Our journey (5 am – 8:30 pm) to Cape Coast and the Central Region started and ended in the dark of Accra. But it was filled with brilliant color, African heritage and emotional impact.
After a delightful breakfast en route with Kweku and his friend from the University of Ghana, we arrived in Cape Coast and encountered a memorial celebration in honor of the Ghana’s late President John Atta Mills. The current President of Ghana, John Mahama, was in attendance for this 1 year memorial of Atta Mills' death. Security was tight, as various musicians performed and dignitaries gave their tributes.
President Atta Mills is beloved by Ghanaians, and many people honored his memory by wearing clothing emblazoned with his picture. (When I expressed my admiration for her dress, this lady offered to make me a similar version!)
After the service, we were moved by the emotional tour of the Cape Coast Castle, a World Heritage Site. The Castle was one of the largest slave-holding sites in the world during the colonial era. The men's dungeon could hold up to 1000 men for 3 months while they awaited their transport via a crowded ship to England or America. The conditions were horrendous. It is very sobering to see how humanity can treat one another. The loud clang of the closing “Door of No Return” brought the serious situation home.
Barak and Michele visited the sight in 2009, and our guide said that Michele’s ancestors probably passed through this castle.
After the tour, we headed to Victoria Park for Panafest – the Pan African Historical Theatre Festival, which celebrates African Heritage and History. It was a music-filled event with lots of drama. The reenactment of a march of slaves was gruesome.
But, the general mood of the Chiefs from the various tribes was joyous and jubilant. They were decked out in beautiful traditional outfits, complete with abundant gold jewelry and ornaments. The Chiefs visited one another, traveling from tent to tent under the shelter of an umbrella held by one of their tribe.
After the Festival, we traveled north for 12 kilometers to see the Elmina Castle – the oldest Castle along the coast, dating from 1482.
At the Elmina lagoon, the fishermen were headed out for their all-night journey. The sights and sounds were vibrant and lively.
We didn’t have enough time to do the Elmina Castle and town justice, so a return trip is in order!