Sweden’s Colonial Past

In a very interesting piece for Africa Is A Country Blog (the one “that’s not about famine, Bono, or Barack Obama”), Swedish journalist Johan Palme points out that there seems to be a strong recent interest in the Colonial past of Sweden. Because despite what our history classes told us, of course there was.

He talks to historian David Nilsson who says:

“It is true that Swedish interests in Africa were only marginal at the time, and Sweden remained a minor player. But qualitatively I see no distinct line between Sweden and other countries,” he says. “Sweden went to Berlin as a peer among nations, accepted and condoned the proceedings. It was a political justification of a social process that had already begun as Swedish officers and missionaries were already taking part in the colonization of Africa.”

I remember my first visit  to the Ghanaian tourism site, the Cape Coast castle, where slaves were kept in waiting for transport overseas and being horrified when told that Swedes first established a trade point here. “First the Swedes, then the Danes, Portuguese and Brits…”, the guide went on with a monotone voice. I was confused, but my mouth was already talking:

– But the Swedes were never involved in slave trade, right?

The guide glanced over at me and did not have to respond. I got it. The feeling was chilling.

Palme debates why this colonial discussion is now appearing on several fronts  and concludes interestingly that the apparent newfound guilt is maybe merely a fashion and nothing deeper like wanting to understand our history fully:

“Rather than radically re-engineering its [Sweden’s] relationships internationally, perhaps it [looking into the colonial past] is a mere cosmetic paint to appear good again, good by today’s standards.”

A good, and chilling, read!

Art and Politics in Accra

Yesterday evening I went to two delicious events (the other one  I’ll elaborate on in my next post *suspense!*).

The evening started at Passions Bar in Osu, where an event called Art and Politics was hosted by Mantse Aryeequaye, a Ghanaian film director focused presently on music videos and Sionne Neely, academic from University of Southern California.

The evening went from definitions of “art” and “politics” to how they are connected through discussions on beauty, colonialism and mis-education. We discussed if art is the mother of politics or if the relation was more complex…We also saw some music videos like Kanye West’s Power (Ego or Excellent?), M.I.A.’s Born Free (utterly disturbing or a reflection of life?) and a new video by Mantse himself for Kwau Kese – so fresh I cannot find it online – (escapism or bloody reality?). The videos were interesting, especially from a teaching perspective, but the discussion could have gone on for hours without them. There is so much to say about art and politics. Especially in Ghana.

The audience/contributors was amazing and diverse, some famous faces present were Gyedu Blay Ambolley, Ato Kawmina Dadzie, Osabutey AnnyKobby Graham (the latter wrote a post on the Art and Politics event here) and many others!

Thanks to the organizers for a unusual and thought-provoking event!