Part 6: Ancestral Revival
Ish 1 is one of two off white buildings that sit on the edge of the University of Ghana Legon campus. Four levels high, it’s inconveniences could be easily overshadowed by its charm. Surrounded by a bit of bush and upperclassmen dorms, it is a unique melting pot of different energies. My first home in Ghana, Ish 1, was an experience within itself. One that I probably wouldn’t relive again, but value nonetheless.
A ten minute walk from the arts department, me and my classmates would wake up when the roosters called, and make our way past the night market, a big tree with an eye in the center, and a canopy of trees to get to our destination. Perhaps one of the most beautiful campuses I have had the pleasure of visiting, Legon campus is sprawled on an expansive piece of land and acts as a home for both teachers and students. Offering both undergrad, Masters, and Doctorates in a slew of different fields, it’s programs are excellent but its student facilities can use a bit of work. Sometimes the water wasn’t running, and we had to carry buckets down to the courtyard, fill them up, and then walk them back up to the showers just to wash up. Water shortage also made the bathrooms trifling asf sometimes too….if you know what I mean.
Whatever the case may be, I loved my time at Ish 1, more so I loved the beautiful people I met there. Students from fellow HBCU’s, homies from Florida and Cali, the brothas and sistas from Nigeria. We would kick it in Ish, throughout campus and in the city too. I remember the first time I partook of Ghana herb. I had become mad tight with these Nigerian brothas, who invited me to chief with them across from our hostel.
Standing in a circle in the middle of a field, we passed the spliff, and talked about random things… More like, they talked and I tried to understand them. Speaking thick pijin tinged with Ghana and Naija English, I was transfixed by their finesse of language, and the beauty of our location. Staring up at the stars like Kunta Kinte in Roots, I remember thinking to myself, “Girl you did it….you’re smoking green in GHANA…in Africa….give thanks” and give thanks I did, when the Jay got passed to me.
With my study abroad program consisting of a class or two daily (dependent on field trips), we would listen to the riveting tales of Ghana, and the people who settled there from ancient times to the present. These classes would be directly related to the field trips we took throughout the country. Field trips to Kumasi, to go to the war museum and to visit the place that the great uniter of the Akan, Komfo Anokye buried his sword. We spent one night at the Kwame Nkrumah polytechnic institute, and were able to enjoy the beautiful flowers and trees that line the streets of Kumasi.
Attempting to give us a well rounded experience, the professor not only taught us history, but also gave his uniquely in depth opinion on Ghana and it’s development since independence. Soft hearted and kind faced, this great professor helped to build my foundation of understanding. This would prove valuable each time I returned to Ghana in the years to come.
When we weren’t in the classroom, we were dancing, learning a number of traditional dances like Kpanlogo, Adowa, and fume fume. We twisted and turned our bodies to the polyrhythms in the classroom, on the beach, in the soil. The dance teacher being the sister of my professor and a well known arts educator on campus, she was slightly satiric in nature but over time, easily loved. We called her Auntie, but in the years to come she would be one of the only people to truly mother me when my mother was so far away. She and my Auntie Ama who worked in the Night Market. Both of them beautiful dark women with shining eyes and a good word, both of them were my guides and protectors during my times of need.
In addition to being educated, I also started to build a better understanding of my spirituality as it related to my ancestors. I bathed in the Atlantic ocean as much as possible, and I washed my feet at the rivers in the Volta region.
Each time I visited a body of water, I dipped my beads in it and gave thanks to the energies that surrounded and protected me. I prayed for my family, and the continuous prosperity of our bloodlines. Considering that my journey was rooted in my desire to make a pilgrimage to my ancestral home, I had come to the conclusion that visiting the Slave dungeons would be both a revelation and a release.
Arriving at Cape Coast castle after a long morning in the rainforest, we slowly clambered out of the van and stood in front of the ominously evil structure. Rastas and children were vending jewelry and other goods in front, a restaurant was next door, and all I could think about was the atrocities that have taken place there. I knew that many ancestors of mine had passed through this European structure, when and who, I did not know. I knew that I felt a feminine energy on my maternal side pulling me, but other than that, I was there for all of them.
I believed then and I still believe today that I was sent to release them from a torment that had kept portions of their energy in limbo, the ones who ended up in America and the ones who weren’t able to survive the dungeons.In the years that would follow, I would visit both dungeons twice, but on this particular occasion, we only visited Cape Coast dungeons.
Kept in the same condition it was in during slavery, Cape Coast was originally built by the Swedes, but later taken over by other Europeans for the purpose of transporting enslaved Africans. Resembling the castles we see in Disney movies, Cape Coast has the whole nine, rusty cannons equipped with Balls, a spacious court, turrets and a bunch of other shit that gives hints to the past. Perhaps the hardest thing to stomach at the dungeons is the rooms in which they kept African people’s that they had stolen from Ghana and its surrounding countries.
They kept the men separate from the women, and had a room specifically for the defiant ones. They would leave them in there to die when they became more problematic than beneficial. While the female dungeons were on the court floor so that the white men could have easy access to them, the male dungeons were at the end of a sort of tunnel that led to a lower level.
Separated into two or three rooms, they kept African men in these tiny spaces with no real air ventilation except for a tiny window near the top of the ceiling. The original “door of no return” was also in the male dungeons, but today it is sealed up, and a priest sits on a shrine in front of it.
Overwhelmed, I cried when I stepped into this space. Recognizing my need for release, the priest let me sit down to collect myself. Taking a number of short breaths, I let the pain out, and continued the tour. Heavy hearted, energetically drained, I had to keep what little food I had eaten down when I found out that a church was built right over the male dungeons. In what world! Europeans had used different excerpts from the Bible, and an image of white Jesus to break down the spirit of their victims. How could people be so cruel, so selfish?
Clothes filthy from the day’s activities, I looked tiredly out of the van window and sighed to myself. Never in my life had I felt my ancestors pain so much. I knew that I had initiated a journey, and that there was no going back. I wasn’t clear as to how this journey would pan out, but I knew that without a doubt, I was moving.
Coconut Trees rustled in the darkness, and a legion of bullfrogs conducted their own baritone revival….deep in the Ghanaian night.
- Atumpan- The thing
- Vybz Kartel-Summertime
- Flavour-Nwa Baby
- Davido-Dami Duro