It has been a while since I have posted but let me update you on what has been occurring recently during my week 3 in Ghana. I finished my third week of classes which was great. Then on Friday, June 28 we left at 8 am for Kumasi, Ghana. It took us about 5 hours or so to get there because of dirt roads, unfinished highways, and traffic in Kumasi. Once we were there we went straight to the Ashanti King Palace Museum. Here we saw where several previous Ashanti Kings had lived. We saw the importance of the King to the people, how they have impacted their country, how traditions are still kept alive through this, as well as seeing photos and hearing of the Kings interacting with royalty from other countries. After this we later returned to our hotel. There we experienced power outages a few times. We had a catered dinner which was great and relaxed with one another.
Saturday we started off with breakfast at 7am then proceeded to several villages! The first village we came to is called Bonwire. Here we saw the locals making kente cloth! We learned that from a young age they teach boys around 5 or 7 to learn how to properly stretch the thread, maintain the machines, and use them properly. They slowly start to learn how to do this, almost like an apprentice. They will later start mastering traditional designs as well as very difficult ones. After that short presentation they showed people actually making kente cloth then allowed us to try. After having us try we then bargained for items. I was able to get a necklace and some cloth to take home. After this we then left the village and came to our second stop, Ntonso.
In Ntonso we met with a leader who showed us Adinkra. The first have to get wood from the Northern region of the country, they then boil it in a pot for 4 hours ,later mash it, boil it again for about 2 days or so then it will eventually turn from a deep red to jet black color. With this they keep it in a pot and select various stamps that have many meanings and either use kente cloth, or other fabrics to create a message or put meaning into this. We made a very large stole then they allowed for everyone to stamp two symbols. After we completed this we were allowed to make our own personal ones with the help of the craftsmen there. I choose several symbols that represent my religion, patience, love, getting back to my roots, and enduing hardships throughout life and maintaining strength and knowledge. After this it began to rain so we loaded the bus with our fabric stoles completed and started to the third village Ahwiaa.
In Ahwiaa, the main craft done here is woodcarving. The woodcarving looked amazing with such detail, some had colors or beading attached while others were stained or painted. Once again we practiced our bargained skills here which I love and made a few friends from those that gave us great deals. We only stayed here for a short period of time and then later loaded the bus going back to Kumasi.
In Kumasi we had a packed lunch on the bus and walked around a small market looking at art, dresses, drums, and other traditional items. We later walked to the Asafo Central Market (largest open market in West Africa). Here we witnessed it all! We saw cow pelvis, raw fish, raw chicken, pigs feet, shea butter, various smells, people baking, making clothes, selling home cleaners, women caring bricks on their heads. We literally saw so many various businesses and people selling items that it was hard to catch. On top of that the walkway was anywhere from three feet wide to as small as six inches with two lanes of people going opposite ways, also having to duck under women caring items on their heads. It took us about thirty minutes to get into the center of the market then we walked around it and back to our bus. It was an experience to say the least! Here they are famous for their fabric as well as soap and other goods.
On Sunday we had breakfast again then set out going to the Zoo in Kumasi where they had baboons, lions, turtles, snakes, eagles, a baby elephant, camels, donkeys and more. It was interesting because we were so close to the animals compared to zoo’s in the U.S. but the set up was very different from the U.S. as well. There were no restaurants, gift shops, tour guides or photo stations. After about 3 hours at the zoo we loaded it and started back to Accra, this ride took us about 4 or 5 hours to get back.
Currently, it is our week 4 of classes, other people in the USAC program are going to the Volta Region this coming weekend but I will be staying in Accra with other people in the program. Here we will be going to the market or finding other things to do. I plan on attending a traditional African church to see cultural differences on Sunday!