Day 5 – Plantains and Red Red and Kenkey — oh my!


i decide to journey to El Mina solo as i had a deep discussion with my son last nite about learning to understand the value of money and the woes of hustling ….he professes that he is truly in need of assistance to go to school to continue his studies and that i as his new american dad should help…i counter with asking him to map out very specifically his goals and plans to look for a job to assist his finances…i give him a couple of days to finish this and then i will consider his wish for me to help…he is not happy with my challenge, truly wants to go to El Mina and be my guide….i tell him i will be ‘boko’ and he needs to have his outline ready on our agreed date to meet…he obliges.


i set off to El Mina in the morning with my driver Amank- …taxis are easy to come by and you can negotiate with them to pay by the trip, hour or day…El Mina is about 30 minutes from Cape Coast and it costs me 40,000 cedis or 4 new ghanaian dollars ( about 5 us dollars) each way…he will take me back as well…


El Mina’s St George Castle seems larger than Cape Coast and has a moat surrounding the castle…in the distance i can see Fort Jago – walking distance away, but i decide to focus on the Castle….unlike Cape Coast i immediately decide to enter into the depths of the castle and can feel the ancestral sensations the moment i step inside the female dungeon…it is a feeling so palpable and strong …it’s like one can still smell the stench from the centuries of spilt blood and piss of those African females ( i say females and not womyn because young girls were there as well) that were held here…on the ground i see markings that seem to resemble some adinkra symbols or other symbolic language….along another corridor i go inside a dark cavernous area and am engulfed by bats….i am haunted by each of these spaces i move through…

by the time i have surveyed the castle i am so aware of the residual sensations each area has left on me and take a moment to be still and reflect…i head back to Cape Coast with a heaviness in my heart and longing for further reflection.


By now i have become immersed in the savory world of Ghanaian cuisine and order Redred with Plantains for lunch… Redred is a stew based dish with beans that is usually served with some sort of meat, but i am keen on maintaining a vegetarian based-diet and can no longer look at the beady eyes of the fish (tilapia) that they often serve…i can also choose fufu (ground casava), kenkey (ground and fired maize) or bankra/bankuy( cassava/maize mix) with a soup (what the fufu or kenkey would be dipped or sitting in) a or stew (more like a sauce or paste to accompany rice and meat)…almost everything i eat has palm oil and pepper in it and my stomach is beginning to challenge these local substances… i also learn about ‘gari’, kokoutey but am not able to figure out what they are exactly…

i continue the day preparing to go to Adisadel for Panafest performances of Hip-life and Reggae artists as well as learn more fanti — ‘hey’ in fanti means umm ‘hey’; ‘nde’ (today); ahbahzee (what?)…i am told that the hat i bought in new york was originally worn by soldiers in northern ghana or at least that of a soldier-like quality named nsodafo….on the radio i hear about Panafest and its origin 15 years ago and am reminded of my first memories of hearing about Panafest in America – while i was living in MN….when i picked up an Insight newspaper and read about the remains of slaves found in New York and Jamaica…how they were going to be brought back to Ghana and taken through the ‘Door of No Return’ at Cape Coast…i had a feeling then that i would be going to Ghana and having a chance myself to experience walking throught the infamous portal of so many Africans to America….

in the evening i do make it Adisadel Village (Park) which is a 10 minute walk from my hotel and enjoy the marketplace and music – i learn about hip-life artist Kaye and first hear the electric Coite-de-voire music that taunts me for my entire journey…. it is also at Adisadel that i notice the holding of hands of men, interlocking of ‘pinkies’ and other intimate ways men are physical with each other…with no regards to sexuality but simply friendship…it is truly a beautiful thing to witness brothers being close and not afraid to be connected…it was during this moment of witness that i meet G whom becomes a close friend for the next couple of days…he is volunteering for the Panafest and is more than glad to walk me around the marketplace, dialogue, escort me back to my hotel and hold hands….

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Author: Barak adé Soleil

creative practitioner, independent consultant and curator. making dance, performance art and theatre. working within community.

2 thoughts on “Day 5 – Plantains and Red Red and Kenkey — oh my!”

  1. its amazing to me how closely interconnected the senses touch and taste are once stepping ot of Ny and into a nonn european space. Also in India many men would hold hands and hug openly , however i did not see this so much with women and extremely rare was i to see man and woman holding hands…but everyone ate with their hands…there was such a connection to the body/to form in general that i apreciated or rather found a new appreciation for

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