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Highlights from The Year of Return Celebration in Accra, Ghana


At the end of 2019, The Folklore founder Amira Rasool journeyed to the sunny coasts of Accra to experience the “Year of Return”, a monumental event that saw Ghana invite members of the African diaspora “home” to reconnect with their forgotten pasts. There, Rasool was forced to both contend with the legacies of slavery and displacement and to celebrate Africa’s rich and diverse cultures. Her experiences are captured in the short The Return: Accra Ghana.    

Producer: Raven Irabor // Editor:  Lovelyne Legerme // Spoken Word: Cadienne Obeng

The Return: Accra Ghana helps viewers understand the complexities of the historic event. In 1619, the first enslaved Africans arrived in Jamestown, Virginia. Accra served as a major hub during the transatlantic slave trade. 400 years later, Ghana’s President, Nana Akufo-Addo, declared that 2019 was to be the ‘Year of Return', inviting members of the diaspora to visit and invest in their home continent. 

“Africa knows us and will never turn our back on you” sounds writer Cadienne Obeng over shots of sandy beaches and swaying palm trees. 

In order to celebrate “the resilience of the African spirit”, the Ghana Tourism Authority and the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture organized events, such as Afrochella, an energetic music festival. Hoards of American and British nationals visited the country. 

The Year of Return has no shortage of star power with celebrities including Idris Elba, Naomi Campbell, Steve Harvey, Cardi B, T.I, Ludacris, Rick Ross, Akon, Diggy Simmons, Koffee and Conan O’Brian attending various events throughout the celebration.

A total of 1.5 million tourists were registered at the month-long celebration. Revenues made were generous: up to $1.9 billion was made and airport arrivals increased by 45%. 

The event was a long time in the making. African-American civil rights leader W.E.B DuBois, decided to move to Accra, Ghana in 1961 and settled there until his death. Since Ghana’s independence in 1957, Ghanian politicians sought to initiate policies that would attract Africans back to Ghana. In 2000, Ghana’s Citizenship Act allowed those of Ghanian origin or held citizenship elsewhere to carry a second Ghanaian citizenship as well.

The Immigration Act also provided the “Right of Abode '' for any “person of African descent in the Diaspora '' to travel to and from the country without hindrance”. Finally, in 2007 the Joseph Project was implemented to commemorate 200 years since the abolition of slavery and encouraged Africans abroad to return home. In 2013, the United Nations declared that the next decade would be the International Decade for People of African Descent to “promote respect, protection, and fulfillment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms of people of African descent.” 

Writer - Christine Noumba Um