If Jamaica has been on our minds lately it is because of Usain Bolt. It could also be the sensation of the Reggae Boys. But of course, and long before all these young men, there was Bob Marley. Oh, and Rita Marley who lives with us in Ghana.
Jamaica is important to Ghana not only for sentimental reasons but because of blood. Jamaicans are descendants of Africans mainly from our west coast. This year the island nation marks 50 years of independence.
In connection with the global celebrations three young Jamaicans two filmmakers and a musician, have arrived in Ghana. Mykal Cushnie, Donisha Prendergast and Kelissa McDonald are in town as part of the 50 Days In Afrika Project. When I joined the group at a beach hang-out in Accra they made it clear that the travel across Africa is a rite of passage as well as a spiritual re-connection with the Mother continent.
‘You know how people of Jewish descent, no matter where in the world they are, have to visit Israel …? We see the same for our Afrikan brothers and sisters in the Diaspora,’ said Donisha Prendergast who is an actress and filmmaker. Prendergast is also the granddaughter of Bob and Rita Marley.
The 50 Days in Afrika initiative seeks to highlight the strengths of Africa’s contribution to the Global Film Industry, and how Jamaica and the Diaspora can learn, grow and collaborate to bring more African content to the world. The three artistes started the journey from Jamaica and have already been to Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana. Ahead are Ethiopia, South Africa and Tanzania. In each country the trio will hold network sessions, interact with artistes, hold a day’s film workshop and perform.
According to Mykal Cushnie, so far they have explored a creative industry growing at an exponential rate, exposing the wonderful culture that is Africa. The group has also learnt about the intimate connections between Africa and Jamaica. Cushnie is the Director, editor and cinematographer behind Mission Catwalk, Splash! which airs on Centric and BET this fall, beginning from September.
‘It is an exciting experience when an island of about 2.8 million can affect and influence a continent with over 1 billion persons simply with its music’, added the affable rasta haired young man.
Cushnie has done music videos for almost all the biggest names in Jamaican entertainment, and some international acts. He has created content for Channel O in Africa, and more prominently, a profile documentary on Walter Rodney.
The third member of the team Kelissa MacDodald is the most familiar with Africa. Kelissa is the musician and has lived and travelled extensively throughout East Africa and speaks a bit of Ki-Swahili. To her: ‘Africa is like a reservoir of our own lost history and heritage, and the people are like the vessels of knowledge. The vastness and depth of the land and culture is humbling, creating a similar experience in the mind.’
Since arriving in Ghana Kelissa has delightd fans with silky performances at venues which include The Republic and +233 both in Accra.
Together the three talented young people will build a network with actors, musicians, filmmakers to ‘overstand’ how Africa emerged on the global film scene, and how film can contribute to the continent’s economy.
For Pendergrast who is also very well travelled, 50 Days in Africa has reaffirmed their respective artistic journeys. Also doubling as the spokesperson for the Bob Marley Foundation, she recently released Rasta, A Soul’s Journey in select countries over the past year. The feature length documentary takes a look at the local and global impact of Rastafari and Reggae Music from the perspective of a young woman on a spiritual mission.
“I think this has been one of the best decisions in all of our lives. I see a future where 50 Days in Afrika becomes like a lifestyle, every year a group of people come to explore and understand Afrika in 50 Days, sharing and learning…’’