It is hard to describe the feelings that I had during my visit of Jamestown.
It is the oldest part of Accra, Ghana, and was founded by the Ga. They live right next to the beach and many of them are still fishermen. The strong smell of this place, a mix of burned trash, fish and human excrement, is hard to tolerate.
Jamestown is named after a famous slave owner. The Ga traded fish for gold, slaves and forest products with African tribes living in the forest belt.
In the 15th century, the Portuguese arrived in Jamestown. They traded European products for gold and slaves. Other Europeans from Denmark, the Netherlands and the UK followed them. They built fortified lodges in which they lived and kept their slaves under terrible conditions. Female slaves were forced to sleep with their European masters. The grey jetty, right next to the houses of the Ga, leads towards the sea. Thousands of slaves have crossed it during the time of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. For them, it was the point of no return.
However, Africans were not only slaves. The Ga did also cooperate with the European colonizers. This way, they could get guns and other precious products. The African tribes also fought against each other, and sided with different European groups. The Dutch West India Company was allowed to build the fort Crevecouer in 1649. It still exists today under the name Ussher Fort. You can access the building with a local guide.
It is hard to imagine to live in a place where you are constantly reminded of the horrors of the slave trade. However, Jamestown is also a place which goes through a transition. Today, there are many hostels for young travellers who turn the place into a tourist spot and the annual Chale Wote Street Art Festival attracts many famous artists. During my visit, the preparations for the festival took place.
The Ga still have a strong sense of community. They all know each other. No wonder, their survival depends on their good ties. Ghana is no welfare state. Most of them earn their living by selling products in the local marketplace. If they cannot afford a spot in the marketplace, they carry their products in baskets on their heads. Whenever a car stops, it does not take a long time until some street vendors approach you. They sell almost anything you can imagine.
Poverty is still widespread in West Africa. The lack of sanitiation systems, waste collection disposal and free high-quality education are only a few prevailing problems in Jamestown.
Given the lack of job opportunities, many young Ghanaians want to work abroad. Their aim is to achieve a better life for themselves and their families. Which young person does not strive for a better future?
– learn more about the history Jamestown here
– the Chale Wote Street Art Festival 2018