As a member of the Royal Society of Asante History and Culture (ROSACH), I read to an utter shock a news bulletin written by one Daniel Kenu, entitled “Kumasi Zoo Reopens” published on March 08, 2021 at www.graphic.com.gh, and widely circulated by other media outlets. With the Daily Graphic news outlet having gained a longstanding reputation as a credible source of information and referencing for historians, anthropologists, researchers and other professionals, it is pertinent for me to set the records straight on the various historical inaccuracies that got featured in the said news bulletin.
Fallacies and Errors
The fundamental errors particularly claimed that the Kumasi Zoo was “established in 1957 as the country’s premier national zoo and officially commissioned by President Kwame Nkrumah on October 11, 1958…”.
I must categorically point out that the available documented facts and time-tested oral literature renders Mr. Kenu’s claim a fundamental error. Obviously, I am inclined to believe Mr. Kenu got misinformed by his sources of information, hence the need for this instant rejoinder.
The Kumasi Zoological Gardens was established in 1951 by Dr. Alexander Atta Yaw Kyerematen (1916-1976), the father of the current Minister of Trade and Industry, Hon., John Alan Kwadwo Kyerematen (Alan Cash). Contrary to popular belief and claims, the Kumasi Zoo was officially opened to the public in 1957 by the Asantehene, Otumfuo Sir Osei Agyeman Prempeh II, and not Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the former President of Ghana, as purported in the Graphic publication.
Indeed, the Kumasi Zoological Gardens, being the first of its kind in Ghana, was a component of several facilities of the original multi-purpose Ashanti Cultural Centre which later became known as Ghana National Cultural Centre and Centre for National Culture, Kumasi. Apart from the zoo, other facilities within the Centre included a Museum, Archival Centre, Ashanti Library, Theatres, rehearsal arenas for traditional music, dance and drama groups. All these facilities are still extant.
It was through the tireless efforts of Dr. A. A. Y. Kyerematen’s that the Asanteman Council, acting through the Asantehene, Otumfuo Sir Osei Agyeman Prempeh II, graciously granted the massive land at the present-day Kumasi Cultural Centre; and their sitting allowances on that same day for the cultural centre project to kick-start.
It was however in 1963, that Dr. Kwame Nkrumah while embarking on a national assignment to Tamale, made a detour to the Ashanti Cultural Centre to witness the activities of the Ashanti Cultural Centre for the first time. It was following his favourable observation of the project and its cultural relevance, that resulted in the nationalization and renaming of the facility into Ghana National Cultural Centre.
Noting the significance of the Centre, the PNDC Government policy framework of decentralization, under the hegemony of Flt. Lt. J.J Rawlings in 1990, changed the name once again to Centre for National Culture, Kumasi. This ensured that all the remaining regions of the Republic of Ghana had a replica of “Ashanti Cultural Centre”.
The Kumasi Zoo was envisioned to be the centre for cultural preservation and education for all manner of persons. As indicated by Mr. Jacob Oti Awere, the former Ashanti Regional Manager of the then Ghana Tourist Board, the Kumasi Zoo gave deep meaning to the importance of folklore and storytelling. In folktales, it was depicted that the Asante world is anthropomorphic – we live with animals who also talk, eat, marry and have children like we humans do.
Dr. Kyerematen encouraged the art of storytelling to children. Patrons to the Cultural Centre were often entreated to allow the children to visit the zoo so as to have a natural view of primates, bats, birds, reptiles, tiger, ostrich, among others that featured in the stories. Besides, the animals were also to enhance the socio-cultural life of Asantes. Others went to the zoo to get themselves familiarized with the totemic animals for spiritual inspiration.
In a country where heroes have to be celebrated, it ought to be forcefully stated that the legacy of Dr. Alexander Atta Yaw Kyerematen is worthy of celebration, and not undermined in any form. Moreover, the role of the Asanteman Council towards the establishment of the zoo should also be kept sacred for the sake of posterity.
I am hopeful that the Daily Graphic and its reporter Mr. Daniel Kenu will effect the necessary corrections, in fairness to the historical facts narrated in this article.
Emmanuel Jewel Peprah Mensah
Creative Arts Director, writer and researcher
He is a member of Royal Society of Asante History and Culture