WEST AFRICA CULTURAL ADVENTURE DAY 2
Day 2 - October 4, 2012 - Tokaradi, Ghana
By Olga Stavrakis, Anthropologist
Co-ordinates: N 04o 55’ 00”, W 01o 46’ 00"
Weather: Light cloud cover, warm
We were fortunate that the sky was overcast this morning, as the day became quite warm and the light had an unusual luminescence that gave our photos a lovely brilliant color – and we did see some colourful and unusual sites!
Our arrival and docking was delayed by a half hour due to a late start the night before as we waited for our local pilot. However, we were on our way by 8:30 AM on four buses each heading to a slightly different destination.
I was on my way to Cape Coast Castle first, which I find particularly interesting not only for its rich and tragic history but for the spectacular view of the Atlantic and the little fishing village that clings to the shore and is only visible from the castle walls or from the shore behind the castle.
Upon arrival, we made our way into the long deep dungeon marked by a plaque placed on the outer wall a few years ago by President Obama and the First Lady in honor of the slaves who spent their last months here before making the unthinkable Middle Passage to the New World.
In the bottom dungeon, a local priest sitting atop an elevated platform, covered with animal skins, performed a small ceremony using alcohol as an offering to a small statue. Christian Walter (Rapa Nui), Historian then placed a wreath on behalf of the Silver Explorer, against a wall already lined with many such offerings. He said a few words in remembrance of those who had been taken into slavery mentioning that he himself lives on Easter Island, where the whole population had been enslaved and removed in the 19th century.
From there we split up into small groups and proceeded on our guided tours. I followed the tour for a while and then joined some of the other guests wandering around the castle on my own.
At the base of the main courtyard we opened a big black door and a surprising scene unfolded before us. It was like walking through time for we found ourselves in the midst of a small fishing village. Colorful boats with waving flags lined the beach. Men sat around mending and arranging giant blue and white string nets. Young boys played soccer on the sandy shore.
The museum at Cape Coast is also fascinating. Not only does it document the history of slavery, but it also displays some interesting pieces of Asante (Akan) cloth, pottery, and personal items of the Asante king and queen mother.
In a quick stop at the craft market I purchased a little braided leather strap strung with cut-off cowrie shells that had been used as amulets for divination sometime in the past.
We then made our way back to the West and to Elmina Castle walking through the bustling village to stop and look at the Asafo, or shrines to different Asante clan and warrior groups along the way.
Here we saw people doing ordinary things, such as pounding yam or cassava, preparing lunch, selling palm oil, and at the river by the castle, again repairing nets one the colourful boats which lined the muddy shore.
Two large pigs wallowed in the mud by the boats and children came out to greet us, asking for pictures and then laughing uproariously when they saw themselves on the camera screen.
In appearance, Elmina is more imposing than Cape Coast. Having taken the tour a few days earlier I ran right to the little book store where I purchased a rather rare book on Ghanaian history. A number of our guests had also discovered this interesting little nook and were stocking up on reading material.
From the Eastern upper wall of the castle there is a perfect view of the village and the little inlet used by the fishermen to deliver their catch to the market. As we made our way to the Coconut Grove Restaurant for lunch, we passed by that market which is lined along the way with ovens and screens where fish is smoked and salted. From here it is sent not only to other cities of Ghana but up the coast as far as Senegal.
At the Coconut Grove we were treated to a delicious buffet lunch and an energetic drum band. Acrobatic dancers performed various feats on the cement floor, which could not have been easy.
Along the seawall, several vendors had set up their wares where I purchased a red necklace of Cedi beads, and another made of antique glass which had been melted and reformed into small orange and red beads.
This delightful day ended with our Captain’s Welcome Cocktail Party, and a festive dinner where we made new friends and exchanged experiences with old friends from the previous voyage. This group makes up about 25% of our current guests.
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