Ann Reed, Ph.D.* - University of North Dakota
Slavery heritage designed to attract diaspora Africans to Ghana has promoted the idea of reclaiming one's African identity through pilgrimage. In practice, diaspora Africans shift in and out of the positions of tourists and pilgrims while visiting sites claimed to have a connection to slavery heritage like Assin Manso and Assin Praso, Some Ghanaian planners are banking on visits from diaspora Africans—especially African Americans—to translate into economic prosperity, at the local, regional, and state-based levels. Meanwhile some African American pilgrims see their journeys as embodying a completion of sorts—in the name of the spirits of their ancestors lost in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the quest becomes a necessary act of self-realization. Traveling to sites along the Slave Routes and participating in rituals of incorporation promote the idea of being part of a unified African family. Every other year in Ghana, the Pan African Historical Theatre Festival (PANAFEST) encourages continental Africans, diaspora Africans, and friends of Africa to celebrate the arts and cultures of Africa. Drumming and dancing performances are featured alongside public speeches that suggest diaspora Africans are welcome home as kin and should contribute to the economic uplift of Africa. Public forums led by African Americans engage the wider public with discussions about identity politics, and economic self-determination. This paper describes the challenges of carrying out research on Ghana's slavery heritage and inserting oneself into the context of rituals or discussions with sensitive racial identity politics overtones.