More sights and experiences in Ghana

IMG_6775Greetings to my readers:  I’m BACK…

I began 2018 with an extended weekend trip to Chicago to see my Mom, sister and family followed by a longer trip to Santa Fe to spend time with my daughter, son-in-law and some of my grands.  Interestingly, when I was growing up 3 generations of my family, including both sides of my grandparents,  all resided in the same town – and while I loved it, I also took it for granted, because it was all I knew. Now my family is spread out all over the US. When I travel I try to spend all my time engaging with family and/or friends to the maximum, and I planned on resuming this blog when I returned. However, life has a way of taking us on unexpected twists and turns and so it has been for me. My back went out on the first day of my vacation in Santa Fe, New Mexico with 5 grandchildren eager to rip and run up and down the mountain roads… My body said “Hold up – not this trip” – lol. So, instead I honored my body, slowed down immensely, received some holistic and spiritual treatments, and enjoyed my family in a more laid back fashion. After a few weeks of taking care of me, I am ready to resume this blog… In fact, I am eager to finish sharing my experiences in Africa so I can begin writing about more travels…(my trips and experiences are overlapping!)

Ghana – is so full of life, culture and art in the everyday fabric of the people. Everywhere we went we met crafts-people, including:  wood carvers, brass sculptors, weavers, bead makers, and seamstresses. Yet, in the US many of these art forms have either been lost or certainly not been cultivated in the masses. In fact, we call the few who keep the arts alive “artists.” In Ghana, it is just a way of life. We were headed to Jamestown, when the traffic was halted by a funeral procession – a massive procession, with folks marching, dancing, and chanting along with trucks blaring music –  for a rather long time. The funeral procession was for a young elected official, and they believed he was poisoned because he sat down and drank with someone and then he died. There are funeral traditions pertaining to clothing – red and white colors are worn for a younger person, and black and white colors are worn for an older person.  The Honorable Elijah Muhammad always said certain colors (red and black) had specific  meaning in African society that Blacks in the US no longer understood the significance of. In Ghana there is also a particular manner in which the funeral and celebration of the person’s life is conducted.  There is an initial small-scale celebration that takes place immediately – then the burial and final big celebration takes place at a later date. It usually takes 1-2 months before a person is buried, because the community (all that the person has ties to) has to be notified and contribute  money to bury the person, and feed all the guests to give a proper burial and ceremony. After a lengthy, high-energy funeral procession, with hundreds of people  – we continued on to our destination – Jamestown.

Jamestown is a large fishing village of 5,000 people. Accra began with the Ga people and the original name of Jamestown was Ga Matse’ (pronounced Ga Mashe). The village is part of the Association of West African Merchants (AWAM). I was told there is some negative history associated with the term AWAM – so today if you display westernized behavior, you are called AWAM – which has a derogatory connotation. When the timber marker opened, it took away “the shine” from the Ga people. Fishing is the life of the people of Jamestown. The boat maker is a master carpenter and if you want a boat made you have to pay this specialist to make your boat, and 1-2 months later you get your boat. This is the only way to get a boat in Jamestown. Huge logs are carved to make the boats, and they are pretty sizable – I measured one boat (using a non-standard measurement tool – “my foot”) at over 40 feet long. Although fishing is their life – they observe a “No Fishing” rule on Tuesday.

Jamestown is a highly dense population, with very basic housing units. Many people live in tiny shacks, huts, small shipping containers, and make shift dwellings.  Some of the folks had businesses in the front and lived in the back. The people of Jamestown are resourceful and used many recycled materials in the construction of their homes. Many of their daily activities take place outside the home, including food preparation, cooking, smoking fish and washing clothes.  Everything revolved around fishing. We saw men cleaning fish, women scaling fish and stacking fresh herring and mackerel on huge trays for smoking. The atmosphere was buzzing with the activity of people, the smell of food cooking and the sounds of different languages.

We were escorted by two brothers, born and raised in Jamestown, who served as our tour guides. One brother (with the locs) rounds up all the school age children to send them to school, because the parents want them to work in the fishing business to help the family. He said he realizes it is important for the children to get an education. The other brother became somewhat of a “personal guide”, directing me through the village, greeting everyone and introducing me in different languages: Twi, Fante, Arabic and other dialects. Each language flowed effortlessly off his tongue – and I was amazed at how easily he could visually identify folks who spoke the different languages.

I greeted the sisters and brothers, hugged the elder sisters – “My Auntie’s” and was enamored with the children – who were thrilled to take pictures with me. I felt a kinship so strong – I knew I had come home. Even though our experiences, environment and way of life differed drastically – my spirit felt a strong connection. We are one regardless of time, circumstance, geographic location and situation – we come from the same root – the same source – the Motherland.

The experience of visiting Jamestown was powerful. The people were very friendly, warm and welcoming. From a western lens – the village was poor lacking many of the modern creature comforts we so easily take for granted in the US and other developed countries in the world. Running water, toilets and indoor showers are the norm in most of the US but not readily found in certain areas of Ghana. In the US folks are frequently guilty of being water-wasters and complain if and when we don’t have “enough” hot water. Yet, that would be a major luxury in Jamestown and many other areas. Seeing how happy people are with less makes you appreciate what you do have and not take it for granted. For millions of people throughout the world access to clean water is a challenge. This experience taught me to be more humble, appreciative of what I do have, less wasteful, more resourceful and grateful.

The Kente Village in the Mamobi area

The Kente weavers were absolutely amazing. We drove up to a small dirt area about the size of a little strip mall, with wooden weaving looms – that were made of the most basic materials – wood, string and rocks. The weavers were young brothers, with rippling muscles and strong legs – working the looms with their feet and guiding the yarn with their hands. The rhythm was a steady ebb and flow – and it was fascinating to watch. The end result were beautifully woven strips of kente that were sewn together to make vests, jackets, dresses and throws. One of the picture above shows a distinguished elder shrouded in beautiful Kente cloth.

There were so many wonderful things to see and exciting experiences to have… I couldn’t do justice to Ghana trying to cram all of this into one blog entry…so I am letting my experiences on this journey unfold one at a time – so my readers can slowly take in the images of the environment, people, cultural practices, daily life and history. I want you to travel with me in this blog and experience through my words and images a up-close and personal look at life in different places. In the next blog entry I will continue on my journey in Ghana – through restaurants, a national park, schools, a traditional naming ceremony in a local village,  and a hands-on lesson in batik making. The final blog entry on Ghana will take you up in-depth into the Slave Castle/Dungeons and the horrendous stories that began 535 years ago there, that must be told…Stay tuned…

Come along and travel with me…