‘How does a person effectively describe an entire country in a single article?’ Those were exactly my thoughts when I was assigned this task of describing my homeland. Nevertheless, I jumped at the opportunity because if here’s one thing I love as much as learning about new cultures, it’s sharing my own. In this article I hope not to merely “tell” you about Ghana but to truly immerse your senses, ALL five senses, in some of things you would find if you took a trip to Ghana.
Ghana’s been blessed with many natural attractions including our evergreen forested hills, breathtaking mountains and waterfalls and beautiful beaches which unfortunately pollution is threatening to destroy. Some of these sights are located quite a distance from the capital; however they are a must-see for tourists and natives alike.
You may also find our fashion rather interesting. The intricate African print designs we use to make fabric are sure to catch your eye. Of course many designs have been adopted from other African countries but one which is proudly Ghanaian, originating specifically form the Ashanti region is called kente cloth. It is made solely by hand and because of its rich texture it is worn mostly on special occasions.
The scenery of Accra has changed drastically over the past two decades. We’ve developed more modern infrastructure and skyscrapers (perhaps not as tall as the Empire State Building but skyscrapers all the same). Market places are a hive of activity, people haggling over prices, vendors shouting to draw people’s attention to their stall and if you look close enough, you’ll notice that some of these vendors are younger than us and should be in school getting an education but unfortunately can’t afford it.
Moving out of the bustling city scene, towards rural inland Ghana, further than the paved roads go, you’ll discover people still living in mud huts, fetching water from wells or rivers miles away from their homes, without immediate access to electricity or modern health care and living off produce from their farms. Believe it or not, you may even spot groups of school children being taught under the shade of trees because they don’t have a school building.
Imagine watching a movie on mute. Doesn’t sound too good does it? (get it?). Ghana is brought to life by the plethora of languages spoken by the natives and the lively music. Over 250 different languages are spoken there so one can’t deny that they play a huge role in the culture in Ghana. You may ask, why so many languages? The answer is simply that aside from English, which is the official language in Ghana, every ethnic group has its own native dialect and most of the time subdivisions of these groups tend to speak their own unique variation of the main language.
I pride myself with being able to speak a number of the major languages, such as Twi and Ga among others. If you’re interested in learning a phrase or two in any of these languages, feel free to stop me when you spot me anywhere on campus.
I would also like to touch on our music. Although in recent times Ghanaian music has been evolving and branching out from the traditional songs, it has always managed to bring Ghanaians together through up-beat rhythms that are sure to get you dancing, which is another thing Ghanaians typically love to do. We also tend to inject foreign music as well, be it western or from other African countries, most frequently Nigeria.
Traditional Ghanaian food can be summed up in a single word, ‘spicy’. We have a variety of tasty food, ranging from jollof rice to fufu (pounded plantain and cassava) and palm nut soup, to kenkey (made from corn dough) and even locally made drinks, for example bisap. The recurring trend is that they’re all really spicy, but spicy in only the best way. It’s also worth noting that our food may be somewhat a nightmare to those who want to pursue low carb diets.
In my opinion, there’s something distinctly different about Ghanaian air. In areas outside the densely population capital, the air is dominated by an earthy smell as a result of the abundant plant life. Near the coastal areas (Ghana boarders the Gulf of Guinea) the air is saturated with the crisp salty scent of the sea. Unfortunately, in the slum areas within the city, one may get a whiff of the foul scent from the outdated open drainage systems. These open gutters pose more threatening issues such as flooding when there is heavy rainfall. These floods have cost a lot of lives. In light of this, the foul odor emanating from the gutters seems like a rather trivial issue.
For the past few years Ghana was in a bleak state. Our currency was depreciating at alarming rates, there were a lot of social issues that the government failed to tackle and there was substantial evidence indicating that corruption existed within the government. People were disgruntled about the inefficiency of the government and in the last election (Dec. 2016) voted out the old government.
This brings me to the fifth and final sense, touch and since I can’t describe “touch” per say I’ll describe the ambiance and the general feeling of the population. With a new president whom the people trust, there is an almost palpable sense of hope that our situation will improve and that this government will be more efficient than the last.
I chose to write this article from an objective standpoint. I told you both the good and bad because the purpose of this article isn’t to convince you to make Ghana, a relatively small country in West Africa, your next vacation destination but its purpose is to shed some light on the reality in Ghana and to share information that you wouldn’t find on Ghana’s wiki page.