Kumasi (koo-mah-see) is the second largest city in Ghana, clocking in at 1,517,000 people, and is also home to the second largest market in all of Africa, with the first being in Ethiopia. It’s north of Accra, in the middle of the country in an area called the “Ashanti”(ah-sahn-tee) region. We pushed off of Accra soil at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, bracing ourselves for the five-hour long tro-tro ride ahead.
Our first day was pretty typical and touristy. We toured“Manhyaia,” the old palace of the king, which has now been converted into museum, and the Centre for National Culture. We also took a speed-walking tour through the seemingly endless market. And I saw some of the most random and repulsive objects. Intestines. Pigs’ feet. Dried chameleons (used for medicinal purposes and black magic). And other random parts of animals I would really rather not see sliced up and propped on a metal dish. But hey, it’s all a part of the experience, right? But can I just say that raw meat baking in the Africa humidity has the most nauseating stench…ever.
After a glorious night spent in air-conditioning after a (Are you ready for this?) HOT shower (my first in Ghana), we were off for another culture-packed day. First on our list: a village nestled in Ashanti-region back roads, where locals make Kente cloth. Kente cloth is a bright, hand-woven fabric created on a ginormous loom. We pulled up to the village, the orange dirt picking up under the tires and coating everything in a layer of dust. Stepping into the single-room building, my eyes marveled at the beauty. Burnt reds. Deep purples. Kelly greens and ocean blues. The sun, just rising, managed to peak in spaces between the fabrics. It flooded the room in warm, kaleidoscopic light.
I could have spent hundreds of cedis in that place. But being a student and volunteer on a budget, I managed to escape just six cedis absent, which was over half of my ten-cedi budget for the day.
Next we drove to another local spot- the Adinkra village.
Adinkra is a stamping technique, started by the Ashanti people, used to communicate with their ancestors beyond the grave. “Adi” means to depart and “nkra” means a message. The people wear stamped cloth on the day of a funeral to share a message with their loved ones. There are many symbols that all have deep meanings to these people. Some of my favorites are the “sankofa,” which means “back to your roots,” and that when you make a mistake, you can always go back and learn from what happened. Also the “aya,” which is the name of our school here in Accra (The Aya Centre). It means defiance. The aya is actually a hardy plant that can grow in nearly every soil and climate condition.
We learned how they make the ink, which comes from the bark of a tree in Northern Ghana. They carry truck-loads of it down every week and use it for the cloth stamping. After soaking it, they place it into a wooden bowl and mash it up. They put it in a pot with water, cook it, and wah lah! Ink. It’s really neat to me because it’s completely natural and a really great method for Ghanaians to make money. It’s unique to the region and doesn’t kill any trees (they just peel the bark off), so it’s a sustainable source of income.
And I got proposed to by Frank. A bead seller in one of the villages we toured through. That’s always a good time.