Mole National Park, Larabanga Mosque and Tamale

 

 

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View of the watering hole from Mole Motel viewing platform.  The dark spots in the water are elephants!

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I fell in love with the Northern Region of Ghana when I visited there in December 2014 and I very much wanted to share this beautiful savannah region with Brad and Hannah. It was time to go because if we wanted to see the wildlife in Mole National Park, we had to go during the dry season, which will end soon. In April and onward, during the rainy season, the animals are less likely venture to the watering hole near the motel, where humans can see them. So, on the 14th of March we flew to Tamale, the regional capital, and then chartered a car to Mole National Park, which was established in 1964 and covers nearly 5,000 square kilometers. Over 90 mammalian species have been recorded and there are lots of beautiful birds and other wildlife. After we passed through the park gates and checked into the Mole Motel, the first thing we did was swim in the pool to cool off.

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Hannah and new friend Bambio.

 

We saw monkeys and later baboons in a tree near the pool. We met our fellow Fulbright friends Emily and Lydia, who had already been in Mole for a day and joined them and other motel guests for a night safari on top of a jeep. There aren’t any pictures of that (too dark) but it was exciting, seeing bushbuck, Kob deer, warthogs and guinea fowl in the night.

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The next morning we awoke early for a morning hike to see elephants come to the watering hole in the rift below the motel. Hannah made friends with a Ghanaian girl named Bambio and Brad and I befriended her uncle and his partner. Even as we waited for the hike we saw more warthogs and baboon, including babies.

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Brad and Hannah waiting for the hike to start and looking around for animals.

But the first sight of elephants in the wild was incredible. We enjoyed the guidance of each of our local guides and spent time just sitting and meditating in sight of the elephants as they rested, played with each other and cooled off in the water. Our guide told us all the elephants were males because the females are protective the young ones under fifteen so they don’t want to come near humans. The smaller elephants in the photos are therefore teenage males.

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Hannah and Bambio see the elephants in the wild for the first time!
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Family photo by elephant watering hole.

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We also saw crocodiles in the water and an antelope coming to drink on the far shore. Afterwards, Hannah and Bambio swam in the pool some more and we enjoyed good Ghanaian food for lunch and dinner. One more hike in the morning completed our time at Mole. We were fortunate to see more elephants and also view antelope from a viewing platform.

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From Mole we head to the nearby Larabanga mosque, the oldest mosque in Ghana, dating from the seventeenth century. The baobab tree near the mosque has an ancestor buried beneath it and to bring the village clans together, the guide told us, they all share a soup made from the leaves of the tree once a year. The style of the mosque is mud and stick architecture in the West Sudanese style. The style of the rest of the village is traditional local mud architecture.IMG_6001_2

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On our way back to Tamale, passing a number of small villages along the way. In Tamale, Brad gave a presentation on Biosands water filters which is part of Friendly Water for the World. A number of women and men from the Northern Region became interested in attending the training to be held in Accra in May. We settled into our modest hostel accommodations at the lovely garden grounds of Tamale Institute of Cross-Cultural Studies (TICCS) and had a nice pizza dinner there our Tamale friends. Hannah was able to pet and hold a friendly, small cat. The next morning Brad and Hannah flew back to Accra and I embarked on a few days of interviews and archival research in Tamale. The dry season began to break with a strong rain shower during the night. In Tamale, I was able to interview Ms. Fati Alhassan, the dynamic leader of the Grassroots Sisterhood Foundation, who is part of the Anti-Witchcraft Accusation Campaign Coalition.

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I was privileged to visit the Gulpke-Na’s palace with a friendly staff member at the Archives who invited me there while giving me a ride on his motorbike. I never imagined I would be able to share kola with a chief, but I did.  We all ate small bites kola nut and the court welcomed me to Tamale.  I gave greetings from the Fulbright program and my universities — Indiana University and University of Ghana. IMG_6018

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My friend on the archive staff and his friend who is part of the royal compound. He served as linguist for me.
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An elder with the chief’s horse. I love this informal photo so had to include it, but didn’t feel it was appropriate to post the other photos I took of the inside of the compound and our kola sharing ritual.

Steven and me at the Archives. Motorbikes and bicycles are more numerous than cars in this region of Ghana.

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The archives where I read many interesting historical documents from the colonial period of Ghana’s history.

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I am so glad that we were able to experience more of the beauty of the Northern Region of Ghana.

Visit to Elmina and Cape Coast

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It certainly is strange to put together these words, “slave,” which conjures up bitter oppression and “castle,” which is associated with fairy tales and magic in the imagination of the western world. But slave castles they were, forts to keep out other Europeans (cannons pointed to the sea) and strong walls to keep in slaves.

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I went first to Elmina, which the Portuguese built in 1482 to trade in gold ten years before Columbus sailed. It is said Columbus actually visited Elmina before his famous voyage across the Atlantic. Later the Dutch attacked the Portuguese and took control of the castle in 1637, also to trade in gold and then slaves. I visited Fort St. Jago, which the Dutch built up on a hill guarding Elmina Castle. A friend from Elmina took us there and showed us around. He knew all the ins and outs through the old town and its staircases and hills, its markets, neighborhoods, lagoon, and beaches.

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The history in Elmina was quite palpable. Fort St. Jago has not been shined up for tourists so we saw original stones weathered by sea air and time. Our guide was a young man who lives in the Fort with his family as the caretaker. Views of the sea are breathtaking and the town is equally beautiful from this height.

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The old town of Elmina, with narrow European style streets and colonial era houses brims with energy and music. Its colorful fishing boats and vibrant seafront community contrasts with the desolation of the old slave castle. My photos show a statue of the first Chief Fisherman and the current Chief Fisherman’s Office. I took several photographs of views out of Fort Jago, showing the old stone walls and then the life and beauty beyond.

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Of particular interest in the town are the Posoban, strikingly decorated buildings that are meeting places, created by Asafo companies, which were the military companies in pre-colonial times and continued during colonial times and beyond to be social organizations of men.

 

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When I toured Elmina castle. I was struck by the group I was with. Beside my friend, everyone there was a visitor. There was an interracial family, with ties to Ghana, Great Britain and beyond and an Afro-British family. I thought of my own interracial family and my daughter Hannah’s ancestors. Because many more captives were exported from the Slave Coast (Togo, Benin, Nigeria) and Angola than from the Gold Coast (Ghana), so it’s more likely that Hannah’s ancestors were from these places than from the Gold Coast, but these visits have given me an idea of what this phase of the middle passage was about.

At Cape Coast a few days later, I was with a much larger group of Africans and those from diaspora, as well as two Germans, with a background similar to my own. I thought too, of the Northern Region of Ghana where I had seen the beginning of the slave routes.

 

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The view beyond the Door of No Return today is of fishermen repairing their nets and the everyday life of Cape Coast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have all been affected by this history, each in different ways. The Germans, the Danes, and the Swedes all took possession of Cape Coast at one time until the English took it over. The English were the largest carriers of the trade in the eighteenth century, and then then declared the trade illegal in 1807. The profits from the slave trade and slavery enriched many, including some Africans and many Europeans and Americans, but not those who were enslaved. The contrast was clear when the tour went from what were crowded and nearly lightless slave dungeons to the governor’s spacious and airy quarters on the top floor.

 

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All of the slave forts and castles along the West African coast are UNESCO World Heritage sites. President Obama and Michelle Obama visited Cape Coast Castle as have hundreds of thousands of others. At both sites, there are memorial inscriptions to the ancestors who came through these castles, most placed there by diaspora Africans. To those today, they read: “May humanity never again perpetrate such injustice against humanity.” We can all reflect on what that means we should do about injustices we see today. I am sobered, but hopeful as I connect with the lives of the many Africans like those in Elmina who are struggling to make a good life today for themselves and their children. At Elmina we bought some squid and at Cape Coast, some paintings. In this way, these places and people become part of our lives and for a moment yours, too, dear readers.

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The Northern Region and Upper East: Resisting Slavery

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Pikworo Slave Camp near Paga, Upper East Region, Ghana

The Northern Region and Upper East are beautiful areas of Ghana. A rich variety of browns and greys met my eyes in this Savanna landscape during the beginning of the dry season.  Traditional round mud houses with thatched roofs and also traditional rectangular mud houses with defensive fortifications are some of my favorite features that tell stories about this region.  The round homes speak to me of an Afrocentric view of the world that is not all angular corners, but rather the circular forms of nature, the seasons returning again and again and the cycle of life.  The defensive homes of the Upper East speak of resistance to slavery and the ancestral home of many African Americans whose ancestors came from this place.

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I visited during the week of Dec. 19-21 to witness the Sandema Fiok Festival, which is a harvest festival that also celebrates resistance to slavery.  It turns out that the actual festival was postponed a few days but my friends and I got to see the dress rehearsal which was quite amazing.  I also enjoyed the quiet times and after the festival and my visit to the market.

In the Northern Region capitol, Tamale, and in Yendi, Bolgatanga, and Sandema, I noticed many more motorbikes and bicycles than cars and in the smaller cities and villages, donkeys were equally prominent.

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I saw yams are growing in fields with many mounds, and flat expanses of cereals such as rice and millet. The Northern region is the largest of the ten regions in the country, but is home to only about 10% of the population of Ghana. The landscape of the Northern Region and Upper East is savanna, that is grasses and scrub with scattered trees. Wild or “bush” animals are hunted  It is dry but various branches of the Volta extend into it and there is dry season gardening near the river. December, when I was there, is the dry season, with temperatures reaching 100 degrees. It can be 68 degrees at night and into the morning and the continuous wind makes it feel cooler. I was also under the pleasant illusion that the sky was cloudy due to the haze of the dust and this made it more pleasant for me since I get headaches in bright sunlight.

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Sunset over a dam near Sandema, Upper East.

 I will include a few facts about the North drawn from other sources, as well as some links. “The major ethnic groups of the region are the Mole Dagbon, (52.2%) the Gurma, (21.8%) the Akan and the Guan (8.7%). Among the Mole-Dagbon, the largest subgroup are the Dagomba and the Mamprusi, while the Komkomba are the largest of the Gurma, the Chokosi of the Akan and the Gonja of the Guan. The Dagomba constitute about a third of the population of the region.” (ghanadistricts.com) I have seen varying statistics on religion, but it seems that just over half of the population of the North professes Islam, while Indigenous religion and Christianity form about 20 percent each. I heard the Muslim call to prayer regularly in the cities and towns and saw many small mosques in villages, but I also saw many Christian churches and some indigenous shrines.

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These photos show a mosque at Wulugu and the Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows at Navrongo, exterior and interior, which has frescoes created by the women potters of Sirigu, also in the Upper East.

My visits to the Slave Camp at Pikworo and the Saakpuli Slave Market and village were stark and moving.  There are no castles or large forts here as there were at the coast of Ghana.  There were simply Baobabs and other trees were enslaved people were tied and rocks where they were said to have eaten their meals.  In each place, there were wells, either dug by the enslaved or occurring in the rocks.  A guide led me and others through both of the sites.  I imagined the fear and pain of being brought to one of those places as a captive, but today there is almost reverential and haunting quiet.  Simple rock circles are placed in the area of the cemetery at Pikworo.

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Eating area and grinding stones at slave camp at Pikworo
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Simple grave marker in slave cemetery at Pikworo

 Saakpuli is an isolated village, said to have been founded by the Asante in the 1700s as a military and trading post. There is an ancient Baobab tree that is the symbol of the site and has been alive long enough to have been part of slavery times.  I met some small children in Saakpuli who reminded me of Hannah, who did not travel with me, but whom I was missing.  A child held my hand throughout the tour.  I was reminded strongly of Hannah’s enslaved ancestors who may have begun their journey to America in this place.

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My next experience was a cathartic and exuberant demonstration of resistance to slavery.  It was the Fiok Festival, which is a harvest festival that also celebrates the warrior tradition of resistance by the Bulsa people.  We attended the dress rehearsal in Sandema and watched parades of elders and young men in traditional dress from the surrounding villages.  I’m posting a lot of photos because their clothing and hunting trophies were awe-inspiring.  You can tell this is a region with cattle and antelope and the horns on the helmets could even be a disguise at a distance if a group raised a great deal of dust (which is not hard to do in this landscape!).  Note the quivers of arrows and the display of bows in the stylized dances.  There were drummers and other musicians as well as cheering, dancing women as the warriors went from the chief’s palace grounds through the town. Yes, I joined in as a participant-observer!

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I felt privileged to witness this festival dress rehearsal, at which we seemed to one of only two small groups of visitors from outside Ghana.  I was inspired by the spirit of the people of these northern regions of Ghana!

Visiting Outcast Homes for Accused Witches

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Sunrise on the way to Gambaga from Tamale

The week of Dec. 16 I made my first visit to the Northern region and the Upper East of Ghana. I have a particular interest in this region because the villages that provide refuge for alleged witches are located in the Northern region. I wanted to experience a little of the cultures of the Northern region where the camps are located and that was the second part of my trip, but in this blog I focus on “the problem” of witchcraft accusation and the Ghanaians, primarily Northerners, who are acting with compassion to change the situation for women, men, and children affected by witchcraft accusation.

 

Belief in witchcraft as a supernatural power that is practiced, primarily at night in the world of dreams, is widespread throughout Africa. Belief in various forms of witchcraft is widespread world-wide and although it is too simplistic to make parallels to witchcraft accusation in Europe in the time of the Inquisition, the main similarity is that older women are main targets of such accusation. Sometimes the accusations of witchcraft lead to beating, maiming and even killing of the accused witch. There are also traditional ways to mediate or neutralize the perceived power of an accused witch and resolve the conflict between accuser and accused in various of the ethnic groups in Ghana. It is only in the Northern region of Ghana that there are “camps” or “safe villages” where alleged witches or wizards and their children or grandchildren who care for them can go if they are banished from their communities. These camps have challenging living conditions and could use more resources, but I want to emphasize that it is the accusations and banishment that are the problem rather than the “camps” themselves.

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 On my first evening in Tamale I met with Kenneth Addae, the national coordinator of the Anti-Witchcraft Accusation Campaign Coalition (AWACC), whom I had met earlier in Accra at the National Conference on Witchcraft Accusations in Accra on December 10, International Human Rights Day.

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The mission of AWACC is “To work as grassroots partners, facilitate initiatives leading to efficient sustainable social protection for victims of witchcraft accusations, advocate and promote appropriate platforms for policy, framework and guidelines to eliminate witchcraft allegations in Ghana through effective and efficient networking.” I met the staff and visited the office of the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) THUHDEG, which works primarily with vulnerable populations such as the aged and disabled children.  Mr. Addae is the Executive Director and THUHDEG is part of AWACC.  Click on this short video which explains the situation of accused witches and THUHDEG’s work with them.

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My first night in Tamale, I stayed at the centrally-located Catholic Guesthouse and rose at 4:15am to catch the early morning bus to Walewale on my way to Gambaga Outcast Home, the oldest of the camps for accused witches. At Walewale station, I was directed to the “car” or “trotro” to Gambaga. This is a van in which the seats have been altered to fit additional passengers. The cost is very low and it is means of transportation for the majority of Ghanaians. I was sure the vehicle was full at about 25 passengers, but then in the early morning light I saw a foot hanging down in front of my window as we arrived at a village, and I learned that some passengers traveled on top of the van with the baggage.

An atmosphere of helpfulness and quiet prevailed on this early morning ride and I was able to meditate and watch the mud hut villages and savanna grasslands emerge in the dawn. When I took the tro-tro back to Tamale in the afternoon, highlife, reggae, and hiplife music blasted throughout the ride on the dusty, bumpy, sometimes paved roads, but aside from some occasional conversation it was again a peaceful ride in which I reflected on my day.

 

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I arrived at Gambaga and was picked up by Samson Ninfaazu, who heads the Presbyterian Church’s (Gambaga Outcast) or GO Home project. The GO Home is really part of the village of Gambaga and there is virtually no separation between the two nor any great difference in their appearance. Mr. Ninfaazu told me that there are no women who come from Gambaga in the “camp” part of the village and he said that the residents are generally not afraid of the women because they see their “human faces” every day.

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He carefully read the description of my project and then introduced me to the Gambara Naa or spiritual chief of the camp. After paying my respects and receiving his permission, I proceeded to the community meeting hall where about half of the approximately 88 women (the number can vary from day to day as some are relocated and others arrive) were gathered to divide two bags of sugar that had been donated to the camp. Mr. Ninfaazu introduced me to the women and explained my study (with co-researcher Dr. Kwadwo Okrah) of the human rights movement to eliminate witchcraft accusation and banishment. I purchased beaded necklaces and bracelets made by the women who live at Gambaga and also homemade soap. After I interviewed Mr. Ninfaazu I took a tour of the camp and noticed that there were “fowl houses” or chicken coops donated by the Louis Dreyfuss foundation all over the “camp.” Their mission is improving food security through sustainable local farming.

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Goats and chickens wandered about, as they do in nearly every part of Ghana I have visited. I saw older women and toddlers about the “camp” and then later, school age children in their uniforms. They had finished their examinations and begun their holiday. Most of the younger adult women were working at local farms or collecting wood. Two aged men, accused wizards, sat beneath trees.

 

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There are a number of children at Gambaga and other villages for accused witches. The ones of school age at Gambaga attend school. There is sometimes a stigma attached to them so I have decided not to put recognizable photos. This photo shows a particularly beautifully decorated hut.

 

It was a moving visit. The next day I was able to visit the Gnani camp. It is much larger in terms of population with 273 adults and 231 children, and is notable for having about 20% men. There is no community meeting house that I saw although the community meeting that took place under a large shade tree was well-attended. At Gnani I was fortunate to meet Simon Ngota, who worked for many years at Gambaga and now has his own NGO and is working with the accused witches at the camp at Gushegu. I was able to interview him in a taxi going back to Yendi.

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The Tendana or earth priest of Gnani, wearing green.
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Mr. Simon Ngota, long-time aid worker and activist on behalf of accused witches speaks to the group.

Back in Tamale, I also interviewed a traditional leader, a regional commissioner of the Domestic Violence Support unit, and a leader of ActionAid Ghana, which has been actively organizing accused witches in the group Songtaba and has written a “roadmap” to reintegration of accused witches, together with officials in government.

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The closing the camps that raises some controversy, because if the human rights of the accused women is the top priority their safety after leaving the “camps” or more accurately, villages or shrines that offer them protection, must be assured. I will use the word camps because it is commonly used, but I want to be clear that the refuges for accused witches that I visited were villages of traditional mud huts, with domestic animals, farmland and other aspects of rural life.   I asked most of the people I interviewed whether the “camps” should be closed gradually or quickly and all answered that the closing should be gradual. It is very important that this advice be followed.

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Samson Laar in solidarity with the accused women at Gambaga.

 

I want to close this blog by stating my hope that readers join me in solidarity with those who work with accused witches and with the women, men and children themselves. There are many beautiful aspects to the Northern Region’s cultures. They have historically been the victims of the slave trade which is part of the U.S.’s history and today they are living as sustainably as they can, using very little of the earth’s resources and living close to nature in the mud and thatch villages I visited. Their small towns and cities are full of people with dreams for their children and for good future for their region. Like those of us in the U.S. they see problems in their society that they are trying to solve. It is the accused witches and wizards and their children as well as those who are trying to reduce accusations that I hold up in this blog. They are all in need of support.

Lake Bosomtwe and Kumasi

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This past weekend we made a trip to Lake Bosomtwe and Kumasi the heart and capital of the Ashanti kingdom. It is a rain forest and our lodgings were at Lake Bosomtwe, the place where the Ashantis are said to have risen out of the ground.  As you can see from the photo from our porch at the Green Ranch, it is extremely beautiful.  The lake was probably formed by a meteor strike.  It is round and surrounded by hills.  We used traditional plank canoes to paddle about the lake a bit.  Local belief forbids any metal boat from touching the waters of the lake.  It is a peaceful place without the sound of any motors.  What we did hear was birds chirping in the rain forest.

 The Akan are the main ethnic group in Ghana and the the Asante or Ashanti are the largest and historically the most powerful of the Akans. Brad, Hannah and I traveled with a college study abroad class from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  We were met by one of my Ph.D. students, whose membership in the royal family gave us access to the Queen Mother’s court.  Although I cannot post photos of the Asantehemaa, the queen mother who reigns at the palace in Kumasi, I can post a photo of my student, who is a Queen Mother of a town near Lake Bosomtwe.IMG_3904

In Kumasi, which is a large city with lots of traffic jams, we visited the Manhyia Palace and talked with the Queen Mother and members of her court through Ms. Becky Tandoh, our interpreter. The court handles matters related to family and land. The Asantehene, or Chief, also resides at the Palace. The Palace is modest as is the traditional clothing of the Queen Mother for an ordinary day in court. Authority is widely diffused and there are many levels of dealing with conflict and striving for harmony in this society. Ghana also has criminal and civil courts which are separate from the traditional courts.

Queen Mothers have a long history of important actions in Ashanti history.  The most famous is Nana Yaa Asantewaa who led a war against the British in 1900.  Although she raised an army of 5,000, the  Ashanti were defeated and Kumasi was burned, including the Manhyia Palace.  Nana Yaa Asantewaa was held in a cell in a British fort which is now a museum.  I joined the Calvin College group for a visit to the Kumasi Fort and Military Museum. Below is a portrait of Nana Yaa Asantewaa at the museum.

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Ghana has a great arts and crafts heritage.  Another highpoint of Kumasi is the National Cultural Center, where we witnessed various crafts being made and sold.  The photo below is of an artisan who created gold weights using the lost wax brass casting method.

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In the evening I returned to our beautiful lodgings and ate a delicious vegetarian meal with Brad and Hannah at the Green Ranch.  Hannah and Brad stayed at the lake so Hannah could go on an hour-long horseback ride on a horse named Galaxy.  She also made friends with a pet monkey.  Brad and Hannah swam in Lake Bosomtwe and watched the fishermen bring in their catch.

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Cloth and Global Mamas

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I am wearing a Global Mamas batik print dress made in Ghana. This photo was taken with my new friend, Ama Dadson, one of the heads of Information Technology at the University of Ghana, and the mother of a lovely daughter, Kukua, who is 8.

Cloth has a particularly bittersweet history and an inspiring present in Ghana. Special cloth or fabrics such as silk and velvet was one of the trade items for which enslaved were sold during the Atlantic Slave Trade. I have been learning much about this history as I teach five classes here at the Institute of African Studies. They are: Politics and Culture in African History and Gender and Sexuality in African History (Ph.D. classes), Gender and Culture in Africa and The Slave Trade (Master’s Level classes), and Intro to African Studies (3 weeks) followed by Intro to Gender (3 weeks).  All are team-taught. This work has kept me busy hence my rather occasional blog posts. The photo below shows where I teach at the Kwame Nkrumah Institute of African Studies.

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Hannah in front of the Institute of African Studies where I teach. She is wearing a batik print dress. The statues are of Aboakyer, a deer hunting festival in Winneba (see last post on Winneba).

As we walk around Accra or the University of Ghana campus, we see beautiful clothes made of batik prints and also occasionally kente cloth and other indidenous cloth and styles. Our Ghana guidebook tells us that women and men in Ghana like to wear traditional fabrics and that most people’s clothes are custom-made.

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Brad trying on traditional Kente cloth. We could not afford such a large amount, but will try to bring a smaller amount home. He was in Solace’s Beauty Clinic in Winneba. A friend of hers sells the cloth.

Europeans and Americans are not looked at strangely if they wear Ghanaian fabrics, too. In fact, it is encouraged. I arrived prepared with my own American and European clothes in the fabric (cotton), length (knee or longer) and amount of shoulder coverage my American researcher friend, Erin McDonnell, suggested, based on her experience in Ghana.   One of the items I brought was a loose-fitting, brown and grey tie-dyed Kenyan dress I had purchased from a Kenyan Quaker at a Quaker gathering in rural Illinois. No one wears a dress like this, but it has been comfortable, except for the paper I discovered sewed under the collar to make it stiff. (I tore it out).

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I can’t wait until my next paycheck when I can indulge in a custom-made Ghanaian dress. I was able to purchase some beautiful batik cloth from one of Hannah’s classmates’ mother, who has a stand selling fabric in front of the German Swiss International School. Its pattern is the Akan symbol, Sankofa, which means looking backward, or history, which is what I study. The colors are also some of my favorites.

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cloth with the Sankofa symbol

Meanwhile Hannah needed clothes right away since almost all her clothes were the short skirts and shorts that American girls wear in summer. Hannah was excited about getting Ghanaian dresses like her new friends. We didn’t have time to shop for custom-made so we bought hand-made ones off a rack at a sidewalk dress shop near the German Swiss International School, which she attends.   Unfortunately she had a reaction to the starch or other substance in the new dress, which began to make her itch and scratch furiously. The shopowner was apologetic and threw in another dress for free.  We changed Hannah back into her old clothes, got her some skin cream to relieve the little rash she had and I washed the dresses. She still wanted them and loves them best of all the clothes she has. After my thorough handwash in my washbasins, and drying the dresses on hangers hanging from our shutters, they are softer and more comfortable, if a little less bright.

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Hannah in batik print in Winneba at the Lagoon Lodge.

I also wanted to mention Ephraim Amu, a Ghanaian nationalist, scholar and composer who advocated wearing traditional dress instead of western clothes, in order to promote local industry and handicrafts. Learning about him reminded me of Ghandi. Amu was asked not to continue on his original path of becoming a Presbyterian minister as a result of his wearing traditional dress in church. Today we have seen men and women proudly wearing traditional clothing in the Presbyterian church and also at a choral concert of Ephraim Amu’s music.

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Prof. J.H. Kwabena Nketia, a retired scholar who was mentored by Ephraim Amu speaks at the Ephraim Amu choral concert. Behind him is the Cape Coast Passionate Choir.

We are also proud of our Global Mamas clothing. We bought some of it at our favorite Fair Trade store in South Bend, Just Goods. Now we were able to visit Global Mama’s store in Accra. Here are some photos from the store from which we each bought an item of clothing and also a cookbook for Brad. The items are all fair trade and the clothing is made by a Ghanaian women’s cooperative. An adult dress costs about 80 cedis which reflects a living wage for the women who make it. We are thankful for Becky Reinbold and Just Goods as well as the lovely Ghanaian women who helped us at the Global Mamas store.  You can see from the signs that they practice an ethic of respect for employees.

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This is our Global Mamas photo collage from the store in Accra. We recommend you check them out at Just Goods in South Bend too.

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Winneba

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Hannah and Fulbright Student, Lydia Benkert on the beach at Winneba

When I was growing up on the Atlantic coast in Florida, I used to dream about Africa on the other side of the Atlantic.  I strained to see what was beyond the horizon, but could only use my imagination.  Now I have touched the other shore of the Atlantic in Africa specifically at the beach in Winneba, an hour or so west of Accra, where we live.

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My feet on African sand.

Now I have not only touched African sand, but I have swum in the Atlantic ocean in Africa.  Here I am with Hannah in a pool of ocean water, carved out of a natural rock formation.  This gentle salt water pool has to be one of my favorite pools ever.  We swam in it, along with Ghanaian boys and a fatherly man who was peacefully floating and teaching the boys to float.

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Monica and Hannah in a pool carved out of natural rock and filled with salt water by the ocean tides.

How did we get to this magical place?  It was all through my daughter, Hannah, who opened the door to friendship with two girls from Winneba who were staying with their aunt and uncle during the summer vacation, near our Fulbright House home.  I first noticed the girls playing and one of my exploring walks and brought Hannah over the next day.

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Lto R: Isaiah, Mansa, Hannah and Adwoa in front of Mrs. Charlotte Asaah’s store on the first floor of a graduate student hostel (dorm).

She and Adwoa and Mansa became good friends.  Their friend (they call him brother) Isaiah, who runs the store and also looks after them as they play outside of it.  I think I mentioned in a previous  blog that their uncle Dr. Augustine Asaah is a French professor and their aunt Mrs. Charlotte Asaah is a mathematics teacher.  We had the whole family over to our house and Brad cooked yummy fish and Palava sauce.  The girls exchanged visits several times and their uncle and aunt suggested we accompany them when the girls were to be returned to Winneba.  So we  off we went in Aunty Charlotte’s van.  The drive took us past a Liberian refugee camp and several different neighborhoods on the outskirts of Accra.

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All of us in the courtyard, including, Charlotte Asaah, Kojo Sekye, Brad, me, and Solace Sekye

When we arrived in Winneba, we went to the compound where the Sekye, Charlotte’s sister and her brother-in-law live.  There were many children around since their friends and relations wanted to great Adwoa and Mansa and meet Hannah.  The children played jumping and clapping games in the courtyard and also enjoyed learning the new game, “Duck, Duck, Goose” from the United States.

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Adwoa and Mansa play a jumping and clapping game, which my co-researcher Dr. Kwadwo Okrah describes in his book, Nyansapo: The Wisdom Knot, Toward an African Philosophy of Education, as part of informal education of girls in physical fitness.

Hannah received a very special gift from Aunty Solace, Ajua and Mansa’s mother.  She is a beautician and she did Hannah’s hair.  The next few photos are of her shop and the process of Hannah getting some cool extensions, similar to the ones Ajua and Mansa have.

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Adwoa, Hannah, and one of the beauticians in training, along with Junior, Adwoa’s brother, and Papa, a cousin.

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About halfway through the process. Also, in the photo is Vic, another beautician in training. They all worked on Hannah, sometimes 2 at a time, sometimes all 3.
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While Hannah was getting her hair done, Adwoa took us and the younger children on a walk to the local ceramic stove factory, where we got a tour and she got about 2 lbs. of clay to entertain the children outside the salon while they waited for Hannah.
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The end result: Hannah has a long ponytail of braids. She is happily engrossed in the movie “Snow Buddies,” which is quirkily out of place in this tropical beach resort.
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Hannah’s ponytail swings as she climbs onto a fishing canoe at Winneba’s Sir Charles beach. More about our observations of fishing and other traditions at Winneba in the next blog.