43_G15_Spotlight_Ghana

Global Issue 15

Spotlight Ghana Among the great surprises in store for today’s visitors to Ghana are the old forts and castles, which lie scattered along its coast. Nowadays they play little part in the life of the country, except as a tragic tourist site. An eerie silence, a gloomy atmosphere hangs over these massive, crumbling complexes, which once teemed with life. In their dismal dungeons, thousands of slaves sent up desperate prayers, before being transported across the notorious Middle Passage. These melancholy monuments vary greatly in importance and size, from the massive El Mina – once the headquarters of the Portuguese and later of the Dutch – and Cape Coast Castle, built by the British, to Christianborg in Accra, which was bequeathed by the Danes. These huge castles had several big guns, including cannon, large garrisons, resident commercial and government officials and, at a later stage, local craftsmen. In many respects they were like miniature cities, each establishment having a considerable number of its own slaves, toiling away like worker bees. However, a palpable air of prosperity and a relaxed ability to enjoy life characterises Accra today. As one drives through the treelined avenues of middle-class homes from Kotoka Airport, the atmosphere of decades of good fortune respectably earned is immediately apparent. One can’t help noticing how many churches there are, the focus of many a society wedding or christening, whose participants glow in Kente and gold. Ghana was the first African nation to achieve independence and it has a large population of high-flying, cosmopolitan professionals. Of course, there’s poverty too, and few ‘respectable’ Ghanaians would venture to Jamestown fishing village, on the ‘rougher’ side of town, but tourists certainly do to see the traditional canoes of the local Fanti people, painted with symbolic patterns and motifs relating to the underlying philosophical content of Ghanaian life, hardly affected by slavery, colonialism or Christianity. Celebrations are marked by gifts of jewellery Accra’s Makola Market is controlled by usually large, imposing, and often very wealthy, Market Queens. It’s the heartbeat of the capital, where you will see rows of cloth-sellers and love potions, as well as a few pieces of the beautiful local pottery, which have almost entirely been replaced by plastic ware. The smells of fish in the gruelling heat – despite only being two hours old– and of the pomade worn by traders from the north add to the atmosphere. The colours of the market are stunning too – women in their every-day printed wrappers and head-ties, piles of chillies, tomatoes and spices. Contrary to expectations, not every dish in the varied battery of Ghanaian cuisine is redhot. Ghanaians employ a variety of herbs and flavourings. Its characteristic ‘freshness’ stems from the use made of local ingredients, such as crab, crispy fried prawns and a selection of green leaves. There’s a range of traditional stews made with groundnuts and palm nuts, and often meat is cooked with fish. Savoury dishes are served with a balance of carbohydrates, such as pounded yam or cassava, and variations on the plantain theme are endless. Plantain is a member of the banana family and is cooked using at least 19 savoury or sweet methods. Most Ghanaians will reminisce about balmy evenings, sauntering along with a loved one, picking at kelewele – fried plantain bought from a street stall. Stepping out at night, the gilded youth of Accra and other Ghanaian cities groove at chic clubs, while others sip beer and enjoy local music at lively open-air venues. Stevie Wonder cried when he came to Black Star or Independence Square, to play at the legendary Soul-to-Soul concert. He had come face-to-face with his ancestors. ● Juliet Highet is an author and photographer specialising in travel, the arts and culture 1960 Ghana is proclaimed a republic with Dr Kwame Nkrumah as president 2007 Major offshore oil reserves are discovered, estimated to total three billion barrels 1979 Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings leads a military coup and his Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) takes power. In a bid to end widespread corruption, Rawlings tries and executes former government leaders including Acheampong, Akuffo and Afrifa. Hundreds of officials and businessmen are imprisoned 1960 2000 2013 2010 Offshore oil production begins 1969 Multi-party elections are held under the new constitution and a new civilian government is formed under Dr Kofi Busia and the Progress Party 1992 A referendum passes a new constitution, introducing a multiparty system. Political prisoners are freed, and free press and human rights organisations emerge. Rawlings is elected president global thi rd quar ter 2013 www.global -br ief ing.org l 43


Global Issue 15
To see the actual publication please follow the link above