Tradition and colour at its best. 'Tradition’ and ‘Heritage’ in Ghanaian video-movies

B. Meyer

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This essay focuses on the representation of 'tradition' and 'heritage' in Ghanaian video films, which are frequently critiqued by accomplished filmmakers (as well as global audiences accustomed to 'African Cinema') for offering a negative image of Africa. Film is shown to be situated in the midst of tensions and cleavages about 'tradition' and 'heritage', between state and Christian-Pentecostal views that hark back to the colonial era. With the commercialization of film production in the aftermath of democratization, movies have increasingly come to depend on audience approval. Two modes of depicting 'tradition' and 'heritage' and the ways in which they offer pleasurable experiences to audiences are explored. First, I show that a great number of video films surf along with the popularity of Pentecostal churches that view 'tradition' and 'heritage' as devilish legacies from the past that need to be overcome, instead of being cherished as a repository of cultural values. Secondly, focusing on the so-called 'epic' genre and other recent attempts to picture 'tradition' and 'heritage' in a more positive light, I identify a subtle shift from an understanding of 'tradition' and 'heritage' in binary terms of 'good' and 'evil' towards a visual aestheticization of 'the past' that produces nostalgic pleasure. Based on these explorations, I argue for a performative (rather than essentializing) approach to 'tradition' and 'heritage' that takes into account video filmmakers' creative use of traditional repertoires. This approach challenges the opposition of 'African Cinema' and 'video movies' that still underpins much scholarly work on and debates about film in Africa. © 2010 Journal of African Cultural Studies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-23
JournalJournal of African Cultural Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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