ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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What Is beyond a Statue

Does the politics of neo-liberalisation trump diplomatic goodwill?

“One person’s hero may well be another’s villain”—is an apt tag line for the politics of statuary, which in the recent times has evidenced the vandalisation/removal of several political statues in the name of national determination. A fresh addition to this list is the removal of M K Gandhi’s statue from the premises of the University of Ghana at the behest of some academics/professors of the university. According to the governments of both countries, this statue has been a symbol of commemoration of the first tri-nation presidential tour of Africa from India in 2016, while to several ordinary Ghanaians Gandhi’s political persona is no different from that of any “racist” imperialist. In fact, Gandhi’s statues have been a part and parcel of the anti-colonial, anti-racial iconoclasm in Africa for quite some time now, from the whitewashing of a statue in South Africa in 2015 to the halting of the construction of another in Malawi to celebrate the Indian President’s recent visit there. But, what is curious in all these cases is that the governments, who had showcased these statues as gesticulations of bilateral ties, are conspicuous by their absence/detachment (bordering on nonchalance) in the face of public condemnation. If the reticence of the governments is validating the indictment of racism against Gandhi, then what does political statuary embody, in actuality?

While the hagiography of Gandhi (and hence his statue as tokenism) is endorsed as a convenient strategy of soft-power politics for both India and Africa, it also provides room for the governments to play the card of “nation state” at expedience. For the Ghanaian state, for instance, “racism” can then be expediently relegated to mere “colourism,” sidestepping the uncomfortable local history of “ethnocentrism” (enslavement of other ethnic groups by the Akan kingdoms), which has culminated into the present-day electoral divide along Akan/non-Akan “tribe” lines, and the alleged regional concentration of political clout and opportunity. However, high levels of outmigration from the ethnic hinterlands to more cosmopolitan/economically opportune parts (the South, at large) of the country, are confounding the conventional political strategies of encashing the ethnic alliances. Moreover, it is arguable whether an average Ghanaian today, largely in the age spectrum of 25–30 years, is influenced by/cognisant of these local legacies. These aspects have weakened the decisiveness of the ethnic/cultural factor in the country’s electoral democracy, but could not annihilate it.

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Updated On : 11th Jan, 2019
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