West Africa: Beginning in Accra, the Republic of Ghana

The Black Star Monument in Accra, Ghana. (Jan. 8, 2019)

Made it to my hotel in Accra, Ghana, late Sunday night, got a good night’s rest, had a hearty Accra City Hotel buffet breakfast and began my Monday getting a personalized tour from Kelvin, my guide, and Alex, my driver, with Stellar Tours of Accra. Today was a national holiday and although some places were closed, this energetic capital city was full of hustle.

Exploring the present, must begin with the past. So, let’s take a quick look at the Republic of Ghana and Accra’s past. It was March 6, 1957 when the Gold Coast (now known as Ghana) gained its independence from Britain and became a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. And, it was Dr. Kwame Nkrumah who led the country to independence and transformed it into a republic, with himself as president. Accra, a prosperous trading center, became the capital of the British Gold Coast colony in 1877.

Before Ghana became independent, the Portuguese first settled on the coast in 1482, the present site of Accra, which was occupied by several villages of the Ga tribe. The Ga’s are said to be descended from immigrants down the Niger and across the Volta rivers during the 17th century.

The Portuguese built the Castle of Elmina, (which I’ll visit towards the end of my stay in Ghana) the first European settlement on the Gold Coast where they acquired Africans to be sold as slaves and gold in trade for European goods. Successful trading news spread quickly, and British, Dutch, Danish, Prussian and Swedish traders arrived as well. The European traders built several forts along the coastline. The Gold Coast had long been a name for the region used by Europeans because of the large gold resources found in the area.

The slave trade became a major part of the economy when European nations began to explore and colonize the Americas. Soon the Portuguese and Spanish began to export African people to the Caribbean, and North and South America for enslavement. The Dutch and British also entered the slave trade, at first supplying markets in the Caribbean and the coast of South America. By the latter part of 19th century the Dutch and the British were the only traders left. And when the Dutch withdrew in 1874, the British made the Gold Coast a crown colony until Ghana gained its independence in 1957.

Tomorrow starts my TransAfrica tour through Ghana, Benin and Togo. But for now, here’s some of present-day Accra, Ghana.

Me at the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum and Memorial Park in downtown Accra, the capital of Ghana. The park and mausoleum area, once a British polo field where blacks were not allowed, is dedicated to the prominent Ghanaian politician and revolutionary Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. He was the first prime minister and president of Ghana, having led the Gold Coast (which Accra was previously named) to independence from Britain in 1957. (Jan. 7, 2019)
The burial ground and final resting place of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah at a park named in his honor, the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum and Memorial Park in downtown Accra, the capital of Ghana. His wife, Fathia Ritzk, an Egyptian Coptic bank worker, former teacher and First Lady of the newly independent Ghana, is buried by her husband. (Jan. 7, 2019)
The burial ground and final resting place of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah at a park named in his honor, the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum and Memorial Park in downtown Accra, the capital of Ghana. His wife, Fathia Ritzk, an Egyptian Coptic bank worker, former teacher and First Lady of the newly independent Ghana, is buried by her husband. (Jan. 8, 2019)
A violent 1966 coup led to the overthrow and exile of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the first President of the Republic of Ghana. As a result, this statue of Nkrumah, which originally stood in front of the Old Parliament House was vandalized during the coup. At the that time, the head disappeared but in 2009, a woman who had rescued it, brought it back. The body and head can now be seen at the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum and Memorial Park in downtown Accra, the capital of Ghana. Nkrumah, who was making official state visits to North Vietnam and China, never returned to Ghana, but he continued to push for his vision of African unity in Guinea where he lived in exile and was made honorary co-president by President Sekou Toure.
The entrance to the museum, at the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum and Memorial Park in Accra, is dedicated to the life of Kwame Nkrumah. Unfortunately photos could not be taken inside of the museum which provides a chronology of Nkrumah’s life, photos of his travels with world leaders and various wardrobes and momentos from his life. Ghanaians have come to understand and admire what Nkrumah was trying to do for Ghana and other African countries in an effort to unify the African continent. (Jan. 17, 2019)
A close-up of the carvings on the entrance to the museum, at the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum and Memorial Park in Accra, Ghana, dedicated to the life of Kwame Nkrumah. (Jan. 17, 2019)
The tree trunk inspired mausoleum is surrounded by water, the symbol of life, at the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum and Memorial Park in Accra, Ghana. The mausoleum built from top to bottom in Italian marble has a black star at the top center which symbolizes unity. (Jan. 7, 2019)
The water surrounding the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum and Park in Accra, Ghana, has seven kneeling horn blower statues on each side of the water portion of the park who are announcing Nkrumah’s death. The number seven means perfection. (Jan. 8, 2019)
The water surrounding the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum and Park in Accra, Ghana, has seven kneeling horn blower statues on each side of the water portion of the park who are announcing Nkrumah’s death. The number seven means perfection. (Jan. 7, 2019)
Me standing by the Mango tree planted by Nelson Mandel, president of the African National Congress, on his visit to Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park in Accra, Ghana, on Nov. 6, 1991. (Jan. 7, 2019)
Black Star Square, also known as Independence Square in Accra, Ghana, boasts two monuments, this Black Star Monument (with the Accra Sports Stadium behind it) and the Independence Arch (across the street) area with a seating capacity of about 30,000. (Jan. 8, 2019)
The Independence Arch, part of the Black Star Square in Accra, Ghana, the site for Ghana’s Independence Day parades on the 6th of March every year. It also hosts all major national public gatherings and national festivals. It is across the street from the Black Star Monument. The five-pointed Black Star, which is also at the center of Ghana’s flag, symbolizes Africa in general and Ghana in particular. The Black Star Line, founded in 1919 by Marcus Garvey as part of the Back-to-Africa movement, modelled its name on the White Star Line, changing the color from white to black to symbolise ownership by black people rather than white people. The black star became a symbol of Pan-Africanism and anti-colonialism. (Jan. 7, 2019)
A statue of a soldier faces the Independence Arch in Accra symbolizing the Ghanaians who lost their lives fighting for Ghana’s independence. (Jan. 8, 2019)
A close-up of the statue of a soldier facing the Independence Arch in Accra symbolizing the Ghanaians who lost their lives fighting for Ghana’s independence. (Jan. 8, 2019)
The Chief’s Palace in Accra, Ghana’s fishing village of James Town.  (Jan. 8, 2019)
A close-up of the art on the Chief’s Palace in Accra, Ghana’s fishing village of James Town. (Jan. 8, 2019)
A poster (to the left) of the former Chief Oblempong Nii Kodjo Ababio V in Accra, Ghana’s fishing village of James Town. The chief passed away on Dec. 22, 2017 after ruling for 39 years. The Chiefs are very respected within the community. (Jan. 7, 2019)
James Fort, on the same street as the James Town lighthouse, in Accra, Ghana. It was originally built by the British as a trading post in 1673, but from colonial times until 2008 the fort served as a prison. It was also used by the British to imprison Africans, often for months, before being shipped and sold as slaves. (Jan. 8, 2019)
Part of the James Fort is this open-air art gallery in Accra, Ghana. (Jan. 7, 2019)
The light house in Accra’s James Town in Ghana. The original light house built in 1871 was replaced in the 1930s by this current light house. (Jan. 7, 2019)
The children and their teacher, Emmanuel Mark Hansen, at the James Town Gbeke BII School of Creative Art & Cultures in Accra, Ghana’s James Town’s impoverished fishing community. (Jan. 7, 2019)
Teacher Emmanuel Mark Hansen, at the James Town Gbeke BII School of Creative Art & Cultures in Accra, Ghana’s James Town’s impoverished fishing community, explains that the he and 4 other teachers work with about 80 students, ages six on up, at their level of learning starting with the alphabet and numbers and then progressing to words and sentences. The school accepts monetary and equipment donations down to paper and pencils. (Jan. 7, 2019)
An art piece by a student at the James Town Gbeke BII School of Creative Art & Cultures in Accra, Ghana’s James Town’s impoverished fishing community. (Jan. 7, 2019)
Boxing is a major sport in Accra, Ghana, and the children, boys and girls, learn to box at the James Town Gbeke BII School of Creative Art & Cultures in James Town’s impoverished fishing community. (Jan. 7, 2019)
Two boys at the James Town Gbeke BII School of Creative Art & Cultures in Accra, Ghana, being boys. (Jan. 7, 2019)
James Town is the oldest and the most impoverished area of Accra, Ghana. It’s history holds the haunting testimony of Ghana’s past with the James Fort, where Africans were imprisoned by the British and shipped to be sold into slavery, in the background. (Jan. 7, 2019)
James Town is the oldest and the most impoverished area of Accra, Ghana. It’s history holds the haunting testimony of Ghana’s past with the James Fort, where Africans were imprisoned by the British and shipped to be sold into slavery, in the background. And, the light house in the distance. (Jan. 7, 2019)
The colorful boats at the James Town fishing village in Accra, Ghana, are made from one tree and painted individually to represent a family. (Jan. 7, 2019)
The James Town Beach and fishing village in Accra, Ghana. (Jan. 7, 2019)
The colorful fishermen boats in Accra, Ghana’s James Town. (Jan. 8, 2019)
The colorful fishermen boats in Accra, Ghana’s James Town. (Jan. 8, 2019)
Crabs left on the dock to dry out and be used as bait for the James Town fishermen in Accra, Ghana. (Jan. 8, 2019)
The James Town beach and fishing village in Accra, Ghana, where the men of the village catch the fish and the women clean and sell the fish. When the men return from fishing, they prepare and mend the fish nets. (Jan. 7, 2019)
In James Town, the impoverished fishing village in Accra, Ghana, the men may catch the fish but it’s the women who clean the fish and prepare it to be marketed, cooked and sold by them. (Jan. 7, 2019)
The aged gate and boat yard at James Town in Accra, Ghana. (Jan. 8, 2019)
James Town, the densely populated and impoverished shanty fishing village in Accra, Ghana. (Jan. 7, 2019)
This stunning monument or shrine adorns the median strip into and out of the James Town neighborhood inhabited by the Ga people. The ancient Ga originated from the lower banks of the Volta River. They travelled in family or clan groups and settled in Accra. (Jan. 7, 2019)
This stunning monument or shrine adorns the median strip into and out of the James Town neighborhood inhabited by the Ga people. The ancient Ga originated from the lower banks of the Volta River. They travelled in family or clan groups and settled in Accra. (Jan. 7, 2019)
This stunning monument or shrine adorns the median strip into and out of the James Town neighborhood inhabited by the Ga people. The ancient Ga originated from the lower banks of the Volta River. They travelled in family or clan groups and settled in Accra. (Jan. 7, 2019)
This stunning monument or shrine adorns the median strip into and out of the James Town neighborhood inhabited by the Ga people. The ancient Ga originated from the lower banks of the Volta River. They travelled in family or clan groups and settled in Accra. (Jan. 7, 2019)
This stunning monument or shrine adorns the median strip into and out of the James Town neighborhood inhabited by the Ga people. The ancient Ga originated from the lower banks of the Volta River. They travelled in family or clan groups and settled in Accra. (Jan. 7, 2019)
The William Franklin House is the small slave fort built around 1750 from brick ballast of slave ships. And, the open public square is where slaves were once auctioned and sold. Now part of the Brazil Heritage Foundation’s Brazil House, the slave fort has been turned into a communal dwelling place by on Brazil Lane with an outdoor school. Franklin House was used to keep slaves as part of Accra’s central role in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Brazil House and Brazil Lane trace their origins to seven families of Afro-Brazilian returnees who arrived in Usshertown between 1829 and 1836 and settled and integrated into the indigenous Otublohum Ga community. The story of these freed Brazilian slaves who arrived in Ghana from Bahia and came to be known as the Tabom. (Jan. 8, 2019)
The William Franklin House, a small slave fort turned communal dwelling place on Brazil Lane. Franklin House was used to keep slaves as part of Accra’s central role in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. (Jan. 8, 2019)
The William Franklin House, a small slave fort turned communal dwelling place on Brazil Lane. Franklin House was used to keep slaves as part of Accra’s central role in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. (Jan. 8, 2019)
The William Franklin House, a small slave fort turned communal dwelling place on Brazil Lane. Franklin House was used to keep slaves as part of Accra’s central role in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. (Jan. 8, 2019)
The William Franklin House, a small slave fort turned communal dwelling place on Brazil Lane. Franklin House was used to keep slaves as part of Accra’s central role in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. (Jan. 8, 2019)
The William Franklin House, a small slave fort turned communal dwelling place on Brazil Lane. This is the Pleasant,  Blessed & Highly Favored Academy school area of the dwelling. Franklin House was used to keep slaves as part of Accra’s central role in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. (Jan. 8, 2019)
The William Franklin House, a small slave fort turned communal dwelling place on Brazil Lane. This is the Pleasant, Blessed & Highly Favored Academy school area of the dwelling. Franklin House was used to keep slaves as part of Accra’s central role in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. (Jan. 8, 2019)
The 71-year-old Joseph Ashong, Paa Joe, in his Pobiman, Ghana, fantasy coffin workshop 15 miles from the capital is considered one of the most important Ghanaian coffin artists of his generation. Coffins can be anything from an animal to a vehicle and are crafted to reflect the deceased. These coffins are particularly popular within the Ga community in Ghana, where this unique custom began. Many families spend excessive amounts on coffins because they often feel that they have to pay their last respects to the deceased and being buried in a coffin of cultural, symbolic as well expensive taste is seen as fitting. (Jan. 8, 2019)
How about being buried in a red pepper, one of Joseph Ashong’s fantasy coffins at his workshop in Pobiman, Ghana. (Jan. 8, 2019)
Or maybe soar to your final resting place as a bird, one of Joseph Ashong’s fantasy coffins at his workshop in Pobiman, Ghana. (Jan. 8, 2019)
The outdoor display and worship area of Joseph Ashong, Paa Joe’s fantasy coffin workshop in Pobiman, Ghana. (Jan. 8, 2019)
The Makola Market in Accra, Ghana, is the largest open market in Accra, Ghana. And, according to my guide, Kelvin, this national holiday crowd can’t compare to the crowds on the weekends. You can literally buy just about anything at this market including shoes, towels, sunglasses, beaded jewelry, bags, hats, smoked fish, vegetables, fruit….anything. (Jan.7, 2019)
The Makola Market in Accra, Ghana. (Jan. 7, 2019)
The Makola Market in Accra, Ghana. (Jan. 7, 2019)
The Makola Market in Accra, Ghana. (Jan. 7, 2019)
The Makola Market in Accra, Ghana. (Jan. 7, 2019)
The Makola Market in Accra, Ghana. (Jan. 7, 2019)
The Makola Market in Accra, Ghana, where you can buy a variety of Ghanaian-made souvenirs from Kente cloth. (Jan. 7, 2019)
The “Big Six” that led Ghana to independence in 1957 are also the men pictured on the country’s unit of currency, the Ghanaian cedi with the currency code of GHS. The Big Six include:
Kwame Nkrumah (1909 – 1972)
Emmanuel Odarkwei Obetsebi Lamptey (1902 – 1963)
William Ofori Atta (1910 – 1988)
Edward Akufo-Addo (1906 – 1979)
Ebenezer Ako Adjei (1916 – 2002)
Joseph Boakye Danquah (1895 – 1965)
The GHS 10 bill currency shows the Bank of Ghana headquarters on the back, acknowledging the bank as the sole issuer of currency as well as the significant role of the financial system in the overall development of the economy. The GHS 20 bill shows the Supreme Court building on the back, representing the rule of law in the nation. And, the GHS 50 bill on the back depicts the Christianborg Castle, the seat of the government, capturing the importance of good governance in the Ghanaian Society. (Jan. 6, 2019)
I signed up for this Voodoo Festival-Ghana, Benin & Togo tour through Undiscovered Destinations. But TransAfrica, which employs our tour guide, Amedee, is the tour agency that conducted the tour. Here’s the tour map through these three West African countries which begins and ends in Accra, Ghana.
My hotel room, at the Accra City Hotel, in Ghana. (Jan. 6, 2019)
The Accra City Hotel dining room in Accra, Ghana. (Jan. 7, 2019)
The Accra City Hotel dining room’s evening buffet, which I very much enjoyed. (Jan. 7, 2019)