Panafest also known as Emancipation is an annual even in Ghana which aims to remind people of the horrors and detriments of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. Its aim is to bring together people from all over the Diaspora. 

In the history of the slave trade, the Gold Coast as Ghana was then known was the transit point for slaves from all over the continent enroute to Europe and the Americas. 

This makes Ghana, the place for all Africans who do not know their routes, to at least find out where their ancestors were kept and what they went through that gave them the chance to be where they are now, whether good or bad. Scattered all over Ghana are forts and castles used in the slave trade. 

These forts have been preserved just the way they were during the colonial period. This is to make the youth of today have a firsthand feel of history.


The main origins of the emancipation drive started back in the 18th century with the emergence of abolition societies and campaigners like Graniville Sharp, William Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson. 

They were successful in their quest as this eventually led to the British who were the leading slave trade nation, abolish the law in 1807. This marked the milestone of the emancipation history. 

Emancipation in Ghana started in 1992 as a soul searching journey for Africans in the Diaspora. The aim is to seek the full emancipation of the African continent from any form of slavery, be it physical or intellectual. This is to be done by bringing home Africans all over the world to come back to their roots, and help the continent develop its resources and be self dependent in all it does.


The main attractions of Panafest festival include activities and performances in the areas of theater, drama, music, poetry etc. among other things. One of the best events is a candlelit Emancipation Vigil to honour African slaves.

Other highlights include the viewing of 'durbar' of Chiefs, and availability of tours to various places of interest, such as slave castle dungeons etc. This festival also presents a showcase of the best of both modern and traditional arts a
nd a host of other activities outlined for the biannual celebration. 

It celebrates African fashion, digital arts, music, theatre, visual arts and dance. A series of politically based conferences about the African arts, Africa's history and Africa's relationship with the rest of the world forms a unique feature of this cultural event.

Most Africans see Panafest as part-pilgrimage partly a chance to party and show off their skills.

There are 40 slave forts and castles on the shores of Ghana and this is largest on the continent. Notable among these forts and castle are The Osu Christianborg Castle, The James Fort, Cape Coast Castle, and Elmina Castle among others and all these are UNESCO World Heritage sites.


Built by the Danes in 1660, the Christianborg castle was initially a Danish Fort for the Danes as they conducted trade with the natives. As time went on, the fort was handed over from one colonial rule to another until it came under the ownership of the British in 1850. Although it was not a major player in the slave trade, the Christianborg castle which now serves as the official seat of the Government of the Republic of Ghana, is still regarded as a part of the African heritage.


The Cape Coast castle, seized by the British from the Danes in 1664 is one the main hubs of the slave trade. The castles have dungeons and tunnels used by the slave masters to transport slaves. You can still find shackles and chains used in beating the slaves. It is even said that if a slave died whiles there, they just tossed over the castle walls into the sea and that was the end of them. This place has so much history embedded in it that words cannot describe.

The other forts and castles just like the Cape Coast castle, all formed part of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man, and this is to serve as a reminder to all of us to be each other’s keeper and never look down on anyone.


As the celebrations draws to a close, durbars are organized in the designated region for that year. The rich culture of the people of Ghana is displayed and Africans, who hitherto have been lost as to where they really come from, get the chance to have a feel of their native roots and have a sense of identity. 

Being black is not what makes you and African, but knowing your roots and your traditions is what makes you an African. 

Africans are proud of their heritage and this celebration is there to let the whole world know as Dr Kwame Nkrumah said “The African man is capable of taking his destiny into his own hand”.

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