Ghana by Numbers

To most, Ghana is famous for one thing chocolate. But there’s more to this West African nation than Fairtrade cocoa. It has art, music and dance. Here’s a brief summary of the country in numbers…

£30 (price converted)
The starting price of paintings by a rising African artist at The Artists Alliance on La beach road. In its new outfit the gallery has been open for three years, boasting some of Ghana’s finest contemporary artists. Its collections include works by leading artist Kofi Agorsor, and Africa’s foremost contemporary artist El Anatsui. The gallery also has a good collection of West African antiquities for those seeking ancient traditional masks and fetishes. Considering how old some of these items are the price being asked is relatively low. Buyers can purchase a 200-year-old Yoruba Chieftain’s chair for around £240 (price converted). There is art everywhere in Ghana from beautifully painted murals on the walls of bars and restaurants to spray painted adverts promoting various graphic design exhibitions. Together with its neighbour Nigeria, Ghanaian contemporary art is increasingly sought after, selling for thousands at auctions in London and New York, which explains the number of art galleries opening up all across Accra. Apart from Artists Alliance, others worth checking out are The Loom in Samlotte House, Accra, and Herschel Gallery in East-Cantonment, Accra.

The average age ratio between Ghanaian female prostitutes in Accra to their white male clients. Ghana’s boom in tourism and eagerness to develop its resorts to attract western travellers has resulted in the double-edged sword, common for most tourist destinations. Sex tourism is becoming a huge business in Ghana and incredibly hard to turn a blind eye to. Young girls flock to Accra from the rural villages in order to sell small goods on Accra’s streets. But more than often they end up selling themselves. I am told white tourists usually prefer Ewe girls, as they are often lighter in complexion. “Sometimes these girls do not even get any money out of it, they do it in hope that he will help them get a US passport,” says one local.

Cedis. The entrance fee for La Pleasure Beach on Saturday night. There are two entrance gates; the main gate next to Labadi Beach Hotel is slightly pricier at 5 cedis. Although Thursday with an all night rave and pop-up nightclubs is officially party night at Accra’s favourite swimming beach, everyday is party time for both locals and tourists. There’s always plenty of food and drink to be bought at reasonable prices from the various bars dotted along the beach. From Ghanaian teens looking for a cheap night out to university students and family groups, La Beach is usually packed out from around 5pm with a good atmosphere for all. Even with the torrential downpour we witnessed, locals continued to dance to the pulsating music blasted from huge loudspeakers. What’s a little rain and a few mosquito bites when there is plenty of fried meat, jollof rice and Star beer.

The amount you may pay in charges and bribes at the immigration office when leaving the country. Ghanaian immigration officers are very corrupt, almost all on our flight were asked to pay a small amount due to unsubstantiated and ridiculously bureaucratic loopholes they’d found on tourists’ passports. Upon arriving back in Britain, UK immigration told most on the flight that none of the charges they’d been made to pay was legal. After they find something supposedly wrong with your passport their usual way of asking for money is “well its my birthday today I might be able to help you out if you have some of your British pounds”. Refuse and ask to speak to someone at the British Embassy.

Fruit seller at Liverpool Street market, Elmina

The number of stalls at Liverpool Street market, Elmina. From fridges, to watches, fresh fish, colourful traditional textiles, and homemade Shea butter soaps to bespoke fantasy coffins carved posuban-style, this market has it all. Even if you are not buying it’s worth strolling through this bustling fishing town simply to soak up the atmosphere. Both Cape Coast and Elmina are interesting towns; the people are very friendly, welcoming and chatty. Here you get to see the real Ghana and not the heavily Western influenced version of it in the capital Accra.

Historical slave forts worth a visit are Cape Coast Castle and Elmina Castle (Castle of St George), the latter being one of the largest slave-holding forts in West Africa. To see the grim and eerie dungeons the slaves were held in is truly horrific. I cannot imagine how hot, humid and filthy it must have been in those dungeons, sleeping and standing in their own excrements for up to three months at a time, only for further torture to await them when they sailed. The only positive is that Ghanaians now own their history; it was great to witness so many school children from across the country visiting and being taught why these large European buildings dominate their landscape.

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All photographs taken by myself unless stated otherwise