I see loopholes in Prof. Perbi narrative about Tetteh Quarshie

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            The standard historical record is that Mr. Tetteh Quarshie, the half-Akan and half-Ga native, if memory serves me accurately, who visited the island of Fernando Po, in present-day Equitorial Guinea, and imported into the erstwhile Gold Coast Colony the original cocoa pods and seedlings that launched the commercial cultivation of what became the first modern economic mainstay of our country, is the originator of Ghana’s cocoa industry. Interestingly, at the recent 90th anniversary celebration of Achimota School, whose real indigenous Ghanaian foundation is also predictably shrouded in Eurocentric historiographical cannibalism, Prof. Akosua Adoma Perbi, daughter of legendary scholar-musicologist Prof. JH Nketia, was widely reported to have asserted that Mr. Tetteh Quarshie was not the first person to introduce the cocoa pod into the country in the late 1880s or early 1890s (See “Tetteh Quarshie Did Not Bring the First Cocoa Pods to Ghana” Ghanaweb.com 6/16/17).

Now I don’t know that this strand, or thread, of historical trivia – for that is what Prof. Perbi’s assertion amounts to – does significantly anyhting to either enhance or instructively detract from the received and/or standard historical record. The former Head of the History Department at the country’s flagship academy, the University of Ghana, Legon, tells us that the first cocoa pods, historically, were introduced into the country by a Rev. Haas and a Rev. Mole, and other presumably Swiss-German missionaries from the erstwhile Portuguese colony of Brazil. I am hereby assuming that these European missionaries were part of the Basel Mission’s evangelist-propagators of the Christian gospel, the pioneers of what later became known as the Presbyterian Church of Ghana.

Now, what is important and worth highlighting here, which Prof. Perbi barely hints at, if at all, is the glaringly established fact that Revs. Haas, Mole and the other Swiss-German Christian missionaries did not pioneer the commercial cultivation of cocoa in the country. Prof. Perbi tells us that whatever cocoa pods these European missionaries introduced into the country from Brazil, South America, as early as the 1850s, were meant for and put to private use. It is quite possible that the cocoa pods which Mr. Tetteh Quarshie imported into the country from Fernando Po, or Equitorial Guinea, had been introduced there by Rev. Haas and his missionary colleagues and associates. But, of course, we have absolutely no evidence of this fact or historical reality. We, however, know that Mr. Tetteh Quarshie created a nursery of cocoa seedlings at Akuapem-Mampong from where he sold germinal cacao, or young transplantable cocoa trees to prospective cocoa farmers.

Yes, Prof. Perbi informs us that Mr. Tetteh Quarshie had worked as an apprentice to some European Christian missionaries at Akuapem-Akropong, but the Legon scholar does not tell us precisely in what trade Mr. Quarshie had served as an apprentice, at least not in my version of the report of her lecture presentation. It is, however, widely known that the Osu, Accra, and Akuapem-Mampong native had been a goldsmith by profession, at least by the time that he introduced his seminal and legendary cocoa pods from Fernando Po. But there is absolutely no evidence that he had been given any cocoa pods or seedlings as a gift or an item of purchase by any of the known and recorded European missionaries to whom he had been apprenticed or for whom he had worked. And so properly speaking, Tetteh Quarshie’s seminal cocoa pods had absolutely nothing to do with the historical relationship between the globally renowned GOLDEN POD and the European missionaries, on the one hand, and the commercial cultivation of cocoa in colonial Ghana on the other.

What the preceding incontrovertibly establishes is the fact that Mr. Tetteh Quarshie is the founder-architect of the cocoa industry in Ghana and, very likely, the establishment of this industry in the West African sub-region. Now, there is also absolutely no evidence that the cocoa seedlings that Rev. Haas and his associates allegedly introduced into coastal Ghana remarkably facilitated either the takeoff or firm establishment of the cocoa industry in Ghana as we know it. There is definitely something worthwhile about the sort of apocryphal trivia reportedly indulged in by Prof. Perbi; but definitely not within the canonical context of The Tetteh Quarshie Narrative.

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

English Department, SUNY-Nassau

Garden City, New York

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