May 25, 2019

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Folklore Board to clamp down on illegal usage of Ghana’s folklore

Folklore Board to clamp down on illegal usage of Ghana’s folklore

The National Folklore Board has asked persons who use Ghana’s folklore outside the customary context and/or for commercial purposes to seek permission from the National Folklore Board for such usages.

Folklore includes music, dance, art, designs, names, signs and symbols, performances, ceremonies, architectural forms, handicrafts and narratives, and any other literary, artistic and scientific expressions belonging to the cultural heritage of Ghana which are created, preserved and developed by ethnic communities of Ghana or an unidentified Ghanaian author.

In statement signed by the Acting Director of the National Folklore Board, Nana Adjoa Adobea Asante, the usage of Ghana’s folklore by foreign interests has seen a sharp rise over the past few years.

She also noted that “local usage of a work of folklore outside the customary context and/or for commercial purposes includes but is not limited to, the use of an Adinkra symbol for a company’s corporate branding and the use of other expressions of folklore for promotional and other commercial purposes,” she wrote.

Unfortunately, persons, both individual and corporate, who have employed Ghana’s folklore for their benefit, have done so without the permission of the National Folklore Board.

She noted that “recent examples of usage without the permission of the National Folklore Board include the sale of Ahenema for over USD 1,000 by a reputable Italian brand, the use of Kente and Adinkra symbols in a recent fictional superhero movie, and the adaptation of our folklore character Ananse in a popular American series. ”

Per section 44 of the Copyright Act, 2005 (Act 690), a person who sells, offers or exposes for sale or distribution a work of folklore without permission from the National Folklore Board commits an offence and is liable upon summary conviction to a maximum fine of 1000 penalty units equivalent to Twelve Thousand Ghana Cedis (GH₵12,000) and/or imprisonment for a maximum of three (3) years, or both.

Additionally section 64 of Act 690 requires a person who intends to use folklore other than as permitted by section 19 of the Act, to apply to the National Folklore Board for permission at a fee determined by the Board.

A clear instance of a misuse of our folklore was the invocation of Kweku Ananse as a spirit in a popular American Series.

She however added that personal use of folklore and/or use within the customary context does not require permission from the National Folklore Board.

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