Aboakyer Festival: Migration remembered through bushbuck hunting

The Aboakyer festival is celebrated by the people of Winneba in the Central region of Ghana. It is one of the most unique festivals in Africa, involving the hunting and capturing of a Bushbuck as part of the rituals of the festivals. This practice is embedded right in the name of the festival Aboakyer, which translates into ‘Hunting for animals’.

The festival regarded as one of the oldest in Ghana is celebrated to remember the Migration of the people of Winneba from Timbuktu in the North-Eastern part of Africa to their present home in Ghana.

According to ancient Winneba legend, the people were led by two brothers during their migration from far away Timkuktu to present day Ghana and were protected by a god known as Otu throughout their long journey. Upon arrival, a traditional priest who acted as a link between the god and the people of Winneba asked the god what the people could do to show appreciation. Otu is believed to have asked for an annual sacrifice of someone from the royal family.

This became the annual practice during the celebration and remembrance of the journey every year, but the people later got tired of sacrificing human lives as they believed they were gradually losing all members of the royal family. They then consulted the god to plead to him for a change in sacrifice. Their request was granted as the god asked them to present a live wildcat to the shrine as a sacrifice every year during the festival.

The hunting for wildcats also resulted in the loss of human lives as most of the hunters were killed by the hunted wildcats. The people were compelled to make a second appeal to the god, who this time around requested that they presented a matured Bushbuck as sacrifice.

Aboakyer Festival
Aboakyer Festival

The festival takes place in the month of May, the first Saturday of the month to be precise. During the festival, two warrior groups known locally as Asafo Group go out on a hunting expedition to catch a live Bushbuck. The hunting is done in a special game reserve, which has been set up solely for this purpose. The Asafo group that catches a Bushbuck first presents it to the chief and town people at a colourful durbar and is declared the winner. The animal is then slaughtered as a sacrifice to the god to show their appreciation for the protection it offered them centuries ago on their journey to Ghana.

This history had been passed on from one generation to another in the form of oral tradition largely due to the unavailability of written document at the time until the arrival of Europeans.

While the story has stood the test of time and grown to become one of the famous stories behind a festival in Ghana, its authenticity cannot be guaranteed due to the lack of scientific or archaeological evidence to back the story.

Tourist sites in the Central Region of Ghana: Komenda Cave

The history behind the formation of the Komenda Cave has many angles depending on who is telling you the story. According to some quarters, precisely some indigenes of Komenda, the caves were created as a result of torrential waves that blew through the rocks some centuries ago, creating a large hallow space and even depositing water into it as can be observed today when visited.   Some quarters also tell a different story as they believe the cave was created by a volcanic reaction which took place centuries ago before the art of writing and documentation reached the lands hence the unavailability of a written document to back their claim.

Of the two stories, it is hard to tell which is true, but whatever be the case, one thing is curtained; the Komenda Cave plays an important role in the storied history of the Komenda people and they treat the cave with utmost respect as they regard it as a sacred place that must not be taken for granted.

During the pre-colonial era and even way before the Europeans arrived on the shores of Ghana, it is believed that the ancient cave used to serve as a hideout for the people, especially women and children during tribal and ethnic wars which were very frequent at the time.

There is also a popular rumour that the ancient cave served as a hideout for members of the British Royal family during World War II. Although this wild claim cannot be proven, the people of Komenda hold on to it very much and are convinced it is true largely due to the fact that the area where the cave is situated had a British military base for training British soldiers and Ghanaian soldiers for the war.

Today the cave is a very popular attraction in the Central region and draws thousands of people to Komenda annually with the sole intent of visiting and touring the ancient cave.

Brenu Akyinim Beach and Resort: Quiet, clean beaches and incredible ocean-view rooms

Not everyone enjoys the usually crowded and noisy nature which characterizes most beaches throughout the country. There are some people who prefer private, quiet and incredibly clean beaches, devoid of excessive noise, music and partying but still offers wonderful and once in a lifetime experience and that is what the Brenu Akyinim Beach and Resort guarantees visitors who visit the beach.

The Brenu Akyinin Beach and Resort is located close to the Elmina township and some 20km from the popular Cape Coast castle, giving visitors an extra advantage of being able to pass through the castle during their stay at the resort.

Visiting guests should expect the very best of facilities such as a world-class standard restaurant that serves both local and foreign dishes, incredible ocean-view rooms for visitors who hope to spend the night at the resort, a minibar for those who may want to grab a drink or two, and most importantly an amazingly clean private beach, separated from the everyday noisy city life.

For tourists hoping to visit the resort and spend the night there, it is always advisable to make a room reservation online at least a day before visiting as you may end up encountering a situation where all the rooms may be booked or occupied upon reaching the resort.

Brenu Akyini Beach and Resort is also opened to children meaning couples can visit there with their young ones for family vacations.

Forts and Castles in Ghana: Cape Coast Castle

History of the Cape Coast Castle dates back to the 16th century when the Portuguese traders arrived on the shores of Ghana and established a trading post on the shores of Cape Coast in 1555. The purpose of the trading post was primarily to serve as a place of shelter and storage of goods such as gold and timber which the Portuguese traders exchanged with the indigenes in a batter trading system.

Little did anyone know the trading post would decades later become an infamous castle where indigenes were held captive and then shipped across the Atlantic to the Americas and Europe after being acquired from local slave merchants in the hinterland.

The shift from goods trading to human trading took off in roughly 1654 after the Swedes through a company known as the Swedish African Company had taken over the trading post and further developed it into a well-constructed timber fort with the intent of continuing the trading activities the Portuguese were into.

This however changed with the high demand for human labour in the Americas and parts of Europe, convincing the Swedish traders to abandon the commodity trading business and indulge in transporting slaves across the Atlantic to Europe and the Americas.

With the trade in human trafficking becoming booming and generating great and immeasurable wealth for the European traders, the Cape Coast shore became a battleground among the Europeans with each seeking to have control over the area and fort as the Cape Coast seashore was a major exit and entry point for the European traders.

The fort later fell into the control of the Dutch who also continued the trans-Atlantic slave trade for some time and further developed the fort to make it more resilient to attacks and large enough to keep the slaves captive until they were shipped.

The British were the last group of people to have had control of the fort before worldwide outcry and activism brought the horrendous practice of trans-Atlantic slave trade to an end. The British, however, did not leave after the practice ended, staying behind to colonize Ghana, making the British government the official owners of the Fort until 1957 when Ghana gained independence and the British government left the shores of the country, handing over the castle to Ghana in the process.

Inside the castle are pieces of evidence of the heinous crimes committed against the indigenous people, with objects like shackles used to chain slaves kept in the dungeons on display. Other notable things one should expect to see upon visiting the castle are the Door of No Return, sediments of decayed bones and flesh of slaves who died before shipment but their bodies were left to rot away by their slave masters.

The Cape Coast Castle is definitely a place every Ghanaian must visit at a point in their life, to learn about the suffering and tragedy our forefathers faced.

Top places to see in the Central Region of Ghana

The Central region has hospitable locals, rich culture, lovely food and beautiful sceneries you would fall in love with them.

Below are some of the top places to see in the Central Region of Ghana:

Kakum National Park

Established in 1931, the Kakum National Park is one of the Most Visited Parks in Ghana. It is located in the Central Region of Ghana and covers an area of about 375 square kilometres. This beautiful scenery is covered with tropical rainforest, serves as a home to wildlife and a wide variety of plant and animal species.

At the Kakum National Park, you will have the opportunity to experience the popular Canopy walkway, nature walk/ hiking, children’s park, animal viewing and the treehouse.

The canopy walkway is the main attraction and is suspended 30m above ground. It consists of a seven bridge.  Apart from the walkway, a guided hike is a good way to have a great view of the rainforest.

Elmina Castle

Elmina Castle is a top destination for tourists visiting the Central Region. Elmina Castle was built by the Portuguese in 1482 as Castelo de São Jorge da Mina (St. George of the Mine Castle), also known as Castelo da Mina.

It is located at Elmina, which is just 10km west of Cape Coast. According to historians, Elmina was the first point of contact between the Europeans and Ghanaians.

Tourists will have the opportunity to view former storehouses and slave dungeons, chapels and the cell where a King of the Asantes was imprisoned.

Komenda Cave

This cave is located in the Komenda Town on the ocean shore. Visitors can easily access this site by using stairs leading to the beach from Komenda College grounds.

The cave is made up a narrow underground tunnel, open at both ends with its floor covering an area of approximately 200sqm.

Locals and foreign tourists visit this cave with dedicated tour guides who have insight about the history of the cave.

The passage is narrowed by rock debris and has a low ceiling, limiting the usage of the floor space. The Komenda cave is one of the top destinations of tourists visiting the central region of Ghana.

Cape Coast Castle

The Cape Coast Castle is one of the most sought-after tourist sites in Ghana. UNESCO has designated it as a World Heritage Site. It is located in Cape Coast, the Capital city of the Central Region of Ghana. It holds a rich history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

The Cape Coast Castle was built by the Swedes in 1653 for trading purpose between the locals and the European traders. This site is noted for the ‘door of no return’ which for more than 100 years opened to the certainty of a short and brutal life for the millions of Africans that were captured off these shores and sold into slavery.

World dignitaries like Barack Obama visited the castle in July 2009 with his family during their presidential visit to Sub-Saharan Africa.

Brenu Akyinim Beach

The Brenu Akyinim beach is located between the villages of Ankwanda and Brenu Akyinim.

The beach has a 3-kilometre stretch of pristine palm-fringed, beach sand and clean water.

Its beautiful shores serve as a preferred site for beach spots, boat cruising, swimming, surfing, skiing and sunbathing. A nearby lagoon also serves as a home of different species of birds.

 

“A blot on human history” – Nancy Pelosi says after visiting the Assin Manso Slave Market

Speaker of the United States of America House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, has called the inhumane Trans-Atlantic slave trade a blot on the history of mankind and reminded all and sundry of the harm and pain the practice caused Africans, declaring that this should never happen again.

The leader of the US congress said this during a speech in Ghana’s Parliament house on Wednesday, 31st July 2019 after she had visited the Assin Manso slave market in the Central region of Ghana two days earlier.

Speaking in House, she revealed her visit to the famous slave market where slaves were openly sold to European traders as well as a visit to the iconic Cape Coast castle and Elmina Castle, all in the central region.

Assin Manso Slave Market
Assin Manso Slave Market

Nancy Pelosi expressed her satisfaction to have finally visited these historical sites to learn more about the infamous trade which in her own words described as a “blot on human history and must never be repeated.”

The Assin Manso slave market was a popular commercial grounds during the late 1800s and early 1900s when the slave trade was at its peak.  The market was situated directly on the route to the coast where the slaves were kept and shipped to Europe and the Americas hence became an important market for buying slaves.  Near the market is a small river nicknamed the Slave River where captured slaves had their baths before being sold off to the slave traders.

Nancy Pelosi visited these sites with the Black caucus in the US in the House, who had made the trip to Ghana with her.

Akwambo: The Path Clearing Festival

Akwambo Festival is celebrated by the inhabitants of the Agona area in central region of Ghana. The festival is held annually in the month of August and is the biggest annual event in the Gomoa and Agona districts.

The celebration of the festival is to remember and also celebrate the founding fathers and first settlers of the four indigenous Agona towns namely; Otabenadze, Gyinankoma, Atakwaa and Ekrawfo. It is believed that the founders of these four towns were the first inhabitants of the entire Agona lands.

The name of the festival, Akwambo, translates into ‘Path clearing’ in the Akan language hence some people occasionally refer to the festival as Path clearing festival.

Major activities that take place during the Akwambo festival include a grand durbar organized by all the participating towns. The durbars are led by the community chiefs and their council of elders. The durbar is usually marked with activities such as drumming, dancing, and speech presentations by political figures like the District Chief Executive (DCE) of the area as well as notable public figures that are indigenes.

Nyanyano Akwambo Festival is centuries old, and one of the most colourful cultural celebrations in the whole of the Gomoaland.
Nyanyano Akwambo Festival is centuries old, and one of the most colourful cultural celebrations in the whole of the Gomoaland.

Path clearing is the most important part of the festival. During this ritual, town people are expected to participate in clearing the roadside, cleaning of gutters and even weeding of bushy paths that lead to important places like streams and rivers. This according to the elders of the towns is done to honour the first settlers of the area and show them that they are taking good care of the land they left in their care. This part of the festival is held in high regards by all the participating communities and usually sees massive turnouts, with almost all town folks, whether old or young taking part in it.

Like most festivals in Ghana, during Akwambo, offerings are made to the ancestors and gods of the land whom they believe protect them from harm and evil. These offerings takes place in the form of pouring libation on the ground and praying to the ancestors to continue to offer them protection and good harvest as well as keep them from harm’s way. All these activities are led by the chiefs of the various towns, with help from their council of elders.

Hans Cottage Botel: A single place to have a Paga, Nzulezu, Lake Volta and Wildlife experiences

If you have just a day to to see Ghana, go to Hans Cottage Botel. This site gives visitors a feel of Paga crocodile Pond, Nzulezu Village, boat rides, bird watching, and more.

Tourist attractions in Ghana are mostly gifted by nature with very little to boast of in terms of man-made or artificially created tourism sites. One of such attraction in Ghana is the Hans Cottage, located in Cape Coast in the Central region of Ghana.

Hans Cottage boasts of several attractions and activities that tourists can partake in including crocodile watch, boat ride on a man-made pond, small rounded buildings constructed on the pond,  swimming pool and bird watching.

Boat riding at Hans Cottage Botel
Boat riding at Hans Cottage Botel

Tourists who visit the wonderful facility are led by Tour Guides to see some fascinating attractions such as the crocodiles living in the man-made pond. To see the crocodiles, pieces of bread are thrown into the pond to attract fishes to the surface of the water. The crocodiles who depend on these fishes for their meals hurry to the surface with the hope of catching them. Unlike Paga Crocodile Pond where the reptiles are friendly with humans, the crocodiles at Hans Cottage are not and shy away from humans most of the time. They are however not dangerous and do not attack tourists, but simply prefer to stay in the waters. You pose with the crocodile for a photo but per instructions of the Tour Guide.

The 'Nzulezu' experience at Hans Cottage Botel
The ‘Nzulezu’ experience at Hans Cottage Botel

Another wonderful attraction at Hans Cottage is the exciting boat ride on the lake. Visitors also have the option of taking a ride on the lake in a boat paddled by a tour guide. Whiles on the lake tourists get to see some of the crocodiles at closer view with their heads popping out of the water.

Friendly Crocodiles at Hans Cottage Hotel
Friendly Crocodiles at Hans Cottage Hotel
Friendly Crocodiles at Hans Cottage Hotel
Friendly Crocodiles at Hans Cottage Hotel

There is also the bird watch at Hans Cottage. Beside the lake, there are very short and small trees which serve as home to different bird species. These birds usually go out to look for food in the daytime and return to the trees in the evening. Birds who are laying eggs however stay behind and spend their days in their nests which are in the trees.

Birds watching at Hans Cottage Botel
Birds watching at Hans Cottage Botel

Hans Cottage also has a modern restaurant for visitors who may want to furnish their hunger as well as comfortable guest rooms for visitors who intend to spend the night at the facility.

The facility is located on the Cape Coast – Praso road and approximately 6.7 miles from the Cape Coast Castle.

Why Botel and not Hotel?

Hans Cottage Botel and Hans Cottage Hotel are two different facilities. The hotel is seen near the pool while the botel is the Nzulezu-like structures seen in the pond. A botel is a boat or ship serving as a hotel or hostel. In the case of Hans Cottage, the botel isn’t a boat nor ship. There might be a reason why the owners chose to name it botel.

Elmina: The storied past of the ancient town

Elmina, known by indigenes as Edina and found in the Central region of Ghana, near Cape Coast, is one of the most ancient towns in Ghana and among the first to be discovered by European sailors who arrived on the coast of Ghana in the early 16th century.

The Castilians and the Portuguese got involved in a brutal naval war near the village for the control of the Guinea Trade Route which was responsible for the supply of gold and slaves from the inner cities to the coast. Eventually, the Portuguese proved too strong for the Castilians who were defeated.

After defeating Castilla, the Catholic Monarchs of Portugal recognized the area around Elmina as an official territory of Portugal in 1479.

Gradually the small tinny village grew, with the local people engaging in trade with the Portuguese. As the town continued to grow and volume of trade between the two parties increased, the Portuguese decided to stamp their authority on Elmina by constructing a Fort on the Coast to ward off other European nations arriving on the coast.

What followed was the construction of the famous Portuguese castle Sao Jorge De Mina on the coast of Elmina by their commander Diogo De Azambuja in 1482. The Fort became the most important trading post in the entire Gold Coast, housing thousands of slaves, gold and other commodities meant for export to Lisbon. In the centuries that followed, Elmina came under Dutch rule and later British rule before the era of total colonisation began.

Today Elmina is one of the few towns in Ghana that still have remnants of the dreaded slave trade and colonisation. On the shore of the sea close to the town, one could see the storied Elmina Castle built by the Portuguese in their quest to control the area and keep slave captive.

Elmina, Ghana: Elmina Castle, an old Portuguese fortress - river side and fishing boats - S„o Jorge da Mina castle, Feitoria da Mina, Portuguese Gold Coast - Unesco world heritage site - photo by M.Torres
Elmina, Ghana: Elmina Castle, an old Portuguese fortress – river side and fishing boats – S„o Jorge da Mina castle, Feitoria da Mina, Portuguese Gold Coast – Unesco world heritage site – photo by M.Torres

While modernization has caught up with us, the town still keeps its ancient outlook with most of the houses in the town being constructed over hundreds of years ago. Something the people take pride in and say it reminds them of their ancient past.

Elmina is also one of the busiest fishing towns in Ghana, with a majority of the working population engaging in the trade either as fishermen or fish mongers and distributors.

Politically, the town is the administrative capital of the Komenda Edina Eguafo Abriem Municipal District and is headed by a District Chief Executive (DCE). A traditional chief is however responsible for the enforcement and maintenance of customary laws and traditions.

Elmina remains one of the most visited communities in Ghana by tourists, especially those coming from places like Europe and America and wish to see the last remains of Ghana’s slavery and colonial past.

Bakatue Festival of Elmina: Mark your calendar for July

The Bakatue festival is celebrated by the People of Elmina, found along the south coast of Ghana, just some few kilometres from the Central regional capital, Cape Coast.

The festival is touted to be one of the oldest festivals in Ghana with celebration going back as far as the 1800. This is evidenced in the fact that Governor Cornelis Nagtglass once cited the festival in an official report.

Originally, the festival was instituted by the Portuguese to celebrate the founding on Elmina during the early days of colonization. However the festival has over the century, evolved to become a traditional festival of the people and is traditionally celebrated in the first week of the month of July to mark the beginning of the fishing season in the Elmina Township. The festival is also celebrated to offer thanksgiving and appreciation to the gods for a good fishing year and pray for a better year in the coming fishing season.

Bakatue Festival of Elmina
Bakatue Festival of Elmina

During the first week of July when the festival commences, fishermen are barred from going to the sea to fish as a sign of paying homage to the sea gods. During the period, the paramount chief, his counselors, chiefs and Elmina people organize a procession where they offer food of mashed yam, egg and red oil to the river god of the town known as Nana Brenya.

The following day, a durbar is held by the chief, with members of the royal house, chief priest, invited guests and town people all in attendance. After the durbar where various dignitaries deliver speeches, the people proceed to the River Brenya where the Chief priest of the town casts a net into the river to signify the end of the fishing season as well as end to the ban on noise making and drumming. Fishes caught by the Chief Priest’s net are offered to the gods as thanksgiving and officially signify the end of the festival.

Bakatue Festival of Elmina
Bakatue Festival of Elmina

As with most festivals in Ghana, Bakatue attracts people from all walks of life especially Elmina people who live far away in other towns. The period serve as a time for them to come back home to visit their relatives and also take part in the festival