Connect with Us

J.H. Kwabena Nketia Archives


The Institute of African Studies (I.A.S) Audio Visual Archive represents both the I.A.S Audio Visual unit and the ICAMD audio visual archive. The collections held at the IAS Audio Visual Archive are perhaps some of the most valuable assets of Ghanaian traditions in the world and represent a tremendous resource at the Institute and the University of Ghana as crucial documents of the human record.
The archive was established with the aim of serving the needs of scholars, researchers, and artists by collecting and producing audiovisual documentation on Ghana's unique dance and music traditions. Documented materials in this archive are deposited on formats such as: Reel to reel (1/4"), Shellacs (78, 45 and 33rpm), Digital Audio Tape (DAT), Audio Cassettes, Compact Discs (CD), Betacam, U-matic, VHS, Hi-8, Video 8, Mini-DV and micro cassettes.

The crown jewels of the ICAMD collection are the original recordings of Prof Nketia and his colleagues (i.e when he was a research fellow at the Sociology Department and later the Institute of African studies), which date to the early 1950s (prior to Ghana's independence in 1957). These recordings document the music and dance traditions from around the country at a very unique time period. From the 1950s through the 1970s, Prof. Nketia and other ethnomusicologists gained the trust of the local people and repeatedly documented stories, songs, dances and other oral and performance traditions. The recordings represent an invaluable snapshot of Ghanaian and African heritage, which can offer researchers, musicians, performers, artists and students an unparalleled glimpse into the traditions and practices that were passed down orally for generations.

A few examples of notable content that can be found in this collection are: Numerous examples of Anansesԑm, mmoguo, Odurugya music (unique music performed at the court of the Asantehene), Fontomfrom music, rare recordings from Konkomba, Mamprusi, Frafra, Dagarti and Kasena tribes; funeral dirges Occupational songs, hunters songs, witches songs, storytelling, Possession music, Cult music, music performed during initiation rights, old highlife music, Old brass band music, folk and traditional music from outside the borders of Ghana and even outside Africa (very rare recordings) etc. It is important to note that these art forms bear little resemblance today to how it did when the recordings were made.

Commercial Recordings

This collection includes early commercial Highlife and other African music on 78 rpm shellac and LP. Although not original, these materials are considered very rare and are in high demand. In addition, there are numerous commercial recordings of contemporary Ghanaian and world music on CDs and cassettes. Many of the cassette recordings are considered very rare and are no longer available in the markets

Educational Documentaries

The Asantehene (coronation, death and installation of three Asante Chiefs, namely, Sir Nana Prempeh II, Otumfuo Opoku Ware II and Otumfuo Osei Tutu II)) –rashes that needs to be edited.

Nana Chancellor: Damirifa due a 55" documentary celebrating the life and funeral rites of Oyeeman Wereko-Ampem, former Chancellor of the University of Ghana and a traditional chief, completed in October 2008

Kuduo: The Akan Art of Brass casting, a 35" film investigating the ancient craft of lost wax brass casting among the Akan people of Ghana and celebrates the expression of culture and philosophy in the manufacture of gold weights and chieftaincy regalia, completed in December 2007 (Tapes are available in the Publication Centre for sale)

Video Recordings

There are also severally documented programmes on music, dance and other traditions, as well as commercial video documentaries:

  • Ghana Dance Ensemble performances from the early 1980s to date.
  • Professor Mawere Opoku's dances classes with the GDE
  • Professor Mawere Opoku's special tapes on research in Ashanti during his last days
  • Professor Melrose special collections
  • Miss Patience Kwakwa's special research materials
  • Documentation of NAFAC 2000,(Ho) 2005 (Wa) and 2007 (Kumasi). Read more

Photographs Collection

Another rare collections at the Audio Visual Unit are the photographs. The photographs date back to the late 1950s to date. The section has a total of about two thousand four hundred and seventy (2,470) printed photographs, two hundred and fifty nine (259) bundles and five (5) strips of catalogued colour negatives and ten thousand (10,000) uncatalogued black and white negative photographs. Please visit our online photo database which is still being fed with information.


The archive serves a diverse community of users from the University and beyond, these are: Students and lecturers in performance studies from the School of Performing Arts and few from the Institute; researchers in ethnomusicology and related disciplines from outside the country; teacher training college students and tutors from the country, radio producers as well as music enthusiasts.