Tag: Yaa Nyarko


Captain Mahama’s murder and the hypocrisy of Ghanaian society

State funerals are events usually reserved for really important figures in Ghanaian society such as heads of state, but on Friday that honour was bestowed upon a murdered young soldier named Captain Maxwell Mahama, with the event broadcasted nationally and watched by Ghanaians worldwide online. So what did the young soldier do to deserve such an honour? Did he give his life protecting others? No. He was given the honour of state burial because he was brutally murdered by a mob who mistook him for an armed robber.

Captain Mahama and his family

Now Captain Mahama is not the first person to have been accused of armed robbery and then subsequently murdered. In Ghana, an accusation like that usually carries a swift death sentence at the hands of a mob if the police are not at hand. And this is also NOT the first time pictures or videos have surfaced on social media depicting what I’ve described above. Mob justice in Ghana has a long history. As a young child I remember people running out with sticks and stones and whatever they could use as weapons when they heard kronfour! (thief). Whether you were guilty or not made scant difference. A painful death is certain if the police do not intervene, and when they do intervene, in most cases it is to recover a dead body.

Like many Ghanaians, I was enraged when I heard and saw what had happened to the captain. That someone had been murdered again by a baying mob in such a brutal manner and wondered how long such atrocities would go on in the country. But I would later feel conflicted by the blatant hypocrisy I was witnessing in the aftermath of Captain Mahama’s murder, and this is why – the media attention that the murder garnered, and Ghanaians’ reaction to it. It seems like Ghanaians couldn’t comprehend that something so terrible should happen to a man who was serving his country. Especially one with a wife and two young kids. In fact, pictures of Mahama’s family were heavily circulated on social media and across national media platforms in Ghana, as if to drive home the horror of what had befallen the captain. Numerous GoFundMe pages were set up to raise money for his young family left behind, and the Ghanaian government not only posthumously promote Mahama to Major but they also set up a GH¢500,000 trust fund to look after his family, with the president of Ghana Nana Akufo Addo publicly donating GH¢50,000 of his own money to the trust fund.

Now don’t get me wrong, this is a fantastic response but what I was conflicted with was the fact

President Akufo-Addo signs Mahama’s book of condolence

that other victims of mob justice in Ghana never received this kind of celebrity attention, generosity and sympathy from the media and the wider Ghanaian public. How many times have we seen pictures and videos on social media of people who were lynched in Ghana because they were suspected of being thieves? Did we care about those people? Did the media give those victims and their family any publicity to highlight their tragedy? Who circulated pictures of the families who were robbed of their loved ones? Where are their GoFundMe pages? Where are the trust funds from the government to help take care of the families they left behind? In fact two days after the murder of Captain Mahama, a man was also set upon and beaten to death by a mob in Krono Odumasi in the Ashanti region. His crime? He was suspected of stealing a mobile phone! Who cried for this man? Where was the media outcry and the public outrage over his death?

It makes one wonder – did Captain Mahama’s death matter more because he was soldier and also a relative to former president Mahama? Is that why there was such a huge public outcry? Then by that reasoning his life was worth more than others who have died at the hands of violent mobs in Ghana. Did those who wept and mourned for him and his family also cry for other victims who had died in the same way previously? Why was he given a state funeral and the countless others weren’t? Were their lives not as important? As he was laid to rest on Friday, his family echoed the publics’ call for a monument to be resurrected in his memory, because in their words, they wanted him to remembered as a hero. But as unpleasant and harsh as the truth might be, Captain Mahama was not a hero. Who did he die protecting? He was an innocent man who was brutally murdered. Yet a monument is be resurrected in his name to remind Ghanaians of that terrible event on May 29th 2017.

If we as Ghanaians are attaching such weight and importance to the death of Captain Mahama, but not to others who have died like him, then what does that say about us as a society? That your death matters only if your someone in society? When have we heard of Ghana police arresting people involved in lynching so quickly? Yet in Captain Mahama’s case those suspected of taking part have been arrested and charged with murder! Why is there justice for Captain Mahama but not for others? Will the proposed monument bear the names of those who have also been violently killed by mobs in Ghana? Had Captain Mahama been an ordinary citizen , would the reaction to his death be the same? The terribly sad answer is probably no.

By Yaa Nyarko  (@yaa_fremah)

The story of ‘Akuaba’

In Kojo Antwi’s song ‘Akuaba’ he describes the beauty of a woman he’s seen – the slimness of her nose, the whiteness of her teeth, and then the best feature of all, her figure, which he compares to that of an ‘akuaba’. Now to those of you not familiar with Ghanaian culture, ‘akuaba’ is a fertility doll who’s legend and tradition is still very much a part of Ghanaian culture today.

 

 

69301-FIGUASAN_1466ALegend has it that there once lived a woman called Akua who was unable to conceive. Because Akan society is matrilineal, it is extremely important that Akan women are able to give birth, preferably female children to carry the family line. So women who are barren often find themselves ostracised in their communities. The story goes that Akua visited a fetish priest who carved her a wooden doll to carry on her back. Akua took the doll home and cared for it as she would a real baby. She was laughed at by those in her village, who referred to the doll as Akua’ba’, meaning Akua’s child. Soon Akua fell pregnant and gave birth to a girl and it is said that from then on women adopted the practice of carrying ‘akuaba’ on their backs in order to conceive.

 

Genuine akuaba figures are female, carved to represent the Akan ideal of beauty; a flat disc like head featuring a high oval forehead, slightly flattened in actual practice by moulding a new born infant’s cranial bones on a round stone. The rings on an akuaba’s neck represents rolls of fat, which in Akan culture is a sign of beauty, prosperity and health. Small scars are made below the eyes for medicinal purposes to protect against convulsions and a small delicate mouth is set low on the face. Akuba figures also serve as protection against deformities and even ugliness – when a woman is pregnant she’s warned against looking at anything or anyone unattractive lest it influences the features of her unborn child. Most akuaba have abstracted horizontal arms and a cylindrical torso with simple indications of breasts and navel, with the torso ending in a base rather than legs.

 

Though carrying akuaba on your back to conceive is not as widespread as it was in the past, the practice is still carried out in

A woman carrying 'Akuaba' on her back

A woman carrying ‘Akuaba’ on her back

some part of Ghana today. If  a woman wanted to conceive, she would visit a local shrine accompanied by a elder female family member. A carving would then be commissioned by the local priest, who would then give the doll to the woman, sometimes along with traditional medicine. The woman would then carry the doll on her back tied by cloth the way a real child would, and she would also feed and bathe the doll – by doing this she’s thought to have a better chance of having a beautiful healthy baby. Once the woman conceives and successfully gives birth, the akuaba is often returned to the shrine as a form of offering to the spirits for granting them a child. Families sometimes also keep their akuaba dolls as a memorial if the child died.


Today akuaba figures are mass produced, often used a souvenirs or decorational pieces in the home. However its symbolism is still prevalent, with parents often buying these dolls for their daughter to play with, in hopes that it will influence child-bearing in their adult lives.

 

By Yaa Nyarko (@yaa_fremah)

Heroine, Leader and Rebel – the story of Queen Nanny

Have you ever seen a $500 Jamaican dollar bill, sometimes referred to as a ‘nanny’? Well if you haven’t, there’s something pretty special about it – and that special thing is the portrait of the woman that graces it – Queen Nanny of Jamaica, the Ghanaian born rebel, Maroon leader and national heroine, famed for her struggles against the British colonial empire during the 18th century.

 

a $500 Jamaican dollar bill

a $500 Jamaican dollar bill

Much about what is known about Queen Nanny was passed down orally, as written sources about her are few and vague. But it is generally believed that Nanny was born in what was then the Gold Coast, and came from the Ashanti tribe. There are contradictory views on how she arrived in Jamaica – some say that her village was captured in a tribal conflict that resulted in her and some family members being brought to Jamaica as slaves. However, others believe that Nanny was of royal blood and came to Jamaica as a free woman, even bringing along slaves with her.

 

It is said that Nanny and her ‘brothers’ Cudjoe (a famous Maroon leader who went on to lead several slave rebellions), Johnny, Cuffy, Accompong and Quao escaped from their plantation into the surrounding mountains and jungles. Whilst in hiding they split up to organise Maroon communities – it is said that Cudjoe organised a village that became known as Cudjoe Town; Accompong settled in a community that became known as Accompong Town, and Quao and Nanny founded a village in the Blue Mountains on the Eastern (Windward) side of Jamaica, which was later named Nanny Town.

 

Under Nanny’s leadership, Nanny Town and the Windward Maroons that lived there thrived and multiplied, and became a

A Maroon community

A Maroon community

troublesome thorn in the British side. Due to Nanny Town’s strategic location at the top of a ridge, surprise attacks by the British was virtually impossible. A master at guerilla warfare, she trained her troops the art of camouflage and there many oral accounts where such tactics were used to defeat the British in battle.

Nanny’s cunning skills as a military leader also meant that she was also able to organise successful raids on plantations, where they freed slaves, burnt down crops and stocked up on weapons. She’s credited with having freed close to a thousand slaves during her lifetime.

 

Queen Nanny was not just a military leader, but a cultural and spiritual one as she played a major role in the preservation of African culture and knowledge. She was known for her Obeah powers – obeah being a form of folk magic or sorcery that contained good and bad magic, charms and luck. Combined with her knowledge of herbs and traditional healing methods, which some attribute to her Ashanti roots, Nanny rose to become the spiritual leader of the Maroons.


monument-to-nannyToday Nanny is widely regarded as the only person to have been successful in uniting the Maroons across Jamaica. During her lifetime, she was hated by the British and early historians who wrote about her did so in derogatory terms, often portraying her as savage and bloodthirsty. Some sources cite that Nanny was killed in battle in 1733 by Captain William Cuffee, however others claim that she died an old woman in the 1760s. One can find of monument dedicated to her in Moore Town, Portland, Jamaica.

 

By Yaa Nyarko (@yaa_fremah)

Tribal scars or something else…?

What stories do facial scars tell?

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Like many Ghanaians, my mum has quite a noticeably large scar on her cheek.  Growing up in Ghana this was quite a common sight both in men, women and even children, with the scars ranging in shape and size depending on the tribe one belonged to. I’ve always assumed that these scars were tribal scars or a form of ethnic identification, but I recently discovered that this was only partly true.

 

Like I mentioned before, these scars on the cheek can represent an ethnic identifier, which is the case for the Gonja, Dagomba and Frafra people of northern Ghana. However facial scars can also be found among the Akans, who usually reside in the southern parts of Ghana, and for them, their facial scars tell a whole different story.

 

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traditional medicine

In the olden days, before the advent of modern medicine, ‘ abibiduro’ or traditional medicine in its English translation, was
used to cure all sorts of illnesses. In fact, abibiduro is still widely used in Ghana today and in some cases are even prescribed by doctors. Back in the day, traditional herbalists made a black powder called ‘botכ’. Botכ was a mixture of different types of traditional medicine grounded into a powder then mixed with charcoal. Botכ worked in the same way as western medicine such as aspirin or codeine, which was used to fight various fevers which particularly affected children. Aspirin and codeine worked as a symptomatic treatment to reduce fevers, and this is exactly what botכ was used for back in the day. Because taking it orally rendered it ineffective as its healing components were destroyed through digestion, a small incision or cut was made in the cheeks of children who suffered from fevers such as malaria, and the botכ was placed in the cut.

 

tribal markAfter healing, a scar remained, thus representing a form of vaccination. These types of practises have obviously been phased out and are rarely used these days due to advances in modern medicine and the accessibility of healthcare even in the remotest parts of Ghana.

Hence these facial scars are most likely to be seen among our parents and grandparents’ generation rather than the generation of today. So next time you see a facial scar on a Ghanaian, don’t be so quick to dismiss it as just a tribal mark!

By Yaa Nyarko (@yaa_fremah)

 

 

Touring Ghana – Part 10…

Greater Accra Region

Accra

Finally we get to the Greater Accra Region. The gateway to the motherland and of course home to the capital Accra, the Greater Accra region is the perfect blend of Ghana’s past and present and old and new, offering historical landmarks and locations all in the backdrop of a teeming metropolitan city.

Getting there

As the capital is located in this region, getting here from other parts of Ghana is fairly easy whether you’re coming from by coach, bus or air. Best way to travel around the region is by trotro or taxi (but can be quite expensive)

Where to stay

Labadi

Accra has a mixture of luxury and budget accommodation to suit all pockets. Among these are Labadi Beach Hotel, Villa Monticello, Hotel Elegance, Bojo Beach Resort, Mahogany Lodge, Osdahouse Home Lodge, La Paradise Inn among others.

Things to do

For such a small region there’s quite a lot to do in the Greater Accra region. Let’s start with historical sites one can visit. Independence Square is a must – the second largest square in the world after Tiananmen Square in China, it was built by Dr Kwame Nkrumah to honour the visit of Queen Elizabeth II. Also known as the Black Star Square, it has two monuments: the Independence Arch and the Black Star Monument. Another historic place worth visiting is No.22 First Circular Road in Cantoments, where the remains of the ‘father of Pan African’ movement W.E.B Du Bois rests in peace. Also known as the Du Bois Memorial Centre for Pan-Africa Culture, the house is now a research library and a manuscripts gallery and was where Du Bois spent the last days of his life.

Now one cannot visit Accra without paying respects to the first president of Ghana, Dr Kwame Nkrumah. Head to the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum, which also houses a museum that contains the personal belongings of Nkrumah. Another place not to miss is Osu Castle or Fort Christiansborg which served as the government house in the 19th and 20th century. Built by the Swedish in the 17th century, it has served as the seat of government and still is today. Other places also worth a visit are the National Museum which houses a collection of Ghana’s historical treasures and the Centre for Natural Culture in Accra.

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If you’ve had enough of sightseeing, why not relax in one of many of Accra’s beaches? Accra’s beaches are popular with tourists and local alike. Ada Paradise Beach, Krokrobite Beach Resort, La Pleasure Beach, Cocoloco Beach, Ningo-Prampram Beach and Next Door Beach all have activities ranging from polo and water sports to game fishing, music and art performances and bird watching among other things.

Now to get a feel of Ghanaian culture its worth visiting the National Theatre, where the resident theatre groups put on various performances on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. The International Conference Centre is also one to look out for: there’re always arts, drama and musical performances as well as fashion shows taking place. And the Krokrobite Academy of African Music and Art offers a combination of beach, music, dance and art with performances every Saturday and Sunday.

Next if you’re up for a bit of retail therapy, you can grab a bargain at the numerous markets and shopping malls in the region. Oxford Street (yes Ghana has her own Oxford Street!) in Accra is the perfect location for any shop addict, with numerous boutiques and restaurants, ice-cream parlours, handicrafts stores and tech stores. Oxford Street also serves as a night market for the night owls among you. For a more local shopping experience head to Mokola or Agbogbloshie markets for beautiful textiles, traditional clothes, shoes, beads, straw hats, woven baskets and traditional jewellery. For carvings and paintings, head to the Loom Art Gallery which sells spectacular carvings, paintings by local artists and textiles.

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Like any metropolitan city Accra well and truly comes alive at night, offering a variety of bars, lounges and nightclubs for your entertainment. Osu is by far the best place to head to, but also the priciest, so be prepared to spend. Other neighbourhoods with good night life are Adabraka, Abeka La Paz, Asylum Down, Teshie-Nungua, and Bukom. Citizen Kofi, Firely, Rhapsody’s, Bella Roma and Venus are some of the best night spots in Accra, whether you want to relax or party. Weekends are extremely busy and crowded as locals and tourists alike are all out to let their hair down. Abrantie Spot is great for live bands playing local music, and Rockstone’s Office is the perfect place for hiplife lovers – the spot is also well known for their chicken and beer parties.

Finally as you travel around Accra, make sure you tuck into some of the delicious traditional and street food the region has to offer. The main dish eaten in Accra is kenkey with hot pepper and fried fish, banku with pepper and fish and red red or yo-ko gari (bean stew) with tatale (fried plantain). Also equally popular are fried yam with chofi (turkey tails) with pepper or shito (hot spicy sauce) and grilled meat or liver covered in hot kebab powder. Wash these meals down with asana (maize beer), palm wine or coconut juice (straight from the tree!) and you’ll never want to come back!

Hope you enjoy your time in the motherland! Happy travelling!

Yaa Nyarko (@Yaayaa_89)

Touring Ghana – Part 9….

Volta Region

Lake Volta

With rolling hills and valleys, rocky outer crops overlooking Lake Volta, lagoons, rivers and waterfalls, beautiful and serene beaches, mangrove swamps and tropical rainforests, the Volta region is home to one of Ghana’s best nature sceneries and one of the few places you can experience almost every tropical climate in West Africa. Boasting a rich diversity of history and culture and a vibrant people, a trip to this easterly part of Ghana is one you’ll unlikely forget.

Getting there

If coming from Accra or Kumasi, then STC buses are the ideal mode of transport to the Volta region, going to cities like Ho, Hohoe and Aflao. Trotros from major parts of Ghana go to these places as well.

Where to stay

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The Volta region has beautiful accommodation that really makes you feel like part of the place. With many hotels, b&bs and lodge houses to choose from, there’s something to suit everyone’s budget. Some of the best places to stay include the Wli Water Heights in Hohoe, Meet Me There in Dzita, Roots Yard in Peki, Biakpa Mountain Paradise in Biakpa, Vilcamba Hotel in Denu and Chances Hotel in Ho.

Things to do

One is spoilt for choice when it comes to activities to do in this part of Ghana as the region has a number of interesting places definitely worth visiting. Start off by exploring the dramatic grottos and caves etched in limestone that dot the region. These include the ancestral caves of Likpe, the grottos of Kpanda in Agbehoe & Aziavi, the caves of Nyagbo, Logba and Alepafu.

Get stuck in the history of the region by visiting the old Keta-Krachi Slave Route which served as a vital slave port in colonial times. Now completely submerged in the Volta Lake, nothing remains of this town except three buildings. Also worth a visit is Fort Prinzenstein in Keta built by the Danish traders in 1784. It served as a dungeon for slaves awaiting transportation to the Caribbean, and still stands today.

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Next, grab yourself a bargain by heading to the Dzemeni Market on the bank of Lake Volta where one can find great quality fabric and beads. It’s also a great place to witness local like as the market also serves as a place to trade mostly basic goods and livestock. Agbozume village is famous for their beautiful hand-woven kente cloth. Here you can witness weavers at work.

If you love a little adventure then get hiking and trekking on some of the numerous hills and mountains that dot the region. Mountain Dzebobo, Adukulu and Mount Afadjato (the highest mountain in Ghana) offer challenging climbs that is well rewarded with some spectacular scenes of the region as well as colourful birds, butterflies and monkeys that habit these mountains. You can also head to the Volta Estuary to see some of the region’s indigenous wildlife. The estuary provides scenic beauty with river and ocean beaches and its sand bars which serves as resting ground for seabirds and endangered species of twitter. Other wildlife reserves worth visiting are the Keta-Angaw Lagoon Basin, Tafi Monday Village and the Kyabobo National Park.

If all the activities above have made you tired then relax in the Keta District, which has some of the most beautiful and clean beaches in West Africa. The best ones can be found in the Volta Estuary Areas from Azizanu to Atiteti, Cape St. Paul in Woe, Tegbi, Anloga and the Kedzi Areas. Another distinctive feature of the Volta region is its waterfalls. Often set in attractive wooded or mountain settings, the waterfalls, such as Wli Falls, in Wli Nature Reserve, Tagbo Falls near Liati Wote, Tsatsadu Falls near Hohoe and a few others make for a spectacular viewing.

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Finally, really get to know the people and culture of the Volta region by getting stuck in many of their festivals held all year round. With over 10 tribes occupying the region, all with their distinctive language and customs, these festivals filled with pageantry and pomp have varying activities such as purification ceremonies, a durbur of chiefs,, singing dancing, kente weaving, drumming and pouring of libation.

Now you can’t say goodbye to the region without trying some of the region’s traditional dishes. A must try is the region’s famous Volta tilapia with akple or akple with okro soup. Equally tasty is abolo with shrimps and ‘one man thousand’ (kapenta fish). Polish these dishes off with a shot of akpeteshie or palm wine and you’ll never want to leave!

Yaa Nyarko (@Yaayaa_89)

 

Touring Ghana – Part 8…

Ashanti Region

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Birthplace of historical figures Yaa Asantewaa and Okomfo Anokye, land of the ‘Golden Stool’ and gold, home of quality kente cloth, the Ashanti region if one of the most important regions in Ghana with a powerful history to match. With historic palaces, festivals filled with pomp and pageantry, unspoiled natural attractions, picturesque villages and wild life parks, a trip to the kingdom of gold is a trip one is unlikely to forget.

Getting there

There are STC buses that travel to the region’s capital Kumasi from all parts of Ghana. For those of you who wish to fly, there are flights from Accra to Kumasi at least twice a day and least once with other major regions with airports.

Where to stay

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Being a major region in Ghana, the Ashanti region has several hotels, guest houses and resorts to suit any budget. Some of the best in the region are Wadoma Royal Hotel, Lake Bosomtwe Paradise Resort, Royal Park Hotel, Sanbra Hotel, Amis Wonderland Hotel, Laposada Hotel and Sweet Vine Hotel. In terms of places to eat there are many restaurants and fast-food outlets providing local Ghanaian dishes and international dishes such as Chinese, Indian and other continental meals. But to get a real taste of authentic local food and drink visit the numerous chop bars available local open air bars and street cafés.

 

Things to do

The cultural heartbeat of Ghana, there’s never a lack of thing to do in the region. I can’t possibly cover all things you can get stuck into so I’ll highlight the main things to do and look out for if you happen to visit this part of Ghana. First of all indulge in some local folkore and myth by visiting the Okomfo Anokye Sword Site, where legend has it that Anokye (fetish priest and co-founder of the Ashanti empire) drove the sword so hard in the ground to mark the city of Kumasi that no one has ever been able to dig it up (Anokye also conjured up the ‘Golden Stool’ from the sky, believed to carry the spirit of the Ashanti nation). Visit the Prempeh II Jubilee Museum to discover Ashanti royalty and its history. There, one can view royal paraphernalia crafted in gold, war mementoes including the ‘Golden Stool’, the ‘Brass Pan of Independence’, famous royal battle outfits and historic photographs. Also worth a visit is the Manhyia Palace Museum, the former residence of past Ashanti kings.

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The capital Kumasi is home to the largest open air market in West Africa at Kejetia so make sure you head there for a bargain. You can also head to the Cultural Crafts Centre to see local carvers, brass smiths, kente weavers, baskets weavers and adinkra textiles printers at work. Alternatively, you can visit the villages where these crafts are made – pottery at Ahwiaa, wood carvings at Ntonso, adinkra cloth-making at Asuofia and Asamang and bead-making at Ampabame. But an absolute must is a visit to the village of Adanwomase, the royal weaving village of the Ashanti king. There, you can take a special tour of the village and learn how kente is woven by the locals.

The Ashanti region is also one of the most beautiful regions in Ghana with unspoiled natural attractions. Digya National Park is a must for anyone visiting this part of Ghana – one can find many species of monkeys and baboons, elephants, antelopes, crocodiles, buffalos, water bucks, wildebeests, warthogs and many more. For the birdwatchers among you visit the Owabi Forest and Bird Sanctuary where you can find migratory and tropical birds and endangered Mona monkeys. Also worth a visit are the Bomfiri Wildlife Sanctuary with its waterfalls and wildlife and Bobiri Forest Butterfly Sanctuary. If you’re looking for adventure then Lake Bosomtwe is the place to go. A picturesque meteorite crater lake surrounded by beautiful fishing and farming villages, the lake basin is ideal for swimming, diving and mountain climbing. Other places worth a visiting are the Obuasi goldmines, Mframabuom Caves in Kwamang, Kumasi Zoo, Pankrono Shrine and the Atiwa Rock Formations.

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Finally when it comes to events and festivals filled with pomp and pageantry, no one beats the Ashantis. Festivals taking place all year round are the Akwasidae Festival (celebrated every six weeks), Papa Festival (March), Kente Festival (July/August), Yaa Asantewaa Festival (August), Mmoa Nni Nko Festival (October) and Nkyidwo Festival (November/December). During these festivals one can witness the procession of the Ashanti king in his magnificent gold attire and local chiefs, sacrificial rituals and drumming and dancing. Before leaving make sure to try the regions speciality dishes – fufu with light soup containing ‘akrantee’/bush meat or snails and ampesi (yam, plaintain, cocoyam or cassava).

Yaa Nyarko (@yaayaa_89)

Touring Ghana – Part 7…

Eastern Region

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With dramatic landscapes and historic relics, home to the Akosombo Dam, Volta Lake and beautiful Koforidua flowers (women) and the birthplace of the Ghanaian cocoa industry, the eastern region certainly lives up to its reputation as having Africa’s most friendliest people

Getting there

The eastern region is easily accessible if you’re travelling from Accra or Kumasi as the capital Koforidua is served by very good roads from these places. The bus journey from Accra is between 45mins to an hour.

Where to stay

Known for its calming and cool temperatures, the eastern region has many great hotels and guesthouses to make your stay a truly relaxing one. These include Beige Village Golf Resort and Spa (New Abirem), the Hillburi (Aburi), Bedtime Hotel (Koforidua), Akosombo Continental Hotel (Akosombo), Capital View Hotel (Koforidua) and Maasankofah Hotel (Aburi).

Things to do

Aburi

The idyllic atmosphere in this part of Ghana makes the eastern region the perfect venue for a relaxing getaway. With its striking landscapes and large areas of lush tropical forests, the region is home to some of Ghana’s best nature reserves.

Start off by heading off to the Aburi Botanical Gardens (opened in 1890) to discover its rich collection of tropical flora which attracts scores of birds and butterflies. Next, go to the Atewa-Atwirebu Butterfly Sanctuary near Kibi, home to one of the largest butterflies in the world, the ‘Papillio Antimachus’. Other wildlife and nature reserves also worth visiting are the Bonsu Arboretum Forest Reserve, Kogyae Strict Nature Reserve and the Bonsu Arboretum Butterfly Sanctuary.

Make sure to also visit the largest tree in all of West Africa, which can be found at the Esen-epam Forest Reserve. Another forest worth visiting is the Dodowa Forest, where one can find the Great Baobab Tree (Adansonia Digitata). The tree displays ‘bumps’ and ‘wounds’ caused by bullets made of beads, beans, salt, black potions and talismans fired by the Shai warriors to declare the Kantamanso War in 1826.

If you’ve had enough of wildlife parks and nature reserves, drink in the spectacular sight of the regions numerous waterfalls. Boti Waterfalls is a seasonal waterfall best viewed in June to August, whilst the Tsenku Waterfall is there all year round, dropping from a height of 250ft. Also worth a visit is the Begoro Waterfalls, made up of many small falls and cascades – makes a perfect location for a picnic.

For a spot of adventure, head on to the Lake Volta, one of the largest man-made lakes in the world. One can also find the Akosombo Dam there. If it’s a cruise you want to go on, or partake in some water sports or do a spot of fishing, then the Lake Volta won’t disappoint. The lake also has many fascinating islands such as Dodi Islands – try and explore there if you can.

Discover a little history of the region by visiting the Tetteh Quarshie Cocoa Farm, the first cocoa farm established in Ghana (Quarshie brought cocoa seeds from Fernando Po Island), where one can still see original cocoa trees planted in 1879. Also worth visiting is the Slave Market of Abonse, where one can see traces of the 17th and 18th century slave market that serves as an important cross roads in the Slave Route. Not to be missed is the Okomfo Anokye Shrine at Awukugua-Akwapim (his birthplace). There you’ll find scattered throughout the towns on the Akwapim Ridge remnants of the legendary priest, such as his hand and footprints permanently etched in solid stone and where he carved out the first ‘oware’ board in stone.

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Other places of interest in the region are the Kwahu Scarp, known for its breathtaking and picturesque villages and home to the Kwahu people, the Krobo Mountains (first home of the Krobo people. One can find relics and building ruins of their first settlement), the beads market in Koforidua, the Umbrella Rock and Ghana’s only commercial diamond mine at Akwatia.

The eastern regions hold 4 of the 10 major festivals that are celebrated in Ghana. These include the Paragliding festival which attracts people from all over Ghana and overseas, the Odwira festival celebrated by the people of Akwapim in September/October and the Dipo festival celebrated by the people of Krobo Odumase and Somanya. Depending on what time of the year you go, you’ll be sure to find festivities taking place.

Now you can’t leave the eastern region without trying some of their tasty food. The diverse tribes that are found in the region are reflected in their cuisine – so anything from fufu to omotuo (riceballs) with light or peanut soup, ampesi or banku and okro stew can be found there.

Yaa Nyarko (@yaayaa_89)   

Touring Ghana -Part 6

Brong Ahafo Region

Known as the breadbasket of Ghana, the Brong Ahafo region is home to several cocoa plantations and forest reserves, cascading waterfalls, mysterious caves and local festivals. With an idyllic landscape and atmosphere, the region is perfect for a relaxing break or retreat.

Getting there

The capital region Sunyani is 1.5 hours away from Kumasi and when driving from Accra it’s about 7 hours. Sunyani also has an airport so for those of you wishing to fly, there are domestic flights from Accra, Kumasi and Takoradi that will take you straight there.

Where to stay

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The Brong Ahafo region has several hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs, so whatever your budget, there’s something for you. Choices available include Hotel Sanba in Hwidiem, Yakam Hotel & Restaurant and Falls Executive Guest Lodge in Kintanmpo, Deri Yire Hotel, Encom Hotel and Premier Palace Hotel in Techiman and Eusbett Hotel in Sunyani.

Things to do

A region that is becoming increasingly known for its natural beauty, a defining feature in the region not to miss is its waterfalls. Kintampo Waterfalls is a truly spectacular sight to behold – the water cascades 70 metres down the beautiful falls to continue its journey towards the Black Volta. Another is Fuller Falls – its scenic beauty makes it an ideal place to catch some alone time or for quiet meditation. Make sure to also visit the River Tano Pool, home to sacred that are protected by the local community.

For nature lovers, head to the wildlife reserves in the region, including the Boabeng-Fiema Monkey Sanctuary, home to over 200 Geoffrey’s Pied Columbus and 500 Campbell’s Mona monkeys. These monkeys are regarded as sacred by locals and it’s a crime to harm them. The sanctuary is also home to a variety of butterflies, birds and 90 species of trees. Bui National Park is also worth a visit – it inhabits hippos and roan and hartebeest antelopes.  imagesW36EB9GS

The Brong Ahafo region is also culturally and historically rich – immerse yourself in local history by visiting the Hani archaelogical site near Wenchi, which was inhabited by the Benghos about 1200BC. There, one can see the ancient caves as well as Stone Age tools such as hammers, cutting blades and grindstones. Also visit the Pinihini Amowi Caves – local legend has it that the Bono people came out from there after a fierce battle with the Mossi people in the North. Finally witness some traditional healing by visiting the Kwaku Fri shrine in Nwase, where a traditional priest performs cures for sicknesses, divinations and pours libation.

Another thing distinctive to the Brong Ahafo region is their unique handicrafts such as kente weaving, adinkra stamping, pottery and wood carvings. Visit the village of Nsuta, where the ancient craft of making tree bark cloth called ‘kyekyen’ is still practised.

Finally enjoy some local festivities that are held all year round most notably the Apoo festival held in November and celebrated in Techiman and Wenchi. Another is the Kwafie festival held between November and December and celebrated by the people of Berekum, Dormaa Ahenkro and Nsoatre, and the Sasabobirim and Fordjour (Yam) festivals. Highlights of these festivals include durbar of chiefs and dancing and drumming. The best thing about these festivals is that everyone is welcomed to take part!

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But before you say goodbye to the Brong Ahafo region and its people, make sure you’ve tucked into some of their wonderful dishes such as fufu and kontomire soup and plantain and cocoyam ampesi.

Yaa Nyarko (YaaYaa_89)

Touring Ghana – Part 5

Western Region

They say the best comes from the west, and this cannot be more true when in the western region. One of the most interesting regions in Ghana, the western region is home to picturesque villages, former historic European trading forts, beautiful and affordable resorts, fantastic beaches, tropical rainforests and of course, birthplace of the first president of Ghana, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah. I can’t even begin to tell you the things that one can find in that region, but whatever your tastes and interests are, there’s guaranteed to be something for you!

Getting there

Journeying to the western region is relatively easy. STC buses from Accra just takes four hours and trains leave from Kumasi to the capital Secondi-Takoradi twice daily.

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Where to stay

Being a coastal region, one is spoiled for choice when it comes to accommodation. As well as resorts, there are several hotels, guest houses and lodges to choose from. Some of the best rated accommodation in the region include Busua Inn Resort, Ghana Spirit, Casablanca Guest Inn, Stellar Lodge, Anomabo Beach Resort, Planter’s Lodge, Lou Moon Lodge, Escape3points Ecolodge, Ezile Bay Village and many others. Most of these are located in the cities of Busua, Axim and Beyin, and Secondi-Takoradi.

Things to do

Where to begin!? There are a plethora of things one can do in this region. Let’s start with the beaches. Some of the best beaches in Ghana can be found here, and due to few visitors, the beaches are clean and safe. These include Miamia Beach, Busua Beach, Ajua Beach, Coconut Grove Beach Resort, Ankobra and Paradise Beaches, Sports Club Beach, Alaska Beach and Princess Town Beach. These beaches are perfect for picnics, quiet reflection and meditation, BBQs and those of you who want to get your surf on!

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For those who of who want to get into a bit of local history, the western region is littered with several forts and castles built by the Dutch, British, Portuguese and Brandenburgian during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries for trading slaves, gold and other products. Some of these forts are World Heritage sites and the ones open to visitors include Elmina Castle and Fort St. Jago in the historic town of Elmina, Cape Coast Castle in Cape Coast, Fort Metal Cross at Dixcove, Fort St. Apollonia at Beyin, Fort St. Antonio at Axim, Fort Batenstein at Butri, Fort Sebastian at Shama, Fort Groot Fredericksburg at Princess Town and many others.

Also, be sure visit the original grave and pay your respects to the founding father of Ghana Dr Kwame Nkrumah, which can be found in Nkroful.

There are several other attractions that are not be missed if you’re in the Western region. These include a trip to Nzulezu, a picturesque village entirely built on stilts which one can explore on a canoe. Head out to Monkey Hill located at the Heart of Secondi Takoradi, a tropical rainforest inhabited by monkeys. For breathtaking views of the region and all its glory, visit the southernmost point of the country, Cape Three Points. Also, be sure to pass by the Wassa Dormama Rock Shrine, a nature shrine known as ‘bosom kese’ (great god) by locals. There, you’ll find a mammoth rock monolith reaching almost three storeys high and supported by three other rocks and wrapped in a forest of ancient tree vines. It is truly a sight to behold.

As the region with the highest rainfall in Ghana, the western region is awash with lush hills and tropical rainforests where one can find many wildlife and nature reserves. The Ankasa Conservation Area is one of the natural treasures of Ghana – its home to some of the most diverse plant and bird species, the bongo, forest elephants, endangered primates, several streams and rivers, and the spectacular Bamboo Cathedral (there are camping facilities for those who want to stay overnight). Another nature reserve worth visiting is the Amansuri Conservation Area, a wetland that has the stand of an intact swamp forest and is home to monkeys, birds, crocodiles, and marine turtles. Other wildlife reserves in the region include the Bia National Park, the Egyambra Crocodile Sanctury and the Akatakyi Crocodile Pond.

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Finally get stuck in local festivities that take place during the annual Kundum Festival which occurs between July and August. Enjoy the drumming, dancing and feasts that take place during this period. If you’re a foodie, make sure you check out Captain Hook’s, Han’s Palace Northsea Restaurant, Veivaag Lodge Restaurant in Secondi Takoradi, and Saha Country Kitchen and Cafe Puerto in Beyin for mouth-watering local and international cuisines. Local dishes to definitely try are akyekye (made from cassava) served with avocado and fufu with mushroom or snail lightsoup.

What I’ve covered above are just some of the things you can do in this region. There is so much to discover (fishing, whale-watching, canoeing etc.) in this part of Ghana so be sure.

Yaa Nyarko (@Yaayaa_89)