Accra – I am in love with the Tro-Tro
The word Accra is derived from the word ‘nkran’ meaning ‘ants’ in Akan, a reference to the numerous anthills seen in the countryside around Accra. The mate of the tro-tros (public transport minibuses) calls “Accra, Accra” to let people know it’s going to downtown Accra. Accra is a busy, old city that has multiple vibes depending which parts of the city you’re in. A lot of people use motorbikes to move around, but the main means of transportation in the city are the Tro-tros and taxis.
Almost everywhere you’ll see the small shops by the street and people selling food. Restaurants are scarce. At first I was hesitant about buying food on the street from the fact that I always have stomach problems and me being a little Americanized lol. Alissa got into the act right away and I slowly followed suit. Most of the time it’s Banku (rice/maise dough ball), fried or Jollof rice, or yam as the carb, accompanied with stew (groundnut, palm oil, or okra) and protein option of egg, tilapia, chicken, or occasionally- grass cutter. Most of them are good and very cheap. We love lunch for two for a dollar!
The Art Center
We stayed in Accra about two weeks in and out.. The art center was our first destination. It’s a big area of small shops stitched together, selling anything from fabrics, traditional clothes to sculptures and antiques. We loved the colorful prints and got some Kente and hi-life design prints. Here you better know how to negotiate as the foreigner prices is usually twice the actual price. Our strategy was to push them as much to get as a discount, then we suggest either half or 1/3 of that price. Of course they will give you the “O Hell NO” face, then you offer that we’re from Ethiopia and need the “African man price”. Negotiation is kinda fun. I think if we had jobs, we could take the stance, that our dollar is helping them more than we actually need it, but we do NEED that African price!
Later in one of the hostels we stayed at we met Auduu, who also has a shop in the art center. He sell antiques and wood sculptures he made through the training of his Nigerian grandfather. The antiques come from different countries: Ghana, Mali and Nigeria, Burkina Faso. Just like Mali Music, the Mali works are HOT!
He lead us through the labyrinth of the art market to his friends shops who sell other rare and antique items. We essentially catalogued their work to share and possibly support our new friends here while helping share the amazing pieces he has here. Stay tuned if you’d like to adorn your home! We definitely are buying some of the pieces in the future, as we want our house to be decorated mostly by African art.
Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum
We visited the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum. The first President of Ghana, and one of the few African leaders that started the Pan-african movement (http://www.padeap.net/the-history-of-pan-africanism). My dad was a big fan of him and the Pan-Africanism movement and I grew up learning about his story and how he and other African leaders started the OAU. It was a very special moment to visit his mausoleum, where both his and his wife Fatima Nkrumah’s body is resting. The people love Nkrumah and you see his picture almost everywhere. But he was overthrown by a coup organized by the military while he was out of the country on a state visit to North Vietnam and China. You can say it’s a conspiracy theory, but I strongly believe that sounds and smells very much like CIA in the house, as it was the case for the other African leaders who were working so hard for Pan-Africa to become a reality . The latest and last one to be Muammar Gaddafi. But that’s another story…(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Liberation_Council#1966_coup). .
JamesTown is one of the poorest neighborhood in Accra and also the most vibrant. This year the annual Chale Wote festival was held in Jamestown where thousands of people took part. (click here to go to Chale Hote post).
Formerly known as the British Accra, The history of Jamestown starts with the erection of James Fort by the British in 1673-74. It’s also a home of Ussher Fort, a post built by the Dutch in 1642 as Fort Crevecoeur and transferred to the British later on. Until the banning of slavery in the mid nineteenth century, it remained one of the major hubs of slave trade.
After slave trade ended (finally, whew!) Jamestown become a major center for export of goods like palm oil, rubber and Cocoa. Business was blooming and infrastructures started being installed including the legendary lighthouse built in 1871. Unfortunately the british decided to build a new harbour to serve as the trading center at Takoradi which led to the decline of Jamestown as a business center and shaped the way it is now.
A series of earthquakes and fire has demolished most of the establishments and houses, the local economy depends on fishing and selling food on the street. There’s a form of child slavery happening in Jamestown and all along coastal/waterside villages. During any season, you’ll see young boys (ages 5+) waking up like grown ass men and heading to see to fish for the whole day, and their whole lives. We’ve heard stories of children being sold and kidnapped to work for fisheries for 20+ years with the families receiving little in return, and these little boys, even less. With no education, they are forced to stay in the cycle of trade they know, fishing.
Climbing the lighthouse, you will have a great view of the city and Jamestown. Next to the lighthouse is a boxing gym, one of the many in Jamestown that have produced most of the best boxers in Ghana.
It seems like there is always a celebration going on in Jamestown. The first time we went it was the Homowo festival, a tradition of the Ga people. Homowo means “Hoot at hunger”. It’s celebrated to remember the Ga people massive food production exercise that yielded good harvest after suffering from a severe famine. People dance on the street and priests throw a meal made of corn on the streets to bless the land. People here love to dance and the music always play to the max volume. During these festivals Jamestown converts from fishing to fun, where people forget about their problems and dance their ass off.