The United States' city of Memphis, situated along the Mississippi River, the second-longest river in North America, opened its arms for the Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II last week, as Ghana became the centre of attraction at the 44th Memphis in May International Festival.
The Mississippi waterfront provides a sparkling scenery that draws people to the city, and it added to the beauty and success of the festival with the Otumfuo himself going on a boat cruise on the river.
From May 3 to May 9, the Asantehene was in Memphis representing Ghana at the festival, and he left no doubt about his quest to sell not only Asanteman but his country anywhere he found himself.
Otumfuo’s participation at the festival was at the invitation of the Board of the festival, and facilitated by the E ON 3 Group, an investment and business solutions provider, which was given authorisation by the Bank of Ghana to mint the Otumfuo Commemorative Gold Coin, the KGL Group and KGL Foundation.
In line with time-tested traditions of the festival, the Asantehene and his delegation which included chiefs within his domain, business people and some high ranking state officials, were joined by Ghana’s Ambassador to the United States, Hajia Alima Mahama to attend various events.
Combining royalty with diplomacy, Otumfuo Osei Tutu not only wowed Americans and other nationals with his appearance and public speeches, but also moved to attract investment to Asanteman and Ghana.
Memphis in May International Festival, which is held every year in Memphis, Tennessee, seeks to bring the world to Memphis and vice versa, promote and celebrate culture, foster economic growth and enhance international awareness through education.
Every year, the Festival Board selects one country to be honoured over a period of one week, and this year, Ghana was chosen.
Therefore, the festival was christened: “Salute to the Republic of Ghana.”
One significant aspect of the homage paid to Ghana was the infusion of the Asante culture, which is rich in every aspect, and was demonstrated at the Asanteman festival which climaxed activities marking the festival.
Many people lined the Beale Street, the birthplace of Blues Music, as the Otumfuo’s procession moved to the Handy Park, named after the founder of Blues Music, W.C. Handy, for the durbar.
Otumfuo was in a rich kente cloth and adorned in gold on the head, hands and legs.
In speeches he gave at various events, he spoke highly of what Asanteman and Ghana had in an unadulterated culture, and drew home the need for cultural exchange programmes between Ghana and the United States.
Engagement at University of Memphis
In line with his desire to engage the youth in educational establishments anywhere he finds himself, and to attest to the priority he places on education, Otumfuo Osei Tutu gave a lecture at the University of Memphis (UoM) on the topic: “Contemporary Challenges in US and Africa Relations.”
Walking his audience at the university’s Rose Theatre through American history and juxtaposing it with Africa and Ghana via Asante history and what all that holds for the progress of Ghana and Africa, the Asantehene was given a standing ovation by the gathering which included academics and students of the UoM.
He told his audience how Ghana, the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to gain independence, has been called the Black Star of Africa, the heartbeat of the continent.
Nevertheless, he stated: “Freedom did not lead automatically to the fulfilment of the aspirations of the people. Ghana and most of the newly liberated states have had to grapple with overwhelming challenges against which the post-independence leadership could not survive.”
Otumfuo Osei Tutu did not only make a brilliant speech but also discussed the collaboration between the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) and the UoM. Otumfuo is the Chancellor of KNUST and he believed a collaboration between the two institutions would bring immense benefits to the two institutions.
Otumfuo Commemorative Gold Coin
Having recently been celebrated in his country with the minting of a Commemorative Gold Coin in his honour, one of the coins was presented to the City of Memphis.