Until 1877, the administrative hub of the Gold Coast, now Ghana, was Oguaa, or as the visiting coloniser administrators named it, Cape Coast. Naturally, the town and its environs spawned “the first of things in the colonial hue”, as observed by tour guiding honcho and Ghana’s tourism Tsar, the inimitable Tata Nkunu Akyea. In a fresh presentation, Tata shines new perspectives and insights on the region that is fondly known as Ghana’s “tourism heartbeat” in an updated information database to guide the planning, organisation and presentation of the region’s tour experience. PaJohn Bentsifi Dadson discovered “deeper and clearer” views on the subject matter in a most eye-opening booklet documenting what is on offer in the region published with the express collaboration of the Ridge Royal Hotel in Oguaa, and agrees the new approach is a game changer for the region.
The Fante people who live along the coast of the region, were there several hundred years before the sea faring Europeans first arrived to trade with them in the 1400s. Welcomed by the indegenes, they built trading posts along the coast where they settled and traded extensively with the industrious Fantes who were avid buyers of imported cloth, gin and mirrors.In return, they offered gold, palm oil and other commodities.
It was much later that the Europeans turned to trading human cargo, and then moved to colonize the whole area of the Gold Coast.
Altogether, about 14 of the sixty odd castles, forts, lodges and redoubts built by the colonizer European powers at the height of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade along the coast of Ghana can be found in the Central Region, albeit some being in ruins. With two of them ‘must-visit’ attractions as they are designated UNESCO World Heritage Monuments, not so long ago, tourism in Ghana seemed to focus mostly on the region.
What’s more, with the opening of the well resourced Kakum National Park in 1992, there was a narrowing lens on these 2 attractions as being the main, if not the only attractions available in the region.
But, nothing could be further than the truth! In each of the 9 districts that make up the region – from Upper and Lower Denkyira, Assin to Asikuma-Odoben-Brakwa, and Ajumako-Anyan-Esiam, through Agona to Efutu-Ewutu-Senya, Gomoa and Mfantsipim, there’s an attraction that holds its own. From historical, enslaved-heritage monuments, eco/wildlife, religious, culture, beach to festivals, name it, there’s a bit of everything tourism can offer in the Central Region.
The cradle of formal education in Ghana, a tour of the region, especially in the Cape Coast area, will reveal to the visitor “interesting and intriguing stories about the establishment, development and growth of a full gamut and place of educational institutions in Ghana.” Most of Ghana’s top school’s, from Mfantsipim – established in 1876 – to Adisadel College, St. Augustine’s College, Wesley Girls High, Holy Child, as well as the University of Cape Coast, can all be found here.
A walking tour of Oguaa, presented by Tata Akyea and other local guides he has groomed highlights “elements of the townscape and the colonial influence of the English on the indigenous Oguaa settlement, with challenges of the evolving old colonial capital into a modern-day metropolis, examined. Old relics such as “London Bridge”, “Victoria Park”, “Tantri” and “Kotokuraba” are presented.”
Over two decades, Tata Nkunu put in a depth of work, researching, alongside the experiences acquired through his regular guiding jobs, and gained an intrinsic understanding and appreciation of the zone. These are the insights he crystalizes in the new approach he proposes as the standard for the region. The plan is to host an academy, a series of seminars and workshops where, especially, tour operators and aspiring tour guides, as well as existing ones can participate and benefit from. There is much expertise to be garnered from just listening to the man from conversation, let alone in an imparting scenario. They would be the richer for attending.
They will learn about the significance and history of the Asafo Flags, for instance. About how, lacking a standing army during the 17th century, the Fante organized military groups called ‘Asafo’ – derived from ‘sa’ meaning war and ‘fo’ meaning people. Usually composed of the male adults, it is headed by a chief (Supi) and they tend to undertake to protect the safety and well-being of the community.
During this colonization period the ‘Asafo’ began adopting European and British military practices such as naming and numbering their states and companies, and created flags to represent each group.
The earliest flags may have been painted or drawn on raffia cloth but, later on they were made of appliquéd trade cloth, and today, are works of art, curated and exhibited in museums and galleries abroad.
This year, Ghana’s 65th Independence Day Celebration is being marked in Cape Coast under the theme: “Working together; Bouncing Back Better. Dubbed; Cape Coast, 2022”. The Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Amor Mottley is expected to be the special guest of honour for the occasion.
As has become the practice lately, many tour operators and groups organise road trips to various destinations across the country on national holidays, especially during the month of March, when Ghana celebrates its birthday on the 6th.
When you find yourself in Oguaa, particularly with your family to visit and experience more of the Central Region, head to the Ridge Royal Hotel. There are a number of insightful and fun tours that you can participate in at this 4-star facility which packs many incentives for inhouse visitors, and you may reach Tata there if you want an authentic tourism immersion.