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I’m always proud to say that I’m Ghanaian, well Ghanaian-American. If you can believe it there was a time when I didn’t feel that way. Up to age 13, I wasn’t fed healthy images of Africa from the media (surprise, surprise) and that one day in black history month each year when we talked about Africans being brought to America? Why would anyone want to go there and re-experience that?  I was young, naive and scared when my parents told me we were going to Ghana for my first trip in 2003. Good thing they eased my worries (although arguably it was years of eating the food and the hearing the familiarity of their language that may have done the trick) because the country has become home.

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sankofaFirst things first, I had to learn a thing or two about my family’s history (and about pounding fufu). My aunt sat me down and told me the entire story, tracing it all the way to Adam & Eve. What a humbling experience. To this day, I feel a sense of self that I truly believe would have been lost without this narrative. While in my grandma’s village of Kwamang, we visited a cave where my warrior ancestors hid and regrouped during war against a neighboring tribe.

vowtoupholdWe then got into the heavy material visiting the Cape Coast and Elmina Castles, trading posts and later the most important stops on the Atlantic Slave Trade route. The images are bright but after hearing the story of each location the only thing I remember distinctly is the smell of blood in the female dungeon. There’s no way you will not be moved experiencing these sites and I always urge my fellow African-Americans to take a trip there – it’s where most of the black slave population were transported stolen from. A plaque in the Elmina Castle reads “In Everlasting Memory of the anguish of our ancestors. May those who died rest in peace. May those who return find their roots. May humanity never again perpetrate such injustice against humanity. We, the living vow to uphold this.” We also visited the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park which was uplifting, reading about his legacy in uniting all of Africa as the first president of Ghana.

photographsThen we soaked in the lush nature making stops at Kintampo Falls, Kakum National Park and Mole National Park. Mole was my first place seeing elephants up close (and confirming that Africans don’t ride them) and being scared out of my mind at how fearlessly they walked up to our lodging.

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respecttothekingAnd then we dove head first into the culture. When in Kumasi one must visit the Kumasi Central Market. It’s massive and has more fabric, beads and stock fish than you can handle. When in Accra one must venture to Ada Foah, a coastal city that is along the Volta River. It’s perfect for lazy time by the beach, tasting fresh coconuts and mingling (playing soccer) with locals. One unexpected moment during my 2013 visit was our trip to Manhyia Palace. Not just for the museum (though I’ve visited many times) but for the king, Asantehene Otumfuo Nana Osei Tutu II. Yes, we greeted the king of Ghana! My uncle is a chief and close adviser to the king and hooked us up with access to the Akwasidae Festival where delegates and nationals come to present song and dance and greet the king. What an honor it was to be in front of such African royalty! It was another defining moment in my life, participating in the traditions of my people, the Ashanti people.

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Asantehene Otumfuo Nana Osei Tutu II

Summer 2010/2013

Where should I go next? Perhaps Cape Town.

© Copyright 2016 Akua Sencherey. All rights reserved.

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