First Week in-Country and Ghana’s History Lesson at Cape Coast

By: Charis Yung

It has been one week since my arrival in Ghana. From the sound of the rooster crowing in the morning and neighborhood children giggling happily outside, to the busy honking noises on the streets, they’re all becoming more familiar. Although May and June are part of the rainy season in Ghana, I’ve found the weather rather sunny with occasional rain showers. When the sun is out, the days are still hot, with temperatures reaching up to 40 degrees Celsius with humidity, but cool breezes flowing under the shade is helping me ease into the heat and welcoming me to learn more about this beautiful country.

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After the first three days in Accra and Takoradi, I traveled to Cape Coast to join in with five other volunteers who are staying in the Eastern region of Ghana. Apart from walking along the scenic beaches of the Atlantic Ocean along the coast, the visit to the Castle was a phenomenal experience. At first, I had been skeptical and somewhat frustrated by the mandatory guided tour that came with a hefty entrance fee for foreigners. However, a pre-tour walk around the museum completely changed my perspective and appreciation for Ghanaian history of the African slavery trade. Although I’d briefly learned about the African slavery trade and independence movements in school, it had been awhile since I last encountered the subject and had not known that the Castle would contain so much history within its walls. Exploring the museum, I was impressed by the descriptive timelines. They laid out the painful history behind European colonization and the role this particular Castle and the surrounding ports played in the imprisonment, containment, separation, death, and brutality of the people who were captured and sold to different continents.

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Ghana had been known as the “Gold Coast” during colonial times due to its richness in natural resources, particularly gold. This made it a coveted area for European powers to vie for, and its strategic geographic location along the Atlantic coast developed it into a prominent trade area. Out of the thirty castles located along the Atlantic coast, about twenty-seven castles are located in Ghana, which testify to its key position in the Triangular Trade between the Americas, Europe and Africa. Beyond the trade of goods, slavery trade was widespread and active until the eighteenth century.

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During the tour of the Cape Coast Castle, I had the opportunity to listen in on detailed descriptions on the parts of the castle. I was struck by the irony between the beauty of Cape Coast and the cruelty of the atrocities committed, which almost seemed more punishing. Hearing the side of the story from the victimized party was invaluable, told with much more pain and reverence than I had ever experienced. Back home, topics surrounding the African slavery trade, independence movements of African colonies, and African-American segregation had always been filtered through Western lenses, inevitably biased towards its authors. Thus, this visit to Cape Coast was one that has helped me to appreciate and understand the Ghana’s pride on being called the “Hope of Africa”, as symbolized by the black star on its national flag.

Charis is a Youth Ambassador with YCI currently working in Ghana. For more information on how you can get involved, visit http://www.yci.org/html/volunteer/globally/calendar.asp

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