As a therapeutic measure and means of preventative mental health, I purchased an acoustic guitar. It’s a beautiful number with a red sunburst finish. It’s a Givson. The Ghanaian equivalent to Gibson, I think. Chinese, perhaps? For now, like my favorite 1980’s pro wrestlers, from ‘Parts Unknown’.
I go shopping in the market, and get recognized. You’re the accountant! Yes, I am. Leaving work after helping to cover Eva’s story, I was asked to help out with a promo for a show produced at Skyy. It’s the Kwame and Kwame show, a comedic take on current events. I’m asked to run into the picture and say, “Boss, the painter’s here,” and “…not much, a few cedes”. A surreal end to an intense day, and now I’m a local celebrity.
Friday night after work I join Ben, who roped me into acting, and his friends for an evening of drinking and debates. We sit outside on an unlit patio, drinking Guinness from bottles and local gin. The Guinness seems to be more like malt liquor here. I drink it anyway, I’m half Irish I tell them.
The evening plays out like an assembly meeting, complete with a President, orders of business, rules and regulations, and lots of contestation. I’ve not heard so much laughter since I arrived in Ghana. They are very welcoming and I feel like one of the boys. They take the piss out of me, and I give it right back. I get a lift back early, but am inebriated enough that I lose my flashlight. The hangover the next day keeps me in bed until noon.
For the rest of the weekend, I’m off to Cape Coast with Doug and Mark. We stay in a beautiful, but not too fancy beach resort called Oasis. We sit by the ocean and have the biggest snapper I’ve ever seen. Cooked whole. I get the back end, and Doug battles with the head. You could lose a finger tangling with the giant, by the looks of the teeth on that thing. The fish is delish.
The next day I go to the castle, a fort, settlement and trading post owned by whichever marauding empire controlled the coast that day. The British claim it for the majority of the time. The major export that passed through the castle, sold alongside iron bars, foodstuff and gunpowder, was slaves.
We descend into the male slave dungeon, and I immediately feel sick to my stomach. Dark, dank, and depressing with high ceilings of crushing brick. I can imagine how upon entering this room all hope would be lost. In this small cavern about 150 men, chained to the walls, would live for up to 2 months waiting for the ship that would take them overseas. There is no sewage system. The floor would have been covered in hay, excrement, urine, and blood. Food was thrown down to them from a small window at ceiling level. It was literally survival of the fittest.
We enter a sealed cell where ‘problem’ slaves were kept. Chained and left without air, water or food until suffocation or dehydration killed them.
Over one million black Africans passed through these dungeons and the “Door of No Return” during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Sold by local Africans to the British and then across the globe. Most end up in America. History and home are taken from them. Forced into a life of servitude, if they survived.
My head is dizzy as we make the return journey home. We buy return tro-tro tickets only to be told we’ve been ripped off. We go back and get our money with the help of a tro-tro driver. We’re at the wrong station, but we soon find our way.
I buy a satchet of water from a young girl who’s selling. I ask her how much, and she replies 400. I reach in my pocket and pull out the smallest coin I have. It’s a new 10 Peswa coin, equivalent to 1000 of the old, or 10 cents in Canada. I let her keep the change. She pauses, looks at me and says, ‘you’re beautiful’. I scoff and say back that she’s the beautiful one.
After she leaves Doug tells me that I shouldn’t do that. I should only pay what the locals pay. It creates a double standard. I’m stunned, but take his point. I’m left wondering exactly what the standard should be. How can there be anything but a double standard? How much are we supposed to pay for a history of domination, torture, murder and slavery? Did I mention the other half of me is British?