Ghana, West Africa!  The place that many African Americans have been traveling to visit or live for the past 30+ years. It is what I call my second home on the continent of Africa. Within the last decade, many more African Americans have decided to move and live in Ghana to pursue a different lifestyle of a laid back kind of living, involved in teaching, technology, entrepreneurial opportunities and more.  Yet many of the African Americans who’ve come to Ghana don’t know some of its rich history of being the first independent nation on the African continent.

The foods we eat in American like okra, rice, stews, etc. originated from the west coast of Africa. So many customs and cultures that are interwoven into the Ghanaian society reflect a similar culture I learned growing up in San Francisco, CA.  Gestures like how we greet each other with “Good Morning, Afternoon or Evening” is considered a sign of respect and friendliness; which I was taught as a little girl. For those of us who grew up being taught respect for elders, meals being a central time for families, religion being an intricate part of family life will see and learn where it came from by visiting Ghana.

IMG: Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park.David Stanley. Creative Commons. Flickr

Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah

Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah, a name in Ghana as widely known as Martin Luther King Jr by African Americans, changed the course of Ghana to become independent from British rule.  He was the first President and Prime Minister of Ghana who symbolizes independence from colonialism the development of Pan Africanism interwoven with Socialism to set Ghana on the map.

In the short six-year reign of his Presidency as the sole leader of the country, he made sure that along with political reforms, Ghana also went through some major economic and social changes. Education, healthcare, and employment opened up positive possibilities for the people of Ghana. His leadership changed the future of Ghana, but it also went through some tough times under him as he gradually changed into an authoritarian and started imposing his whims and fancies on the people of Ghana.

IMG: Kwame Nkrumah

He was overthrown in a military coup, which led him to live in exile in Guinea until his death. Despite a tragic end to his influence in Ghana, his contribution in making the foundation of the country is incomparable, and he was honored with the Lenin Peace Prize for that.   There is so much to learn about his leadership and the things he attempted to create a positive future for the citizens of Ghana. There are statues of Nkrumah scattered across Ghana 50 years after the military coup that ousted him. A mausoleum was built for him in Accra, and numerous streets bear his name. His face can be seen on stamps and banknotes.

Slave Forts

When traveling to Ghana, you can see firsthand the history of the trans-Atlantic chattel slave trade and the impacts it had on the nation and the world. You cannot come to Ghana and miss the opportunity to take a trip to Cape Coast and Elmina Slave Forts about a two-hour ride from Accra, the nation’s capital. Cape Coast Castle is the largest of the buildings which contain the legacy of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Like most ancient fortifications in Ghana, Cape Coast Castle played a significant role in the gold and slave trades.

IMG: Former President Barack Obama visiting the slave castle

Like most ancient fortifications in Ghana, Cape Coast Castle played a significant role in the gold and slave trades. But also, two major influences were made here: the arrival of Christianity, and the establishment of the first formal education system through Castle Schools. A guided tour of the Cape Coast Castle will acquaint you with its many interesting features including Dalzel Tower, the slave dungeons, and the cannons and mortars used in the Castle’s defense. The West African Historical Museum is located inside Cape Coast Castle and contains a growing collection of art and cultural objects, including ceremonial drums, old muskets, shackles from the slave trade and ancient pottery.

Kumasi & The Ashanti Kingdom

If you truly want to learn how the Ghanaian ethnic group of the Ashanti Empire you must travel about four hours north of Accra to the city of Kumasi. The Ashanti Kingdom was a pre-colonial West African state that emerged in the 17th century in what is now Ghana.  The Ashanti or Asante was an ethnic subgroup of the Akan-speaking people and was composed of small chiefdoms. Gold was the major product of the Ashanti Empire.  King Osei Tutu made the gold mines royal possessions.  He also made gold dust the circulating currency in the empire.  The Ashanti Museum is a must see in Kumasi and learn the history of this Kingdom from the 17th century to the present day.

IMG: These are shots from the laying in state and burial rites of the Late Nana Afia Kobi II, Queen mother of the Asante Kingdom & mother of Otumfuo Osei Tutu II.

Arts & Crafts

Everything that’s crafted had some purpose or meaning behind it. In Ghana, you can find beautiful hand-woven textiles, old and new beads, brass works, gold jewelry, ceramics, paintings, sculptures, and wood carvings. There are people selling arts and crafts all over Ghana from the local beaches to the Art Center in Accra. It’s the Kente Cloth that is the most popular traditional cloth in Ghana.  If you visit Kumasi you can actually take a tour of Bonwire Kente Weaving Village; to see this amazing art form. You’ll learn that different Kente designs have different meanings and some designs where only for the Ashanti Kings and Queen Mothers.

IMG: Kente (Batik) Cloth in Market – Kumasi – Ghana. Adam Jones. Creative Commons. Flickr.

There’s so much to learn and experience when visiting Ghana.  It’s a history rich in music, art, incredibly religious, lots of museums, great traditional foods and culture. In my many visits to Ghana I just recently learned that it was the slaves of West Africa who introduced rice to the United States in 1685 in South Carolina. There are so many places to see and experience such as Lake Volta, Aburi Gardens, Lake Bosumtwi, Akosombo Dam, Manhyia Palace and more. Ghana is a country that all decedents of the diaspora must see as well as other people of color. You will leave inspired, educated and enthused to return to a land I call my second home.

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