11 THINGS I WILL MISS ABOUT GHANA
By Lisa Gibson
Here are just some of the things that I absolutely love about Ghana and will definitely miss one day when it’s time to say goodbye and close this chapter!
1- The descriptive and often hilarious signs on the side of the road advertising small businesses such as beauty salons, chop bars and hairdressing or barbering services are definitely one of my favourite things about Ghana.
One Love Hair Cuts and By His Grace Furniture Store could be considered quite typical, but you’ll also see more entertaining signs like Don’t Mind Your Wife Chop Bar, Original Stomach Has No Holiday Enterprises and Big Rash Electrical Works. The names are so imaginative and creative and always bring a smile to my face! I especially love the barbershop signs; complete with illustrations depicting the cuts on offer. They are usually accompanied by pictures of famous American rappers sporting various hairstyles. Speaking of funny and entertaining, how can you not love the stickers on the back windows of taxis and Trotros, displaying captions like All Eyes on Me, Why Not Today and Obama Welcome. Most of them are religious in nature, such as In God we Trust, Only Jah can Judge, also in the local Twi language; you’ll see lots of variations of the word Nyame, which translates to God, such as Nyame Ye Kese (God is mighty) and Nyame Adom (Gods Grace).
2- I love how proud Ghana is as a nation – and understandably so, as the rising black star of the continent and the fact that they were the first sub-Saharan African country to gain independence from European colonization.
You won’t get more than a few kilometres without spotting the red, yellow and green colours of the Ghanaian flag and its bold black star painted on street poles and walls. Ghana is definitely a very patriotic country and it’s lovely to see the national flag proudly displayed everywhere from hand-painted Lotto kiosks to murals and shop stands.
3- The beautiful bead culture of Ghana is both unique and interesting.
Beyond aesthetics, the meaning behind them, along with the messages they communicate, is of deep significance. Of course there is the decoration aspect, but beads in Ghana are also revered for the rich cultural heritage they symbolize and the important life phases they convey. The best way to see these beads on display is to attend one of the two important Krobo festivals, namely the annual Dipo puberty rites ceremony or the Millet festival. Festival participants and spectators alike proudly show off the amazing Krobo bead culture, for which the Krobo people are known, during these wonderful celebrations.
4- The curious and intriguing fantasy coffins of the Ga ethnic group are definitely something out of the ordinary!
Head along the coastal road towards Teshie and Nungua if you’d like to find out more about this fascinating tradition. Look out for rudimentary workshops on the side of the road with figurine caskets in various shapes and forms – including animals, vegetables and other everyday objects. These unique coffins are made by specialist carpenters, who learn the trade through apprenticeships. The coffins symbolize a deceased persons’ profession or passion in life, so for example, a farmer might eventually find himself inside of a giant sized cocoa pod and a fishermen might ask for a big orange fish.
5- The colourful fishing boats emblazoned with slogans such as “Disco boys” or more spiritual words of wisdom like “Gods time is the best” or the very apt “No food for lazy man” and “Sea never dry”.
Fishing remains one of the main livelihoods for communities living along the coastlines and rivers of Ghana. Fishermen make use of traditional dugout canoes which are fashioned out of a solid piece of wood, painted in bright colours, then decorated with a name, proverb or saying. From Elmina to James Town to the Volta River, these beautiful boats will always remain a sight I associate with Ghana.
6- Made-in-Ghana goodies like Shea butter, coconut oil and black soap, with their super nourishing and restorative properties, have become my beauty staples and I even like to travel with mini-sized versions whenever I go abroad so I can get my fix!
Of course, top of the list of beautiful things to come out of Ghana are the skilfully woven Bolga baskets of Bolgatanga. The talented weavers of this region use sundried elephant grass to produce the most gorgeous hand-woven baskets, available in an array of colours and designs, which can be used for storage, shopping or decoration.
7- The entire north of the country including the Upper East and West regions, are the most beautiful and authentic parts of Ghana in my opinion.
Magnificent baobabs dot the landscape as towns give way to villages. The more rural setting is accentuated by traditional round huts, grazing cattle and donkeys. I just love the ambience of this region of Ghana and that feeling of being out of the city. Everything just seems different here – from the lighting at dusk to the substantially lower levels of humidity.
8- The creative and colourful arrangements of the fruit displays at stalls on the side of the road are a sight to behold, with bright red tomatoes stacked into perfect pyramid shapes alongside yellow bananas and orange paw-paws.
All this fruit bounty clashes next to a sea of hot pink Tupperware containers and an array of luminous orange plastic buckets. Visiting one of the main markets is an even more vibrant experience – with red chilli peppers splayed on jute bags to dry under the hot sun and huge metal bowls brimming with spices, grains, beans and herbs, in neat little mounds. The vendor selling a rainbow assortment of neon coloured washcloths (referred to as Sapo, which are the nylon mesh nets used by locals for bathing) is also a visual that will always remind me of Ghana.
9- The vibrant wax fabrics and the famous Kente displayed everywhere from pavement stalls to shopping malls will forever be imprinted in my mind when I think of Ghana
The bright colours and bold prints make for some really awesome outfits, and driving around on a Sunday is when you’ll see everyone out in their best dress on their way back from church.
10- The warm and welcoming people of Ghana have definitely been a highlight for me.
Most often, it’s the people that actually make a place and this has certainly been the case for me personally here in Ghana. The local people are friendly and happy and the nation is known for its hospitality towards visitors. The warm West African greeting of “Akwaaba” which literally translates to “You’re welcome”, rolls off the tongue so naturally
11- The absolutely fascinating festivals that take place throughout the year in the various regions of Ghana have been one of my favourite things about living here.
It’s impossible to choose the best one I’ve attended, as each festival is so unique – every single one of them brings back terrific memories. It’s really something special feeling the energy of the crowds and spectators, seeing the bright colours everywhere, and hearing the sound of the drumming and singing. The overall experience is a feast for the senses and I highly recommend going to see at least one festival during your stay in Ghana!