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Of Golden Anniversaries and Bicentennials

The Convergence of Memory, Tourism and National History in Ghana

Cheryl Finley

The year 2007 marks the fiftieth anniversary of Ghana and the two hundredth anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade. The Ghana Ministry of Tourism and Diasporan Affairs is planning the Joseph Project, a roots tourism initiative, aimed at ‘welcoming home’ its African diaspora. The historic slave forts and castles on Ghana’s coast are important sites for diasporic roots tourists, who also maintain symbolic links to Ghana’s independence movement through the history of Pan-Africanism. The Joseph Project uniquely includes a programme of national healing and atonement for African complicity in the slave trade and aims to remap national memory through tourism, education and the establishment of new museums, monuments and rituals.

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Cheryl Finley

This article examines the impact of art, performance, and technology on the global transformation of heritage tourism in recent years. Thanks to a series of case studies focusing on sites of memory deemed important to diasporic Africans, this article shows how art, performance, and technology are central to identity formation through an examination of mnemonic aesthetics and practices. Recent changes in heritage tourism have given rise to the establishment of categories such as “tangible“ and “intangible“ heritage as well as the construction of museums, the implementation of walking tours or the promotion of reenactments and ritual performances alongside environmental, volunteer, and virtual tourism. But how do tourists' interpretations of historic sites of memory change when various economic, political, social, and cultural factors converge globally? People seek experiences and outlets that could enable them to cling to those things that are familiar to them, while enabling them to identify with like communities in the midst of ground-shaking social, technological, economic, and political changes. Heritage tourism is one of those social practices that produces a sense of centeredness through a complex negotiation and presentation of memory, art, and performance.