The Year of Return is about two things - connecting to the past and forging new bonds in the present. To help you know where to go and connect to our history in Ghana.
We've compiled a list of places that have a deep connection to the slave trade or are culturally significant to understanding society and tradition in Ghana. They should be a must do if you are looking to truly connect during the Year of Return.
Much of the narrative around African captives being sold into slavery centres around the slave castles. What many don’t know is that people marched, on foot, from the inland areas of the continent to the shores for hundreds if not thousands of miles.
The village of Assin Manso was an important stop on this journey, here captives were “rested” and washed in the Ndonko Nsuo river before making their final trek to Cape Coast or Elmina castles.
This place was the final link in the slave route from Northern Ghana and was the largest slave market in the region.
Address: Mankessim - Kumasi Rd, Assin Manso
Phone number: +233 54 684 2853
CAPE COAST + ELMINA CASTLES
Some of the most jarring and visually charged relics of the transatlantic slave trade are Cape Coast and Elmina Castles.
These massive structures, built by the British and Portuguese respectively, sit on the coastline of Ghana’s Central Region and are stark reminders of the history of this place.
Touring the castles makes the journey we’ve all read about very real and is a life-changing experience. Not only can you feel the energy of what happened here but you also can feel pride in having made it back to a place where at the time of the slave trade, it was thought that the Africans that left here would never return.
Visit Cape Coast and Elmina Castles with a descendant of people captured here and do a naming ceremony during your visit.
KWAME NKRUMAH MAUSOLEUM
Kwame Nkrumah is often called the father of Pan-Africanism, leading up to and during his time as the first President of Ghana, he embraced a doctrine that saw the diaspora as critical to the growth of his budding republic.
Educated at Lincoln University, an HBCU outside of Philadelphia where he also pledged Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., he built relationships with the leading thinkers of his time and hosted them in his newly birthed nation.
Maya Angelou, Muhammed Ali, and Stokely Carmichael (neé Kwame Ture) all visited Ghana during his time in office. The Nkrumah Mausoleum is a structure a powerful and beautiful tribute to the man who was the first to lead an African nation out of colonial rule.
Explore the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum with the lead curator of the museum and access portions closed to the public
Kumasi is the centre of government and traditional rule for the Asante (also known as Ashanti) people. Known for their Kente, resistance to colonial rule, adinkra symbols, and other storied traditions this powerful ethnic group is known around the world.
A visit to Kumasi is a complete immersion into a culture that is central to Ghana’s identity. From visiting Kumasi weavers to the Manhiya Palace to the serene waters of Lake Bosomtwe, the city is best visited during one of its festivals like the Akwasidae harvest celebration that happens every 6 weeks.
Kumasi is a 40-minute flight from Accra or a six-hour drive.
SIRIGU, BOLGATANGA, AND MOLE NATIONAL PARK
Craftsmanship and culture are best seen in rural areas where preservationists and creators practice age-old methods day in and day out.
Bolgatanga is the capital of the Upper East region of Ghana and is home to sweeping planes dotted with strong craft and artisan communities.
One community Sirigu is home to a women’s cooperative and pottery production hub that practices a vivid painting style that can be seen on the homes of the surrounding village. A visit here is like being transported to another time with a relevance much needed in the present.
Sirigu can be reached by a flight from Accra to Tamale and a 2-hour journey north from the airport
W.E.B. DU BOIS CENTER
W.E.B. Du Bois, the iconic Civil Rights pioneer, author, and scholar was invited to Ghana by Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president, to help him write the Encyclopedia Africana. Along with his wife, Dr Du Bois brought hundreds of books on his voyage to Ghana and renounced his U.S. citizenship.
This collection along with ceremonial robes from Harvard scrolls gifted to him by Mao Zedong, notebooks, and family photographs eventually became the W.E.B. Du Bois Memorial Center for Pan African Culture.
Visit the DuBois Center and learn about the special relationship he had with Ghana's First President
The oldest neighbourhood in Accra is also the seat of the Ga, a large ethnic group in Ghana who lives from the sea.
Jamestown is home to the iconic lighthouse, Usher Fort, and other relics of Britain's colonial rule in Ghana, it is also a neighbourhood in dire need of revitalization (though this is beginning to happen with some local champions paving the way).
You can experience Jamestown and learn more about Ga culture through unique experiences by Nii Marma, a member of this community for more than 30 years.
OSU CASTLE/FT CHRISTIANBORG
Most people associate slavery with the English, French, and Portuguese but there were more European powers involved in the trade of Africans than modern day affiliations let on.
Case in point, Osu Castle is also known as Fort Christianborg, was run by Denmark/Norway for nearly 200 years. Their primary economic benefit for running a castle in the heart of Accra - the slave trade.
The castle has gone through many restorations and is not nearly as organized for tourists as those you'll find in Cape Coast but you should still make a visit. A former Ghanaian President, Atta Mills, is buried here and more people are discovering its place in history.
Your best bet is to join photographer Steve Morris on a visit as you make through Osu's storied history with camera in tow.