Day 3 – ‘the hands are not equal’

today i plan to visit the panafest office so that i can register and check in on the panafest activities coming up…my ‘son’ tells me that the office has moved to heritage house in the center of town…

i begin the day with breakfast at the hotel and take in the banter between the staff waiters and the current guests….having met the waiters last nite (“V” and “J”) i chat with them about the way the guests treat them…when one of these guests (whom i believe are not Ghanaian but definitely West African) wants something they ‘hiss’ or snap intently towards the staff…
i find this very disrespectful but find out that this way is often used to get people, taxis’ attention.

i refuse to engage in this’ hissing- snapping’ and rather just say their names…in the midst of this breakfast event ‘we shall overcome’ is sung by these same guests…i wonder if the staff should be singing it…

this interaction between the West African guests (all of whom are male) and the staff (also alll male) intrigues me as i muse over:

–African slavery historically and African entitlement currently; if Europeans enslaved based on economics and fear, then can it be thought that Africans would enslave and have enslaved based on status and power? this way in which i witnessed this interaction stimulated such a hypothesis….i also imagine that there were Africans whom might have been driven by greed as well, but i doubt that fear played into their connection to enslavement of other Africans..who knows?

by midday i am heading to the panafest office at heritage house and am ‘schooled’ by an elder who lives at the site…i accidently come into his ‘living’ area and assuming i knew better (ie thinks i am Ghanaian) he speaks harshly to me about not knocking and respecting someone’s place…i apologize and say that i thought this was an office space and pull out my ‘i am American’ card on him (i would use this a couple more times during my journey)….he looks at me intently and says ‘ no excuses!’ and directs me to the office in the basement…there i meet some of the staff and finally register and get some insight into the locals and line-up for the Panafestival.

i meet up with the visual artist from the previous day and have a deep discussion about his lack of knowledge surrounding his artistry…” do art that speaks from your heart and not just sells coins to feed’ is my response to him when i look at what he tells me is his art….i find out that it is not that easy to dismiss the fact that selling for food is a necessity and speaking from your heart is always connected to artistry…however this art that he was selling for food was not his own! i think about the European/American art dealers and challenge my own assumption that Africans have too much integrity to be selling SOMEBODY ELSE’s art OR they SHOULD be sharing ONLY what comes from their experience…well whom am i to suppose this art that this brother is selling is NOT connected to his own personal experience?

anyway…

by evening i have been introduced to hip-life music which is a rich fusion of high-life music of ghana with hip-hop culture…producing a mix that honors the old school with the new school…though i don’t think my Ghanaian brothers whom i meet would feel that high life is old by any means….here the contemporary and the traditional or past are married in such a way that it is not thought of as old or new.

Oasis Beach Resort
i end the day at a spot called Oasis – actually not too far from the Cape Coast Castle and the spot where i met the ‘conscious’ brothers the other day….my son takes me there and meets up with a friend of his who tries to hit me up to ‘sponsor’ his football team…i suspect this is a hustle but stay kool with him….later we check out a dance and music performance of a local group and i have my first interaction with Ghanaian police!

it seems that the owner of Oasis (Turkish gentleman who acts like he was living in South African apartheid) calls the police on my son’s friend….there apparently had been a mugging at this spot a week ago and so the locals at the spot are suspected….i am standing next to my ‘son’ and his friend and the police reach for me and the others…i pull out the ‘i am AMERICAN’ card again and am immediately released…they reach for my son whom i state is with me ….the owner then goes for the friend and says ‘ he needs to go’ …the police proceed to pull, then push, then shove, show off their rifles and ‘escort’ the friend off the premises…


i am reminded of a saying that i heard earlier that day ….’the hands are not equal’…interestingly enough from the “visual artist” G …one hand may offer you LESS than the other hand…one brother may give you a GOOD DEAL and another may try to WRING YOU DRY…
but i discovered another understanding by the end of the nite…here in Ghana brothers are dealt ‘not-so-equal-hands’ similar to brothers in America… a thought but not a conclusion…

D UNDERBELLY Home page

Advertisements

Day 2 – Arrival in Cape Coast

after a rather relaxed nite i awaken to the sound of the ‘cock’ crowing…

by 7am i am off to Cape Coast – the base of my stay for this journey. i am taken there by Ben who is a relaxed and quiet “brother” ( the term brother became more expansive as i continued on this journey)


Cape Coast is located in the central region of Ghana – about two and 1/2 hours from Accra and houses the infamous Cape Coast Castle along with many forts…


along the way i also see Ft Amsterdam which originally was a Dutch castle taken over by the British… Ben asks if i wish to stop to visit, but i am compelled to continue on…noting the Ft’s existence and my interest in visiting it on my way back to Accra…

i arrive at the Cape Coast hotel which is an impressive ‘castle’-like complex on many acres of land…

by the afternoon i am on my way into ‘town’ to find an internet cafe and make some calls…


however by the end of my walk i find no internet cafe; instead i have made it to the beach ajoinining the Cape Coast Castle – a two hour leisurely walk that i had no intention of originally embarking on…

at the beach i am greeted by a couple of conscious brothers who flatter me with compliments on my style and chat with me about their particular artistry/crafts…one is a painter, the other a wood carver and then later l meet a visual artist…they dialogue with me about pan-africanism, garvey, rastafarians and, of course, about black americans returning HOME TO GHANA…

i take down their information and continue on to the castle…


i am in awe of its presence and i simply immerse myself in its surroundings, spatial configurations and general sensations…i decide not to go inside but take in its outer walls and the ocean

i cannot speak on any of this at the moment as the magnitude of this historical figure renders me speechless…


i later head to the shops located in the castle foreground and meet my first attached ‘hustler’ who wishes me to become my ‘son’…i use the term hustler to refer to the many young and old men around the castle and throughout my stay who seek out americans, tourists and anyone whom they think will be able to help them out in some way…

i will refer to this first hustler as ‘son’…and he attaches himself to me throughout the rest of the day and into the evening, as i proceed to be charmed by him and his story…i take him to lunch and dinner….

later reflections:
(on the first interaction with the brothers at the beach)
i am impressed with their ‘merchandise’ and find out later that perhaps 1 or none of them actually made the items they were wishing to sell…in fact the ‘visual’ artist asks to meet me at my hotel the next day to show me more of his paintings — only to find out he does not have a clue as to holding a brush to canvas…

D UNDERBELLY Home page

Day 1 In Ghana – AKWAABA

12 hours later, after much delay, pomp and circumstance, i arrive to thousands of black people staring at me….

could not locate my contact by sign, face or smile, so i was provided with a phone and an escort/transport to my lodging by one of the all too happy to help me attendees…on the way to the lodging, he introduced me to his family, where he lives, his good friends, trustworthy bank…always with a big smile …

he removed his uniform top to reveal a t-shirt that said CHICAGO – my hometown and he became my brother in spirit and friendship…named emmanuel meaning godsend…he told me of his mother’s funeral happening in a couple of days and his father’s death two years ago while handing me a photo and obituary…

at the end of this exchange, with all friendly measures, he asks for $180, 000 cedis…i find out two hours later that that was more than TWICE what he should have charged!

i gave him a I LOVE NY T -SHIRT and he gave me a very important introductory lesson in GHANAIN FRIENDSHIP…

D UNDERBELLY Home Page

D UNDERBELLY has entered Ghana!

Background info on Ghana:  

  • First sub-Saharan country in colonial Africa to gain its independence
  • Democracy with full and fair elections
  • 2007 is Ghana’s Golden Jubilee celebration of fifty years of independence
  • Well endowed with natural resources, Ghana has twice the per capita output of the poorer countries in West Africa 
  • The domestic economy revolves around subsistence agriculture, which accounts for 50% of GDP and employs 85% of the work force, mainly small landholders

Image from a typical EWE village. 

 

 The courtyard of a coastal Ghana holding prison or “slave castle”, built in 1480 for Africans awaiting transport to the Americas.

All slaves brought to a castle were put into a windowless dungeon down a hole underground.  The only way in or out was through this trap door and hole.   The pit is pitch dark when the trap door is closed.

D UNDERBELLY home page