capecoast01Ghana, formerly called the Gold Coast, is found in West Africa and positioned a little north of where longitude 0 crosses latitude 0. The name Ghana was taken upon the attainment of independence from Britain on March 6, 1957, from one of the ancient empires of the Western Sudan by that name which flourished in the area of modern Mali. The Sudanese empires grew rich and powerful from the trans-Saharan trade between the West African subregion and the North African states until the arrival of the Europeans on the coast in the 15th century changed the direction of trade and brought decline that contributed to the end of the great Sudanese empires of Ghana, Mali and Songhai.

In 1471 when the first Europeans arrived on the shores of the coast of Guinea now modern Ghana, the area was occupied by many small independent states. The Portuguese, led by Don Diego D’Azambuja, were overwhelmed by the display of gold among the natives and so called the country the Gold Coast and the native settlement, El-Mina or The Mine.

The first building that they constructed in 1482, the Elmina Castle, still remain the oldest European building in Africa south of the Sahara. The lucrative trade enjoyed by the Portuguese was soon joined by other nations including the Dutch, Danish, Swedes, Norwegians, Germans, French and English. All these countries also left behind several fortified buildings now designated as United Nations World Heritage Sites. By the mid-fifteenth century, the trade between the Europeans and Gold Coasters had tilted from the offering of alcohol, tobacco etc. in exchange for palm oil, salt, gold, to the offering of guns and gun powder in exchange for human beings chattel slavery. The trade forts and castles were expanded and the trading warehouses became dungeons for holding slaves for weeks to months till the arrival of ships which sent these ‘human cargo’ to the Caribbean and Americas to work on plantations as slaves.

This trade in ‘human cargo’ continued till the mid-nineteenth century when international agitation succeeded in halting the inhuman trade. From then on the Europeans imposed a new relationship upon Africa called – colonialism. The Gold Coast then became an English colony and many of her youth went to Great Britain to be educated in especially law and medicine. Du Bois and Marcus Garvey emerged on the Pan-African scene in the UK with their agenda focused on black unity and back to Africa movements.

By the 1930’s, African students had joined the Pan African movements, holding meetings and radical thoughts toward an independent struggle for Black Africa. People like Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Nnamdi Azikiwe of Nigeria, Kamuzu Banda of Malawi and others emerged from these meetings to become leaders of the African freedom movement.

My philosophy teacher in school told  me the story of a farmer who found an eaglet on his farm and brought it home among his chicks. The eaglet over a period developed strong wings and attempted flying. Soon the eaglet realized it did not belong to the chicks’ family, it looked up the hills and felt it belonged there. It tried flying again till it reached the summit of the mountain and looked down the valley as if to say I will help when the time comes. This was Ghana, which after the formation of freedom movements by her students in Great Britain had her people returned to practice various professions.

ghanaianwomenFrom their agitations emerged new political parties whose activities cul-minated in Ghana’s independence on 6 March 1957 with Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah as the first Prime Minister and in 1960 as the first President when Ghana became a republic. Ghana since then became the Black Star of Africa and a den for political thinking where emerging leaders from Black African countries looked up for inspiration. Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois ( an American), George Padmore (a Caribbean) and a host of Africans from the Diaspora took up advisory positions in Ghana to help liberate the rest of Black Africa.

Ghana has been an independent state for 53 years, exporting cocoa, timber, gold and soon oil. The most recent export is tourism. The country has pristine beaches, fauna and a cultural heritage which tell her people’s story over the years. Perhaps, the most untapped of Ghana’s tourism is the slave routes educational tours as proposed by UNESCO. I call it WAR, CAPTURE and SALE. It tells the story of how people were attacked in market places and captured on the outskirts of villages as they attempted to escape. When war drums were sounded, women and children often sought refuge in caves and on hill tops. Some communities claim there were secret keys known to the elders who would use it to close the caves till they returned from war to free the women and children. These wars were most times without provocation, the booty, mainly human, were sold and made to walk hundreds and thousands of kilometers to end up in the Forts and Castles on the coast.

People who join the slave route tours are not only lectured by academics and tourist guides but made to climb the hills, enter into caves, and do imaginary walks through the “Doors of No Return” in the coastal Castles and Forts through which the slaves were led to the slave ships. The slave route tour is a spiritual encounter which heal emotions, influence people’s perception and reconnect people, especially those from the Black Diaspora, back to the ancestral souls lingering at slave market sites and the dungeons on the coast.

I can testify for many of the youth from the Diaspora who after this tour returned home different people. I know of some who returned to school in the U.S. after having dropped out for more than a year. Ghana is the heritage of the African Diaspora. It is open to all interested in the slave trade story. It is a place to visit at least once in a lifetime.

For more info on Ghana and arranging a tour there, visit www.goghanahometours.com.

 

Photos: Bottom Right, Gordon Adoboe of the Tour Operators Union of Ghana