Archive for Tourism

The Fire Festival

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 15, 2013 by kola

At the time of going to bed as at 2am I could hear ‘jama’ songs in the distance. These are usually songs we sing or composed locally accompanied by drumming and dancing, and can be about anything at all -from morals in society to praise singing to hero worship or castigating or just plain rhythmic noise.

Kept wondering who it was all about but went to bed anyway because the body needed its rest.

Since I don’t listen to radio in Tamale, there was no way I could explain what the singing, drumming and dancing was all about., I left the morning politics shows back in Accra and even though some affiliated stations here still transmit the live Accra feed, I hardly listen.

It is later in the day as I sit in a taxi that the radio announcer appeals to people to maintain peace and decorum at the fire festival, that I realise what it’s all about. I have been in attendance for the past two years even when I wasn’t living in Tamale and I made it a point not to miss this one.

I won’t bore you with what the fire festival is all about since Wikipedia has already provided an insight into its origins and a brief history.

Being part of the fire festival is really worth the experience. There is one line in the Wikipedia article that I love so much and it says that the festival might sound dangerous to an onlooker. It’s true most people who come to observe this festival have heard about the brandishing of very sharp cutlasses and the indiscriminate firing of muskets, and thus keep a safe distance. But the fun is really being in the throng of people parading the streets amidst drumming, dancing and singing. That is when you get a true feel of what the fire festival is all about.

It is very interesting really to see a people perceived to be violent, having all the tools for a violent action, yet proceeding in an orderly chaos in celebration of a traditional festival.

I think this is a common case in Ghana as a whole country where we act like everything is wrong and threaten to take action yet we just fold our arms and look on just for the sake of peace. Nobody wants to be accused of being the one for disturbing the peace and that pretty much takes care of radicalism in all aspects of Ghanaian life and culture.

Unlike in other areas where the people have to be sensitised on issues at stake so they can comport themselves, here in Tamale everybody is already aware that there needs to be a fun filled celebration and are out to have as much fun as they can have without getting into trouble.

Guy steps on my foot whilst trying not to be scared at the sound of a musket and instantly apologizes. Heck! I was in one such event somewhere in Accra and same thing happened and guy was rather blaming me for not getting out of his way quickly enough.

Perceptions! Perceptions!

I have seen Tamale mob justice in action but this time mob action is rather there to stop any misunderstanding and potential fights. Tamale is full of youth bands and groups and it was lovely seeing them collaborate to have an intense fun filled festival. One would think that they will be clashing with each other but instead they were sharing crackers and aerosol sprays so they could blaze away.

One group in particular didn’t have girl dancers but had drummers and made lots of loud noise. But joining forces with the group with the girls made it more colourful because the gyrations were more. These northern girls can do a mean jig and the dance is all centred in their waist.

The fire festival this year was less rowdy and very short lived because it had almost fizzled out just after midnight with pockets of people who still had crackers and firearm ammunition still blazing away. The motorbike shows then began on the streets and riders showcased their skills.

In earlier years there have been cars involved in the skills parade and it’s amazing how with such large crowds there have hardly been casualties. Furthermore the motor king cabs had also had their own side show, with the rollerbladers delighting the crowds with their antics. This year all that was visibly missing.

I wonder if it is due to the economic hardships or that these displays cannot be done in the ‘first gear’ government system. They really add to the colour and fervour of the festival.

Various groups of people represent at the festival from all walks of life. There are the tourists, afraid to whip out their cameras for the sake of being robbed, until they see locals like me with our Nikkons and iPads walk through the crowd taking pictures and they realise they are safe.

There are the students from the south attending schools up north who are as curious as the national service personnel to see if what they heard of the festival is true. These ones stand on the pavements or on the stairs of storey buildings, an assuming safe distance from proceedings on the Main Street.

Groups of people also just come in to support their friends in the parade and they holla at them as they pass by where they are standing.

Groups of girls dressed to the nines also following the crowds and making themselves very visible yet coyly avoiding the prancing men who are also there more or less for the same purpose of getting the attention of these girls.

As much as there is a lot of drumming dancing and singing, there is also a lot of cross dressing, face painting and masks. Some folk disguise themselves so they can be noisy and rowdy in anonymity. This is our own Halloween too.

The fire festival later fizzled into a street carnival when somebody drove in some music system loud enough to draw attention whilst it drove around playing the latest tunes in hip life and dagbani music. The crowd could just not stay still. Dancing in the streets.

The final group of people present at the fire festival were the sellers especially ‘pure water’ sellers. Vendors were on hand to keep dishing out food to the hungry in their shops and this included the latest Ghanaian food craze, indomie.

As at one am, even mashed kenkey sellers were still in the town square hoping to make a buck.

If according to Wikipedia, this festival is to find Noah’s son who didn’t get on the ark then this son will be lost for over a million years and more and with all the fun folk have, it’s no wonder the son has never been found because nobody is really searching for him.

Festivals like the fire festival are the last vestiges of our tradition and culture and we do need to do everything within our power to maintain them. Our culture is our identity and without it we are a lost race.

It is therefore important that we don’t condemn our culture based on foreign and western perceptions or some misguided prejuces. It is important to understand what the particular culture or tradition is about and why it was instituted and this is an individual effort so we can defend our identity.

Like I always say, it begins with YOU!

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Accra City Blues

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 2, 2013 by kola

So much is going on in the capital city that we in the periphery, especially in the savannah, are wondering what is going on and why some people have to think that Accra and its sentiments express the views of the other millions of Ghanaians spread all over ythe country’.

Damn! We are rocked by political scandals, not to mention the looting of state funds as evident by the Public Accounts Comittee hearings.

What is really going on I wonder.

GYEEDA, SADA, etc have all made ghanaians proud to beat the title theirs corrupt nation in the world.

Well what can I say but that we have been given fair warning by one presidential staffer, is he former, that if you can’t stand the corruption and the stomach politics aka chop chop, you can pack your bags, find your passport and just leave.

Maybe Nunnoo Travel and Relocations will facilitate it. After all he could afford to relocate a whole school when even the government could not.

as for the AMA and its Toilet Chronicles, the less said about them the better. In the savannah, most things are free range and that goes for shitting too without saying. The savannah metropole assemblies have almost no problems in that department at all, I think.

Reently the President commissioned the Nkrumah Interchange and whilst it was going on, sellers were barred from making a living, for security reasons? Like all projects in Ghana we are waiting too see how long this project will take and in the trend we are going , how much chop chop before the project is completed.

i keep saying for this land of our birth to work and move forward, it doesn’t only depend on the quality of leaders we have (so far quality is whack) but also the collective effort of the citizenry.

Accra is just a small part of GHANA and sentiments expressed in Accra may not be the sentiments of the majority of the people in Ghana. But still let us be circumspect with what we say about or whatever happens in any part of the country.

like I always say, it begins with YOU!

 

 

 

 

Revolving Doors

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 28, 2013 by kola

As I sat in the banking hall in Unibank Kumasi, I observed clients come in through their revolving doors and it was interesting to relate the different ways people approached and came into the banking hall through those doors, to life.

We all have different approaches to life and that tells on how we live life. Our hopes, dreams, mannerisms and behaviors are all tied to the way we see life. Life can be heaven or hell or a mixture of both, a pleasure or pain, a mixture of both again, but one thing I know is that we all as human beings want to live life to the fullest.

Our various experiences shape our reactions to other experiences that might not be necessarily hinged on a particular experience but then there is the need to recognize that the various aspects of our life and the lives of other human beings in so interwoven to each other. This brings to mind the philosophical saying by Descartes and his humanitarian contemporaries that ‘man is not an island unto himself’.

In walking through those revolving doors, people were going in one at a time. This made me realize that no matter what situation and how rich or poor you are, you are responsible for your own actions. A person has to choose when to walk into the revolving doors to get to the other side and this you do alone. Whatever and however you do that is up to you.

When I tried entering the revolving doors with another person, I came to the realization that inasmuch as there were two people, it was quite uncomfortable since the other person kept clipping at the heels of the other in the partitioning.

Furthermore, whatever goes on in that short time that the door revolves from outside to inside the banking hall is entirely an individual thing. Well, I didn’t fart to test this assertion but then it was imperative that one had to get into the doors to get inside the banking hall.

This applies in life that it needed an action to move from one phase to another. To move from outside in the sun, to the cool air-conditioned interiors of the bank for a transaction, there needed to be an action and that was to step into the revolving doors to take one to the other side.

Whenever we pray to God to change our situation and then sit back and fold our arms, how then do we expect the prayers to be answered? There is the need for an action to be taken and then the prayer can be achieved.

Some people were afraid to even walk through the revolving doors whilst others just did not know how to stop when it got to the banking hall and just kept going on and ended up outside again. There was this one guy who only ended up in the bank after a third attempt. No! He wasn’t dumb. He just did not understand how revolving doors worked.

And that is life. Perseverance and faith will get you through a lot of revolving doors but you need to take the first step.

Like I always say it begins with YOU.

God be with you.

 

 

Random Thoughts

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 28, 2013 by kola

 

The other day I sat under the bridge at the Ofankor barrier in the capital city. Whenever I had walked past the new overhead, I had seen people lying under the bridge and wondered what it will be like and who they were. The breeze under the bridge is unparallel and compared to the heat in the city, it is a refreshing rest.

So I ask myself, is the stereotype of people lying under the bridges and streets true especially that they are homeless? Well, did I prove the theory wrong?

But then what is it also with the stigma that comes with the stereotype. Do you see anybody lying under the bridge no matter their condition as a homeless person?

Even when I lay there with my laptop between my legs and my travelling case by my side?

Of all the days I spent in the capital, apart from being at home, this was my most enjoyable solitary time. Time under the bridge gave me ample time to meditate on the socio-economic systems that exist in our country. It also gave me time to reflect on life in the capital as compared to life in the periphery.

I came to the realization that life in the capital is so rushed and usually monotonous. Leave home early in order to avoid traffic, get to the office, stay and work in the office till very late sometimes, back home to watch television, if there is time, then off to bed.

Then it all begins again the next morning.

Apart from on weekends when there is time for social gatherings like weddings usually, few funerals and plenty naming ceremonies.  Does the baby boom mean that these days the only recreation for young adults is sex and just plenty sex?

But as I leave the city behind on my journey back home, I leave all the stress and the frustrations behind me gladly.

You should see the smile on my face as I sit in the front seat of this car.

Goodbye Accra, till we meet again.

JUDGE DREAD

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 28, 2013 by kola

As I left Tamale for Accra one early morning I was dreading what I was going to meet in the city. Urban life has taken a new dimension for me since I relocated to Tamale and I have always felt a sense of dread when I was heading back into Accra especially.

I have discussed this with friends and I have realized that it isn’t just me who is feeling that way but then it’s a general feeling that pervades an individual who has lived in the city for a long time and now experienced what is like to live outside the main capital of Ghana.

I have met individuals and couples who hardly ever come back to Accra even though they were brought up in Accra and some even attended all their schools in Accra. By a twist of fate they now live in Tamale or elsewhere outside Accra but hardly visit Accra unless on work visits which for the longest time last about a fortnight. I met this couple in Tamale who were both brought up in Accra and came to Tamale to work, met here and got married and for about 12 years have only been to Accra just a few times, only to visit family.

They will not relocate back to Accra especially now that it is almost choked they say.

So on this fine breezy dawn as I head towards the hotel where I am going to meet my friends to head out to Accra, various thoughts run through my mind.

I am happy about one thing though. Having gone on a social media hiatus, I am guaranteed anonymity. My whole life has been on social media as per almost minute by minute updates on one social media or another as to my whereabouts in this country. Facebook updates, Twitter tweets and mentions, Instagram pictures, Foursquare locations with Whatsapp and Viber whilst I answer emails always ensure that my body can be located within a hundred meters of the last post.

All these media are also linked up so that a post on Instagram automatically updates to Facebook and Twitter same as Foursquare location and Whatsapp which constantly keep tabs on me.

So being off social media has been a great plus to my anonymity and also getting closer to my real friends via text messages and somehow I couldn’t bring myself to deactivate my Facebook account so the messenger works even though when i choose not to update my status I still remain anonymous to some extent.

Before I embarked on the journey I took the night off to read Nana Awere Damoah’s I Speak of Ghana, his latest book on his essays on the Ghanaian situation. He truly delves into the situation of the Ghanaman and amidst anecdotes and ribald truthfulness, the Ghanaian situation is pointed out so aptly that once you are a Ghanaian you can identify yourself as the one he is referring to. The book is a handy manual to what we mean when we say we are proud Ghanaians.

This is the only review I will give of the book anywhere. The reviews are plentiful and I suggest you go get a copy for yourself. It is available online at http://www.smashwords.com or contact Nana Awere Damoah at ndamoah@yahoo.co.uk. Have a good read.

The first dread that comes to mind as I leave Tamale for Accra is the rate of ‘dumsor’ in Accra. In Tamale, you hardly hear of long hours of lights out such as is experienced in Accra and having heard that the ‘load shedding’ has now become ‘load sharing’ (semantics) it is obvious that I will dread heading into a place with such irregularity of electricity.

Not to mention the increase in the electricity tariffs affecting how much I buy for my prepaid meter for my apartment in the city.

The next dread is the transport fares that exist in the city. Transport fares are the number one money drainer in city life ahead of food and utility bills. It is even worse if you have a car and company does not provide a fuel subsidy. Fuel prices having gone up means that it costs more to travel around town, at your own convenience, even if you have to hire a taxi or just take a trotro (cheapest).

How was I going to survive in a city with so much traffic everywhere and with such polluted air? In my various travels throughout Ghana, I have come to realize that the only place where the air has a smell is in Accra. The only time you get fresh air in Accra is after 10pm in some selected areas (of course not places like Korle Gonno or Agbogbloshie which have permanent smells) such as Ridge and in the outskirts mostly, if they don’t have dusty roads. Or on some high-rise building rooftops.

Accra people are gradually becoming so used to the recycled air-conditioned office air and it is not surprising that respiratory diseases have gone up. When I got home, every member of my family had a cough. How interesting is that!

Another dread as I head into Accra is the fear that I will get back into my lifestyle as a party animal. There is so much stress in Accra that partying is used by some people to totally de-stress and the more rave the party (with brownies) the better.

This is one of the main reasons why I had relocated to the north. Partying was gradually becoming a part of me and being the life of every party meant that I was socially required to be at almost every function. So I dread being in the capital for a week or more because then if any of my social circles had a party then you know I would be there.

Well this dread really had foundation when on the very evening of getting into the capital there was an all night party by no other than my Party Crew circle. It was a blast too but I decided then that I would have to be careful not to fall into the habit of partying hard on this trip.
It was especially nice to know that some die hard party friends even in Accra had taken the same stance since it was not a friendly venture on their pockets.

Partying costs money.

The greatest dread of all was leaving my twin all alone in Tamale. I have come to grow very fond of spending time with her and the jokes we share. There are ups and down in the relationship but it is always fun to have her around.

Lately, we are becoming the best friends that we have always been and leaving her alone makes me dread how I was going to miss her for a whole week.
There are decisions to be made and plans to undertake. Also there are spiritual exercises to take and all these we do together. To be away for a week was going to be dreadful but some things had to be done.

On the drive to Accra all this go on in my mind and this dread is founded on logic and reasoning. Inasmuch as I miss folk in Accra, I don’t miss the city one bit. The city is choked and still more people keep arriving in the city thinking it is the land of their dreams.

Unfortunately all these people do is to put more pressure on the social amenities in the city and government can only do so much to cater for everybody. Moreover businesses are there to make profit and as such especially the Telcos, are making money off the city dwellers. This is making the city very expensive to live in and the world index for most expensive habitats to live in now include Accra as one of the cities.

Well, my time spent in Accra albeit being frustrating, largely was fun seeing some of the people I have missed. They made up for the dread I had felt heading into town. I was right about the frustrations and having a few holidays during the days spent in the city boosted the fun.

Kudos to all city dwellers and I say Ayekoo! You guys are pretty amazing and doing well living under the conditions you live in.
Please don’t misconstrue this piece as casting aspersions on your lifestyle. Remember I used to be one of you too until recently.

God be with you!

Frederiksgave Plantation

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 21, 2013 by kola

I had heard about the slave plantation at Abokobi in Accra but did not know where exactly it was located. My first thought was that it was a slave stop site where the slaves stopped to rest on their way to the coast.

The first encounter I had of it was to see a picture of the stream that runs through the place. Then I finally had the opportunity as a resource person on the field trip of participants at the INSRAT Historic Society of Ghana Teachers of History in High Schools workshop.

It was exciting as it was the first time for me to get to know this place too.

Abokobi is an old town just below the Aburi mountain ranges that became popular for its farming activities. The land is fertile so that even in the early 80s when the drought and famine hit Ghana, Abokobi was not much affected because of its location and the fertility of its land.

The inhabitants are mainly farmers and they cultivate cereals like maize and also palm oil and then bring the produce to the market in Madina to sell. These were the traditional farmlands of the Ga people.

Modernity however has caught up with Abokobi and its environs. The new capitalist economy means that the lands that were hitherto used to farmlands have been sold to private ownership and these private owners decide whatever they want to do with the lands. Inasmuch as a few of them still maintain the lands as farmlands, the majority have used the lands to build plush modern day houses to use as their homes to retire to.

These rich people in society have built mansions that they can retire to from their active service in the mainland and central Accra. These peri-urban areas have spread all over Accra and the owners of these houses are usually absent because of the distance from the central mainland Accra.

On the way to Abokobi lies the Pantang Hospital for the mentally ill. There was a time when this hospital was isolated from the nearest place of activity but now it is bursting with activity as the city is drawn closer to it.

Gone were the days when anybody seen in the environs of the hospital was considered a mental patient and therefore accorded the stigma that comes from society for being a mad person.

Another long existing place on the road to Abokobi is the Italian design and construction firm Micheletti. The firm has been there for years and there were many times when people have wondered what goes on in those plush design buildings.

This company is responsible for the building of the hockey stadium that hosted the African Hockey tournament in 2009.

Further down the road is the Abokobi land fill site acquired and owned by Zoomlion Waste Management Company Limited. In recent times there has been controversy on the effect of the land fill site on the residents of the area. They claim that the waste is not treated well. The land fill site is the dump ground for the waste of areas within the Accra East environs.

One just has to drive by the place and leave the windows to the car open to relate to what the residents feel when they make complaints about the land fill site.

There is an old Presbyterian church at the crossroads to the plantation site. It is obvious the church has been refurbished several times but its location is paramount in showing missionary activity and European presence in Abokobi.

The University of Ghana has a sign post on the crossroad showing the way to the plantation. A couple of mud houses still dot the road to the plantation.

It is interesting to know that Frederiksgave is in a cul-de-sac. It is situated at the last end of the road of the road from Abokobi in a place called Sesime. At the cul-de-sac is a sign post that tells visitors that they have arrived at the plantation site. It’s a signpost of the University of Ghana and Ghana Museums Board.

There are cobblestones leading up to the villa situated up a slight hill a short walk from the end of the road.

The caretaker of the museum is an affable man who welcomes visitors and gives a short history of the plantation. The plantation was the private residence of a Dutch man who lived there. He died interstate and as by Danish law, his property became the property of the monarch of the time, King Frederick.

Later on, Frederick gave over the plantation and villa to the Danish government hence the name Frederiksgave meaning Frederick’s gift. The plantation originally housed 21 slaves, 13 female and 8 male who lived in two thatched houses on the site next to the villa, planting coffee and tobacco for local consumption.

The villa was rebuilt as part of The Heritage Project, when archaeology students of the University of Ghana started coming over to do practical work at the site. For many years the site was not restored but one man Dr Beduwa-Mensah (of blessed memory) made it his pet project and the subject of his doctoral thesis.

Through his efforts, the Augustino Foundation, a Danish foundation, sponsored the restoration of the site that has now become a museum of Danish and Dutch presence in the Gold Coast inland.

In the museum, there is a list of slaves that were at the plantation and how much they were bought for. It is interesting to note that the slaves came from all over Ghana and even beyond.

It is imperative that some of the slave descendants will still be in Abokobi town but it will still be difficult to trace the lineages of such families unless maybe the traditional historians. This is because any such descendants would have been integrated into the society.

There are also documents relating to instances where chiefs brought over slaves in exchange for tobacco or even at one time a hammock.

The villa not only served as a Dutch residence but also an inland clinic for the Dutch presence in the gold Coast and there was a direct walking  route to Christianborg in Osu which was visibly marked with tamarind trees.

Whenever slavery is mentioned, our first thought goes to our forefathers who were shipped abroad to work in the plantations in the New Lands in the Caribbean and other parts of the world.

This plantation is a historical sight to show that some of the Europeans kept slave plantations locally and it was only when they wanted to usually punish some stubborn slaves that they sold them overseas.

it is now a Ghana Heritage site where tourists can visit and learn about slavery in Ghana.

Let us all stand together and say NO MORE to slavery.

Like i always say, it begins with YOU!

Arise African Youth!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on September 5, 2013 by kola

Image   About a year ago a friend of mine Dr. Naa Sunkwa Mills was asked  upon invitation by the Ghana Think Foundation (a vibrant and youthful group, she says) to speak on the theme “Making an Enterprising Environment For An Emerging Market”.

This set me thinking aloud. 

Throughout history Africa has not only been a source of raw materials but also a place to market European goods. The premise that Africa is an emerging market is skewed because we are made to think so. 

Africa as a continent produces over 60% of the world’s raw materials yet we are poor because we do not process these raw materials ourselves but then we consume them when they are turned into finished goods and then sold back to us. We are the markets. Colonialism and imperialism has had a deep impact in these deep seated feelings that we can not do it.

In order to create an enterprising environment for an emerging market, we as African youth first need to understand the power we have to determine what a market is and to take control of the market. He who controls the market stands to gain from the interactions in the market be it trade or anything whatsoever. 

To control the trade means to understand the environment in which we are trading and this understanding can only be done when we understand the market trends and what our trade partners expect. This can only be done by education.

Invariably, Africa has lagged behind in the development of the rest of the world because we haven’t had the courage to wrestle and come to terms with the power that we have on the rest of the world as the largest producers of the raw materials needed for the industries of the world.

The youth have neglected their education or policy makers have not put in education policies that benefit these skills. If these skills are taught in our educational systems at a very tender age, African youth will be well equipped to understand the vagaries and vicissitudes that come with market trends and businesses all over the world.

It is important that youth take education seriously especially comparative education where they are aware of impacting events such as slavery and colonialism on the African continent and how this has affected mentality and perceptions of Africans both home, abroad and in the Diaspora.

Africans have to delve back into African traditional modes of personal relationships which are not selfish and then we understand that our traditions mapped out a simple life with rules and regulations that guide all relationships no matter what the link, be it business or personal. 

Customer service comes to note in this. In trade, the customer is paramount because he is the client and the consumer. This consumer has his own taste and preferences and has the right to make a choice. With different options available, it becomes important to woo this consumer to your product. But what do we see in Africa. The producer acts as if he is doing the consumer a favor and customer service has been thrown to the dogs. I am sure that every reader of this piece has his/her own experience of customer dis-service and probably not just one. I have had the occasion of blacklisting a couple of Ghanaian establishments online for poor customer service and general neglect.

It is imperative therefore that African youth rise up and take the reins of our destiny for ourselves. Africa will depend on its youth for development but till the youth educate themselves to be able to bear the mantle, Africa will remain in the doldrums of obscurity and oppression not only to the rest of the world but to its own self.

Like i always say, it begins with you!

#ThinkingAloud