Inside Accra: The Craze For Fanciful Coffins

Accra is a land of many things, ranging from incredible festivals, to a complex cosmopolitan lifestyle and wonderful people. New trends ranging from fashion to arts and even food spring up all the time in the city and within no time spread to the other parts of the city like wildfire.

What then is this new craze in town?

Well we can’t exactly call it a new craze as it has been in the system for a while now and had people engaged in it over the two decades. However walking through the streets of Accra one can’t help but notice it has taken centre stage in the city.

We are talking about the ever growing fanciful coffins which line up the streets of Accra these days. Decades ago, carpenters and coffin makers used to make simple and modest coffins for the departed souls to be buried in. This has however changed drastically over the course of the decades, with the art of coffin making becoming some sort of competition among carpenters.

Instead of the normal triangular-shaped coffins, carpenters now make incredible designer coffins, designed in many unique forms; some to looks like microphones, some in the form of vehicles and so forth depending on the occupation of the deceased who is going to be buried in the coffin.

A student may go for this
A student may go for this

For instance it is now a common sight to see a deceased driver being buried in a coffin designed in the form of a vehicle and a preacher being buried in a coffin designed to look like a bible.

Pilots and airline workers are not left out
Pilots and airline workers are not left out
Pilots and airline workers are not left out
Pilots and airline workers are not left out

Make no mistake these customized designer coffins come at a higher cost due to the tedious work and time that go into making them. In the early days when the craze for these coffins began, they were made upon the request of families, meaning carpenters did not make them until a request come in. This has however changed as demand for them continues to sour and families visit coffin shops to purchase while on display.

The trend is not only common to Accra these days with the craze crossing boundaries and seeing other regions getting caught in the craze. Today, you are most likely to see some of these fancy coffins when you attend funerals in other regions in Ghana.

Fisherman's coffin
Fisherman’s coffin
Fisherman's coffin
Fisherman’s coffin

From all indication, the new trend is not one that will go away anytime soon, and that is if it ever would. If you ever find yourself in Accra, take a tour of the city and visit some coffin shops and admire the beauty and artwork that goes into making these beautiful coffins tasked with taking the departed to their final destination.



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Madame Tussauds: Where all public figures are waiting to have photos with you

Growing up, we all had dreams of meeting our childhood celebrities and role models. But sometimes we grow up only to realise the cringy hand of death has pulled them to the other side of life, or sometimes we just are not in a position to meet such cult figures one on one because of distance, finance, field of work and so many hindering factors.

But all hope is not lost, literally. What if I tell you there is another way you could ‘meet’ these celebrities and role models you so much dream to meet one day? Well, in a wax form.

That’s exactly the kind of experience the old famous Madame Tussauds museum offers people from all over the world.

The Madame Tussauds Museum, first opened in London, was founded by famous French sculptor Marie Grosholtz (later adopted his husband’s surname, Tussaud) in the late part of the 1800s. Marie who was born in 1761 spent her educational life learning wax modeling from mentor and teacher Dr. Curtius. By the age of twenty, she had become well known for her skills and knowledge in the art of wax modelling and was even employed as a tutor to the French Royal family.

After the death of her mentor and tutor, Dr. Curtius in 1794, Marie inherited his amazing collection of Wax models of war heroes, revolutionaries, royals and political figures famous at the time and began to tour Europe with them, organizing public exhibitions with them. She later renamed her exhibition as Madame Tussauds.  Unable to return home to France due to the Napoleonic wars, she finally settled in London as a permanent resident around 1830, and established the first Madame Tussauds Museum in the city of London.

Branches of the wax museum can be found in major cities around the world including the Amsterdam in the Netherlands and Pulau Ujong in Singapore where I recently visited and toured their Madame Tussauds Museums.

World renowned personalities like US president Donald Trump, Queen of talkshow, Oprah Winfrey, Basketball legends, and every person famous on this planet has their wax models in Madame Tussauds museums around the world.

Madame Tussauds Museums are one of the world’s most visited tourism destinations with people from all over the world travelling to different European, American and Asian cities to visit the famous wax models museums and take pictures with that celebrity or role model they wished but never had the chance to see.

Currently, Madame Tussaud Museums can be found in North America, Asia and Europe only, with branches yet to be established in any African country.

Kundum Festival of the Ahanta and Nzema People (See awesome photos)

The Kundum Festival is regarded as the oldest documented festival in the history of the Gold Coast. The first official documentation of the festival written in the early part of the 17th century by one Dutch voyager by name Bossman, who landed on the coast of Ghana (then Gold Coast). Bossman however believed the festival had been in existence for over a hundred years, in the late part of the 16th century before he chanced upon it to write the first known official document detailing its celebration.

The Festival is celebrated by the people of Ahanta and Nzema in the Central region of Ghana. Unlike most Ghanaian festivals which have specific commencement date and schedules, the Kundum festival does not have such, instead the start of the festival is based on the day the fruit of a certain type of Palm tree become ripe.

According to the people of Ahanta, the festival was instituted after one hunter by name Akpoley went to the forest for hunting and chanced upon a group of dwarfs dancing in well uniformed circular pattern. It is believed that the hunter, Akpoley, hid and observed the dance of the dwarfs, after which he went back to the Ahanta Township and introduced the new found dance to his people. Over time, the dance became associated with expelling evil spirit from the towns and Villages of the Ahanta and Nzema people.

As years went by and modernity set in, the kundum festival underwent several changes and became a festival celebrated to thank God for the abundance of food as well as protection of the people, hence making Kundum both a religious and harvest festival.

The festival lasts for a period of eight days and involves activities like drumming and feasting, as well as sacrifice of animals by the elders of the people. The sacrifice usually involves slaughtering of a fowl in a stool room by a few selected designated people who are normally elders of the town.

Another fowl is also slaughtered in public, at a durbar as a sacrifice to the gods and ancestors of the town, after which the ritual dance discovered by Akpoley is performed by the dancers and women of the town. The rest of the days are spent preparing food, eating and dancing.

The Ahanta and Nzema area receive thousands of guests every year during the celebration of the week –long festival. Most of whom are invited guests and tourists who come from afar to observe the tradition and festival.

Endangered Primate Breeding Centre of Accra Zoo Receives Support

A wildlife and nature conservation non-governmental organisation (NGO), West Africa Primate Conservation Action (WAPCA), has  provided resources for the renovation and refurbishment of  the Endangered Primate Breeding Centre, an extension of the Accra Zoo.

The NGO which focuses on ensuring the survival of animals on the brink of extinction and helping renovate centres that house these animals made this known during a ceremony held in Accra.

The project manager of WAPCA, Mrs. Andrea Dempsey, said as part of the project, Ghana and the EU exchanged the rare Mangaebey and Roloway Geunon monkeys in a bid to promote interbreeding and maintain high genetic diversity, which increases the survival rate and growth of the monkeys.

The beneficiary institution of the project, the Accra Zoo, has been on the brink of collapse in recent years due to the lack of facilities and government support.

However manager of the Zoo, Mr. Tamanja, at the meeting with the NGO said the Accra Zoo found in the Achimota forest is still very much alive and receives huge patronage contrary to public perception that the Zoo is no longer functional.

Mr. Tamanja nevertheless admitted that animal reservation centres like the Accra Zoo needs help and urged more NGOs to emulate WAPCA in coming to the assistance of the Zoo and helping to refurbish the animal reserve centre.

WAPCA is an organisation formed by the Heidelberg Zoo in Germany and is funded by the membership of eleven European zoos

 

Bread of Life: How B. Foster came to redefine Koforidua

About two decades ago, an officer of the Ghana Air Force, Foster Koffi Berbiye, was transferred to the Eastern Regional capital, Koforidua, to continue his service. This transfer served as the genesis of B. Foster Bread, Ghana’s most famous bread brand, produced in Koforidua.

Foster Berbiye developed interest in baking bread whilst in Koforidua and started baking for friends in a small oven in his house. His friends who realized how good the bread tasted urged him to expand it and go into commercial production. Foster Berbiye heeded to this advice, and began the production of his bread in commercial quantity, under the commercial name B. Foster Bakeries.

Over the course of the decades, the B. Foster Bread and brand has grown to become the biggest bread manufacturing firm in the country, producing what is arguably the finest bread in the whole of Ghana, with a market share that is envied by rival bakery companies.

B. Foster’s growth has been immense and systematic, in its early years, the bread managed to capture the entire Eastern region market and became a household name in the entire region. Over the last few years however, the success of the bread has not only been limited to Koforidua and its environs, but in a greater part of the country, specifically the Southern part.

B. Foster Bakery PHOTO: Bismark Bliss
B. Foster Bakery PHOTO: Bismark Bliss

Anyone who has ever had a taste of the bread will agree that it has a taste unique and different from all other breads and weighs heavier than any other bread type in the market; a feature which has still not been replicated by any other bakery company.

The company now boasts of about 50 chefs, has over 105 locations throughout the southern part of Ghana, especially the Eastern Region, and has expanded to produce four different types of breads; butter, wheat, brown and sugar bread as well as other pastries.

Koforidua is known for many things, but B. Foster has come to be the biggest attraction of the famous old city over the years. And as an unwritten convention, for someone living in Koforidua, it is seen as a taboo to travel somewhere and not go with a B. Foster Bread. The mere mention of Koforidua is associated with the good old timeless bread.

Put in simply, the union between B. Foster and Koforidua is one that has defied time and age, a bond that continues to grow strong and symbolic, started over two decades ago on the foundation of passion.

Lake Volta: The Breathtaking site of the World’s Largest Man made reservoir

In 1961, Ghana’s first president Dr. Kwame Nkrumah embarked on an ambitious project to construct the world’s largest water reservoir. At the time, the project was deemed overly ambitious and near-impossible by many who thought Nkrumah was going beyond the limit in terms of what the country can achieve or do.

However by 1965, Dr. Nkrumah against all odds had completed the grandest artificial lake in living memory. This grand achievement did not come without sacrifices. About 78,000 people had to be relocated from their place of abode as land covering over 3000 square miles were flooded as part of the project.

The lake’s northern-most point can be found close to the town of Yapei and its southern point at Akosombo Dam, which is also responsible for the generation of electrical power for the country. (Over the course of the years, other notable dams such as Bui Dam have produced electricity for the country).

The Lake even though was primarily created to serve as a source of power generation, has grown over the decades to become one of the finest tourism attractions in Ghana, attracting thousands of visitors from both Ghana and outside every year.

At the centre of the tourism is Dodi Island, a small Island town created as a result of the lake construction. The Island lies some five kilometres off the shore of the Lake Volta. Tourists usually cruise to the small isolated town which has a population of 600 people (2012).

The River Volta, an outflow of the Volta Lake also serves as another important tourism centre through the Adomi Bridge which is constructed over the river to connect Eastern Region to the Volta Region at Kpong.

Adomi Bridge on River Volta
Adomi Bridge on River Volta

The Chale Wote Arts Festival; Ghana’s Biggest Celebration of Street Art

Ghana is renowned all over the globe for being a country with rich culture and great festivals. Festivals such as the Homowo of the Gas and the Aboakyere of the Winnebas are among some of the most popular and famous festivals in the sub region and Africa as a whole.

For decades, dating back to the 60s, foreigners from all walks of life, mostly America and Europe, visit Ghana each year with the hope of witnessing some of these gracious and culturally rich festivals.

While these cultural festivals put Ghana on the map and were annual events Ghanaians looked up to, Ghana had no festival to celebrate arts. Artistic works such as painting, portraits, graffiti murals, hand crafted ornaments, street dance and music, local fashion were hardly celebrated until 2011 when the now famous Chale Wote Street Art Festival was launched.

Chale Wote. Image by Ghanafuo.com
Chale Wote. Image by Ghanafuo.com

The festival launched in 2011 is aimed at bringing all artists together, from painters to filmmakers and everyone involved in the production of an artistic piece.

The first edition which was hosted by Accra dot ALT and the French Embassy in Ghana took place on the streets of Jamestown, Accra, and saw thousands of artistic young Ghanaians patronize the event to see some of the finest paintings in their lives.

Since then, eight successful editions have taken place with patronage increasing every year as the festival gets bigger and bigger. For this reason, the festival has been extended to a week-long event as opposed to the two-day schedule it had initially began with.

Fighting the plastic waste monster at Chale Wote 2018 (Twitter/P_DallaStella)
Fighting the plastic waste monster at Chale Wote 2018 (Twitter/P_DallaStella)

For the younger generation, the Chale Wote festival provides an opportunity for them to express their artistic talents in the form of drawings, photography, dancing, music, fashion and so on. While the older generation have an opportunity to witness the beauty of arts like never before.

The 2019 edition of the festival is scheduled to take place between August 22 and August 29, under the theme Ghana Year of Return: The Chale Wote Art Festival.

Tourist Sites in Ghana: Mole National Park

Located at Damongo, 146km south east of Tamale, in the Northern Region of Ghana, Mole National Park is a 12 hour journey by road from Accra.

One of the largest cities in the Savanna Region, Tamale has a couple of tourist attractions but the Mole National Park stands tall among the rest.

With the largest wildlife refuge, Mole National Park has been an attractive site for many in the country due to its unique species.

The current location of the Mole National Park was initially occupied by inhabitants of the Northern Region, however, they were relocated to pave way for the area to be used as a reserve.

Mole National Park
Mole National Park

The famous animals that can be found at the Mole National Park are the African bush elephants and antelopes. A study conducted on the Park indicates over 800 elephants can be found at the Park. In terms of tree species, Burkea Africana, Isoberlinia Doka, and Terminalia Macroptera are some of the species found in the forest.

While elephants and antelopes dominate the wildlife in the forest, animals such as buffalos and hippos can also be found in the forest even though very small in terms of population.

Monkeys have also made the Park their place of abode with the Olive baboons, black-and-white colobus monkeys, the green vervet, and patas monkeys all residing at the park.

Animals such as lions and hyenas used to be found in the park, however these animals have gone distinct in the park over the last decade raising concerns about the survival of the forest in the coming years.

Being one of the last remaining wildlife forests in Ghana, the mole park attracts tourists from all walks of life, both from Ghana and outside, every year with an annual visitor population running into almost a million people. For animal lovers, the Mole National Park is a must visit tourism site to experience the beauty of nature.

Best Places to Travel to For Ghanaian Gamblers

Various gambling activities are legal and fully regulated in Ghana according to the Gaming Act 721 that has been in force since 2006. Licensing for all sorts of gambling venues, including online sports betting sites, online casinos, and land-based gambling establishments, is handled by the Ghana Gaming Commission that has been active since 2006. In the last ten years, the gambling industry in Ghana has gone through many positive changes and has witnessed rapid growth since numerous foreign online casino operators emerged on the scene.

When compared to other countries on the African continent, Ghana is definitely one of the most liberal countries when it comes to its gambling laws and regulations alongside South Africa, Kenya, and Nigeria. While there are no exact numbers of Ghanaian gamblers, most resources suggest that over 45% of the entire adult population in the country engages in some forms of gambling activities regularly.

Ghana Gambling Scene

As estimated in 2020, Ghana is home to over 31 million people. The country has a large population of young people aged between nineteen and thirty-four, and these are individuals who are more familiar with online casinos and gambling activities in general. Unlike many other countries on the African continent that prohibit gambling, Ghana is very liberal. In Ghana, land-based casinos can operate legally for as long as they are licensed by the Ghana Gaming Commission.

As a result of lenient laws and regulations, the country is home to many land-based and online casinos that offer all sorts of online casino games, including table games, slots, poker, and much more. If you want to know more about online casinos serving Ghanaian players, visit this website. Here, you will find a detailed list of all the top online gambling sites in Ghana and other information regarding their gaming libraries, banking services, bonuses and promotions, and much more. Back to the gambling laws in Ghana, according to the Gaming Act 721 from 2006, gambling activities are divided into five different classes and these are:

  • Class One – Casinos
  • Class Two – Land-based and online sports betting sites
  • Class Three – Route operations
  • Class Four – Remote gaming and promotional gaming
  • Class Five – Interactive or mobile gaming

This means the Gaming Act 721 sets a very clear legal framework for all gambling operators in the country, and the legal framework in place details everything regarding licensing process, licensing conditions, submission requirements, and other compliance requirements. There are also data protection regulations in place in Ghana including the Data Protection Act 843 from 2012. The main regulatory body that enforces the Data Protection Act laws is the Data Protection Commission. The legal framework concerning the gambling scene in Ghana also enforces tax laws and regular payment controls alongside everything else.

Where to Travel in Ghana to Gamble?

The capital city of Ghana Accra has over six awesome land-based casinos and both foreigners and locals visit these gambling establishments. There are also four brick-and-mortar casinos situated in Kumasi and Tema, so visitors to Accra can never run out of amazing gambling opportunities. The most popular and most visited casinos in Accra are:

  • Piccadilly Casino
  • Millionaires Casino
  • Golden Dragon
  • La Palm Casino
  • Victoria Casino
  • Caesars Casino

Located at Dr Esther Ocloo St, Accra, Piccadilly Casino is one of the most popular gambling establishments in the capital city of Ghana. The casino has a rich selection of games, including table games, slots, and video poker, and the casino floor is open 24/7. There are several hotels located near the casino including Kempinski Hotel Gold Coast City with a spa center and outdoor pool and Kwarleyz Residence Accra situated close to the Airport area. Visitors to Piccadilly Casino can also stay in Accra City Hotel, located just two kilometers away from the casino.

Millionaires Casino is another ultimate gambling destination for all Ghanaians. Millionaires Casino is located at the iconic Golden Tulip hotel and it features everything gambling fans are looking for, including loads of classic table games, poker, and of course, slots. More specifically, Millionaires Casino has fifty-eight slot machines, while the main gaming floor is packed with eleven table games and three poker tables.

Situated in the Oxford Shopping Mall in the Osu area, Golden Dragon Casino is among the best Accra land-based casinos and one of the best destinations for Ghanaian gamblers. Even though its gaming floor is not as rich as you would expect, it still caters to fans of slot games, poker, and classic table games. There are fourteen gaming tables for Casino Hold’em, Caribbean Stud Poker, Three-Card Poker, Blackjack, and American Roulette. There are also over eighty-one slot machines and fourteen Touch Bet Roulette tables.

Ghanaian gamblers looking for an amazing gambling destination in their country should also check out the iconic La Palm Casino situated at the luxurious La Palm Royal Beach Hotel. The hotel opened in 2003 and since these times, thousands of Ghanaian gamblers have visited not only to enjoy premium casino gaming but also to enjoy other amenities the hotel has, including a fitness center, pool bars, and first-class restaurants – Ghanaian Village, Continental Restaurant, and Royal Dragon Chinese Restaurant.

Victoria Casino is another first-class gambling establishment in Accra with everything included for the best land-based casino experience. The casino is located at the luxurious Frankie’s Hotel. The main gaming floor is quite spectacular with over one thousand and three hundred slot machines alongside video poker, and of course, classic table games. Here, Ghanaian gamblers can also bet on sports, play lottery games, and enjoy fine dining at many restaurants. The casino works twenty-four hours every day and accepts all visitors over the age of eighteen.

Caesars Casino has been serving Ghanaian gamblers since 2014. One of the most renowned international brands is also one of the leaders in the gaming and hospitality industry in Ghana. Visitors to Caesars Casino can try their luck on a number of casino games including Punto Banco, Blackjack, Roulette, and many different poker games. Caesars Casino houses a VIP poker room with Omaha and Texas Hold’em cash games and super exciting tournaments.

Alongside numerous casino games, visitors can also enjoy all types of dishes and beverages. The gambling establishment is also known for offering lucrative bonuses and promotions that poker players can benefit from. There are also many luxurious, first-class land-based casinos outside of Accra, but these six venues mentioned here are the most glamourous gambling destinations in the country.

Ghana-South Africa visa-free agreement comes up again; SA High Commissioner says it takes effect by December 2021

The long-promised visa-free travel for Ghanaians to South Africa is up again for discussion in 2021.

South Africa High Commissioner to Ghana, Grace Jeanet Mason, has said on Asaase Radio that the visa-free agreement between Ghana and South Africa will become operational by December 2021.

The high commissioner, however, did not mention the stage the agreement has reached, and what has prevented its implementation since Ghanaians were promised in 2019. The high commissioner might have been forced to say this as a response to a question posed to her. Let us see what happens by December 2021.

South Africa Flag
South Africa Flag

Though South Africa is yet to grant holders of Ghanaian passport visa-free travel to the country, many online portals, including the website of the parliament of Ghana, have declared South Africa a visa-free country for holders of Ghanaian ordinary passports.

All the countries that were promised visa-free travel to South Africa in 2019 are all enjoying it with the exception of Ghana with no explanation given. South Africa might have changed their mind or Ghana mistakenly appeared on the list.