories have not help to halt the fast rate of collapse, maybe for a start, our parents should not insist on imported items on the dowry list at the expense of local ones.
God Bless Our Homeland Ghana Felix Mawulolo Amegashie
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