Tag: Cape Coast Castle


‘Homegoing’ by Yaa Gyasi, Born in Ghana and Raised in the U.S.

Yaa Gyasi

Yaa Gyasi

Yaa Gyasi, whose debut novel sold for at least $1 million last year, was 20 when she stepped into the haunted dungeon of Cape Coast Castle for the first time. It was 2009. She had just completed her sophomore year at Stanford University and was spending the summer in Ghana, the country she left as a toddler.

Her tour guide explained that at the height of the slave trade, British officers—and the black women they married from the Gold Coast—had lived in comfort in the upper chambers of the whitewashed castle. Meanwhile, in the reeking dungeons below, men, women and children waited for the slave ships that would take them across the ocean.

Ms. Gyasi, who is black, snapped a photo of a wooden door that led from the dungeon to the beach. Above it was a sign that said: “Door of No Return.” Suddenly, she felt angry. She had never heard her family talk about the castle, or what it represented.

“It’s conveniently left out that there was this complicity on our side, too,” said Ms. Gyasi, who is now 26 and lives in Berkeley, Calif.

Her debut novel, “Homegoing,” begins with two half-sisters in 18th-century Ghana. One marries a British officer and lives with him high in Cape Coast Castle. The other passes through the dungeon below. Sweeping across more than 250 years of history, the book follows the descendants of both sisters—one family in Ghana, the other in America—devoting one chapter to a member of each generation.

The book is due June 7 from Alfred A. Knopf. The publisher is printing 50,000 copies before the release date, a large number for a literary debut novel.

“ ‘Homegoing’ will break your heart over and over…and leave you optimistic and in awe,” Nichole Solga McCown, a bookseller for Bookshop Santa Cruz in Santa Cruz, Calif., wrote in a review for the American Booksellers Association’s Indie Next List.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of last year’s runaway best-seller and National Book Award-winner on race in the U.S., “Between the World and Me,” tweeted: “Finished Yaa Gyasi’s ‘Homegoing’ yesterday. Thought it was a monster when I started. Felt it was a monster when I was done.”

Ms. Gyasi was born in Mampong, a small town 160 miles north of Cape Coast. She moved to the U.S. at age 2 when her father was working on a Ph.D in French language at Ohio State University. The family moved to Illinois and Tennessee before settling in Huntsville, Ala., the summer she turned 10.

She was a precocious reader, devouring Charles Dickens and Charlotte Brontë and racing through the young-adult medical dramas of Lurlene McDaniel.

Most of her friends and classmates were white, and, though she didn’t realize it at the time, so were most of the authors she read, both in school and at home. (The Francophone-African texts her father studied didn’t yet interest her.)

“Growing up, one of the things I found most difficult was trying to figure out where I fit in, particularly because while my family is black, obviously we aren’t African-American,” she said. “And because I grew up in predominantly white spaces, I think it could be difficult to figure out how to navigate America’s racial tension.”

When she was a senior in high school, she read her first book by a black woman: “Song of Solomon” by Toni Morrison.

“It felt as much as a religious calling as you could probably ever get in the secular field,” she said.

She had imagined becoming a writer. Now she was convinced that she could do it. She made an early attempt at writing the book after that 2009 trip to Ghana, but she didn’t begin working on it in earnest until she enrolled at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She wrote without an outline—just a family tree drawn on letter-sized paper, taped to the wall of her apartment.

She had never felt like she quite belonged in either Ghana or the U.S. “A lot of this book stems from…trying to figure out what things connect those two places and how I fit into all of that,” she said.

“Homegoing” is flecked with magic, evoking folk tales passed down from parent to child. One side of the family lives through slavery, Alabama’s convict-leasing system, the Great Migration, the Harlem Renaissance and the heroin epidemic to the present day. On the other side of the Atlantic, the novel explores uncomfortable truths about the participation of Ms. Gyasi’s Fante and Asante ancestors in the slave trade.

The book has structural and thematic similarities to Alex Haley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1976 book, “Roots,” and its landmark TV series adaptation starring LeVar Burton as Kunta Kinte, a man sold into slavery in 18th-century Gambia. A remake of the “Roots” miniseries adaptation, which traces the family’s history well into the 20th century, is set to air on the History, Lifetime and A&E channels starting Monday.

“It’s ‘Roots’ for the 21st century,” said Ivan Held, president of G.P. Putnam’s Sons, which bid $1 million for “Homegoing” but lost out to Knopf. Ms. Gyasi, knowing that her novel would explore similar territory, said she decided not to read Mr. Haley’s book.

One of her characters is Marjorie, a daughter of Ghanaian immigrants in the U.S. After she is born, Marjorie’s parents mail her dried umbilical cord to her grandmother Akua in Ghana, so the elderly woman can place it in the ocean. Should Marjorie’s spirit start to wander, Akua wants her to know which place is home. At a spot not far from Cape Coast, Ms. Gyasi’s grandmother had done the same for her.

Artcle via Wall Street Journal

Touring Ghana – Part 3

Central Region

Land of the fante people, home to some of Ghana’s best preserved castles and world heritage sites, beautiful beaches and exciting festivals, the central region is known as the heartbeat of Ghana’s tourism, and a visit to this part of Ghana is a must for anyone with a passion for history and culture.

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Getting there

Getting to the central region is fairly easy if you’re travelling from Accra or Kumasi. STC buses to the region’s capital Cape Coast leaves twice a day from Accra, and from Kumasi there’s a daily bus to Cape Coast as well. Best way to get around when in the region is trotro (local buses) or taxi.

Where to stay

Being a coastal region, the central region has many fantastic beach resorts one can stay at affordable prices. These include the Brenu Beach Lodge, Oasis Beach Resort, Biriwa Beach Hotel, Kokodo Guest House, Baobab Guest House, Nokaans Hotel, Hans Cottage Botel and Pedu Guest House to name a few. For a taste of mouthwatering dishes (and continental food) these are the restaurants to head to: Castle Restaurant, Kokodo Restaurant, Coast to Coast, Hayford Lounge and Bar and Baobab House, all located in Cape Coast.

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Things to do

The central region was the former government centre of Gold Coast and Cape Coast the seat of British colonial administration thus the region is very much steeped in history. The coastline of the region is dotted with forts and castles, most notably Cape Coast Castle, Elmina Castle, and Fort St Jago, which have been identified as World Heritage sites. For a small fee visit these places to discover the slave trade history of the region.

Not to be missed is the Donkor Nsuo (The Slave River) at Assin Manso, a place where slaves bathed in the river before they were taken to nearby Cape Coast and Elmina to be shipped off overseas.

Get stuck into the local culture by visiting the traditional fishing and crafts villages located in Winneba (famous for its fishing fleets, masquerade festivals and beautiful ceramics), Kromanste & Abandze (famous jazz player Louis Armstrong traced his ancestry here) and Gomma-Otsew-Jukwa (known for its fine pottery).

For beach lovers and those who want to get your surf on head to Brenu Beach, Breni Akyim, Gomoa Fetteh, Elmina and Winneba beaches, all dotted with palm trees, white sands and friendly locals.

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To observe nature at its best, head to Kakum National Park, where one can find diverse species of mammals, plants and insects. Activities offered at the park include walking tours, guided hiking, bird watching and the canopy walk for the brave and fearless (if you’re scared of heights this is NOT for you!)

Depending on what time you visit the region you can take part of the local festivals that happen all year round. These include the Fetu Afahye festival celebrated by the people of Cape Coast. Witness purification rites, procession of chiefs, drumming and dancing and firing of musketry. Another festival to look out for is the Akwambo festival celebrated by the people of Agona in the region.

Finally make sure you try some of the local dishes when touring the region. Dishes unique to this part of Ghana is fante kenkey, fufu and palmnut soup and eto (mashed yam or plantain eaten with peanuts and eggs)

So if you do decide to visit the central region, what I’ve touched on above are just a few of the things you can do in this part of Ghana. Happy touring!

 Yaa Nyarko (@yaayaa_89)