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Institute of African Studies Launches Book of Biographical Essays

  • Prof. Kwesi Yankah

The Institute of African Studies has launched a book titled Building the Nation: Seven Notable Ghanaians, the first of a series of biographical essays to be published by the Institute. The book which was authored by fourteen faculty members of the Institute, was edited by Dr. Mercy Akrofi Ansah and Prof. Esi Sutherland Addy with a foreword by Emeritus Professor Ivan Addae Mensah, a former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana.

The Book honours the achievements and remarkable lifestyles of seven eminent Ghanaians namely Prof. Florence Abena Dolphyne, Justice Annie Jiagge, Dr. Oku Ampofo, Mr. Saka Acquaye, Alhaji Yakubu Tali, Okyeame Boafo Akuffo, and Oyeeman Wereko Ampem II.

In her welcome address, Prof. Dzodzi Tsikata, Director, Institute of African Studies expressed excitement at the launch of the Book and expounded the importance of biographies, autobiographies and life history. Prof. Tsikata noted that the book was not just an ordinary book but one filled with a collection of biographical essays on seven Ghanaians who have contributed immensely through their professional pursuits, public service and philanthropy to Ghana. The book also highlights class formation in colonial and early post-colonial Ghana and how people could transcend their modest backgrounds, develop themselves and in turn, help society develop. She called on Ghanaians to recapture the ideals that made our country the land of opportunities and social mobility.

Prof. Tsikata revealed that the Books of Biographies was a project which had just begun as the Institute will continue to produce volumes of biographical essays in partnership with scholars from other Universities. She added that the Institute aspires to become a recognized African Centre on biographies, autobiographies and social history that will provide mentorship and training for writers on how to write and also help Ghanaians and other Africans write their own stories.

The Director further commended her predecessors, Prof. Akosua Adomako Ampofo and Prof. Francis Nii Amoo Dodoo for the birth and shepherding of the book in its early stages. She was also full of praise for the authors of the book for their efforts in the writing of a book which is multi-disciplinary and multi-generational.

Prof. Dzodzi Tsikata

Prof. Dzodzi Tsikata, Director, Institute of African Studies

In a short address, Prof. Kwesi Yankah, Minister of State in Charge of Tertiary Education who chaired the function, lauded the Institute of African Studies for such a masterpiece. He commended the effort in maintaining high standards in publishing academic works, a phenomenon which he noted was on the decline in most academic institutions. Prof. Yankah indicated that the launch of the book was timely as it honours instrumental leaders and personalities who were yet to be honoured by the nation. He further charged academics to publish books that will help solve national issues. Prof. Yankah stressed the importance of information management as key to national development and tasked the nation to harness and leverage on existing technologies to help the nation develop. In his closing address, Prof. Kwesi Yankah praised Okyeame Boafo Akuffo for the invaluable services he rendered to the University of Ghana.

Emeritus Prof. Ivan Addae Mensah, in brief remarks recounted the history of similar books in the country. According to him, though there are literatures on these personalities, they are not comprehensive and accurate. He eulogized the lives of the seven personalities as people who selflessly dedicated their lives to mankind without counting the cost and also lived above their profession. The former Vice-Chancellor stated that Nation building was a task for all and not for a few individuals. He commended the Institute for producing an educative and accurate book that will serve every Ghanaian especially scholars. It was his aspiration that the second volume of biographical essays will be released soon.

Emeritus Prof. Ivan Addae Mensah

Emeritus Prof. Ivan Addae Mensah

Reviewing the book, Dr. Cyrelene Amoah Boampong, a Senior Lecturer at the Department of History stated that the book offers answers and a multi-disciplinary approach to building Ghana. The book also highlights the patriotism of these seven notable personalities and enlightens readers about Ghana’s history.

Dr. Cyrelene Amoah Boampong

Dr. Cyrelene Amoah Boampong

On behalf of the seven notable personalities and their families, Prof. Florence Abena Dolphyne, the only surviving personality, expressed gratitude to the Institute of African studies for honouring their lives.

Prof. Florence Abena Dolphyne

Prof. Florence Abena Dolphyne

In attendance was Ms. Gloria Akuffo, Minister of Justice and Attorney General, government officials, traditional rulers, families of the seven notable Ghanaians, members of the University Community and the general public.

The colourful event was interspersed with various performances including Seprewa by Mr. Osei Korankye, Fontomfrom and Mmrane by the family of Okyeame Boafo Akuffo and a choreographed dance titled Tabiloi meaning warriors, performed by the Ghana Dance Ensemble as a glowing tribute to the seven personalities.

About the Book

The biographical essays entitled ‘Building the Nation: Seven Notable Ghanaians’ gives a rare insight into the inception and building of Ghana through the lives of seven illustrious personalities. Their early lives provide a panoramic view of Ghanaian rural settings and evoke the ambiance for the epic journeys they each were to take to reach heights of personal and national recognition. What would they make of the opportunities and the inevitable odds which came their way? As each life story unfolds, it is intriguing to discover how each one of these personalities found a vital place in the process of nation building and then applied themselves assiduously to their chosen field of activity.

Together the lives of Justice Annie Jiagge, Dr. Oku Ampofo, Mr. Saka Acquaye Alhaji Yakubu Tali, Okyeame Boafo Akuffo, Prof. Florence Abena Dolphyne and Oyeeman Wereko Ampem II illuminate the real demands made on individuals who chose to participate in the thrilling and multi-faceted process of building the nation Ghana.

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