It is the seemingly inexhaustible talents of the Casely-Hayfords that make them deserving of their role as a modern-day “cultural dynasty.”
All but a few of the world’s traditional monarchies still exist. I like to think that the 21st century has replaced ‘birthright’ ascendancy with a value system of “neo-sovereigns” who are cultural and social influencers by their own right and empires predicated on technological advancements, economic and political positions, and whether we like it or not, media presence.
Long before the British fashion label, Casely-Hayford, became a pre-eminent name, there was Joseph Ephraim Casely Hayford MBE and Adelaide Smith, the West African progenitors of what would be more than a century-long legacy. J.E Casely Hayford’s nomenclature would carve out a lineage of cultural forerunners (Casely was just one of his middle names, which he adopted as a surname).
Journalist, lawyer and author, Joseph Casely Hayford was born in Cape Coast, Ghana in the 1860s. He studied to be a barrister at Cambridge and the Inner Temple in London but eventually returned to Ghana with his wife Adelaide – a feminist, cultural activist and educator in her own right, she founded the Vocational School for Girls in Freetown, Sierra Leone in 1923. Adelaide, who was confident and decidedly defiant of contemporary expectations, once attended a reception in honor of the Prince of Wales in 1925 in traditional dress, which produced quite the reaction.
Joseph was definitely a prolific socio-political figure but if we had to compile a “greatest hits” of his achievements, his role as a facilitator of the movement of pan-African nationalism in Africa and America and his novel Ethiopia Unbound, depicting the struggle for emancipation, would definitely have to be on the list. His wife Adelaide who once described herself as a “race woman through and through.” has been hailed as one of the leading figures in Africa’s feminism movement.