Saturday, November 29, 2014

AFRICA: DRIVING BACK TO ACCRA, FLYING HOME, AND A FEW FINAL THOUGHTS

After our four days of exploring the slave forts and castles on Ghana's coast, we reluctantly made our way back to Accra. We had found Ghana to be an energetic, bustling, and very stimulating place, but Russ and Shelley needed to get back to missionary work, and after almost three weeks in Africa, we had to go home. 

Our drive back to the capital city was every bit as fun as the rest of our time in Ghana. There was always something to see. For example, over 71% of Ghana's citizens are Christians, but theirs is a much livelier form of Christianity than I'm used to, evidenced by the names of the businesses. Here is a sampling that I wrote down in my journal:
       God's Power Motors
       Blessed Home Catering
       The Battle is the Lord's Men & Women's Wear
       By Grace Furniture and Coffin Workshop
       Blessed School
       God First Enterprises Wood and Cement
       Father's Legacy International School
       Motorway Mothercare
       River of Peace Beauty Salon
Note the juxtaposition of this billboard that promises "Life Transformation and Miracle Services"
and the Chevy van that appears to be miraculously balancing on its rear wheels.
Can you see the "Jesus Palace"? Not exactly my idea of what a place with that name would look like.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

AFRICA: GHANA, FORT WILLIAM (AKA ANOMABU )

Our last stop in Ghana was a trip to Fort William, also known as Fort Anomabu because of the town in which it is located. We were well-seasoned slave-site sightseers by this time, having been to Fort Amsterdam, Cape Coast Castle, Fort St. Anthony, and Elmina Castle, but for some reason Anomabu was especially haunting. Again, we were the only tourists there for most of our visit, and the sheer isolation carried its own eerie feeling.

The building that sits on the shores Anomabu today was constructed by the British in 1760. It hasn't changed much, at least not in the past 140 years:
Anomabu in the 1870s. Photo from here.

Friday, November 21, 2014

AFRICA: LDS CHURCH IN GHANA, PART II

Just a few miles east of Cape Coast is a secluded beach with a view of the Atlantic Ocean stretching to the far horizon. A line of rocks a dozen yards from the shore makes a nice wave break.
This is where the Cannons and Mabeys brought Joseph Billy Johnson and 88 members of his congregation to be baptized on December 9, 1978.

Rocky mounds on the shoreline provided privacy for changing into and out of baptismal clothes:

The group named the place Baptism Beach.  They waded out into the water in the area in front of those rocks for the baptisms:

Ted and Janet wrote in their personal memoir:
The water was warm and pleasant, [but] it was not always as deep as we would have liked it, especially when we had tall men and big women whose feet and knees wanted to come out when their heads went in. The swelling waves added to the difficulty, until a team system was begun, with one of the two officiators baptizing while the other held down the feet of the person being baptized. Some of the young men helped the women and children in and out of the water. Women on the shore held the babies that had been wrapped on their mothers' backs. That night Janath wrote in her journal, "What a glorious, exhausting day!"

Newly baptized members were confirmed at the waters edge, and the ordinances continued past sunset and into the night. Ted and Janath wrote:
The moon came out, casting a pale light on the beach. Fireflies and glow-worms sparkled in the dusk . . . "It was a lovely night," wrote Ted in his journal, "a memorable day. The people sang together as they walked back to town."

Monday, November 17, 2014

AFRICA: LDS CHURCH IN GHANA, PART I

One of the things I really looked forward to on this trip was the opportunity to attend church in Ghana. As we drove along the Ghana coast, we noted LDS chapels in almost every town of any size, and if not a building, at least a sign for the church with an arrow pointing down a dirt road. The LDS Church presence is very strong on the coast, a miracle considering it's been there less than 40 years.
Graph from here
I've already discussed the fact that Bob's third-great-grandfather was a slave trader on these shores, and it was partly to better understand that part of Bob's ancestry that we went to West Africa, but there is another part of the Cannon history that drew us to Ghana. In 1978, Bob's uncle Ted Cannon (his dad's brother) and his wife Janath were called to serve an LDS mission in Ghana and Nigeria with another couple, Rendell and Rachel Mabey. The two senior couples were the first official LDS missionaries in West Africa, and what they found when they got there was astonishing, and I'll get to that story in a minute. First, a few words and pictures about our experience attending Sacrament Meeting in the Cape Coast 2nd Ward.

Unlike many of the other LDS buildings we had seen during our travels, this one wasn't the typical American-style architecture:
It looked more like a hotel or apartment building, and it's probably a lot more practical for Ghana than the more Westernized versions of an LDS chapel we had seen in other towns.There was a nice entry:
. . . with a nice barbed wire fence:
 . . . coupled with a welcoming sign. (However, I think you're only welcome if you come when the gate is open.)
 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

AFRICA: ELMINA CASTLE (AKA ST. GEORGE OF THE MINES)

The Elmina slave castle, also known as São Jorge da Mina or St. George of the Mines, has many claims to fame (or infamy, depending on how you look at it).
* Built in 1482 by the Portuguese to facilitate their gold trade, it was the first trading 
     post on the Gulf of Guinea.
* It is the oldest existing European building below the Sahara. 
* It was the largest of all the slave castles.
* It was one of the most important of all the slave trading sites.
* Christopher Columbus is said to have visited here as a mate on a ship bringing 
     building supplies in 1482.
* Supposedly Columbus returned in 1492 on his way to "discover the New World" and 
     spent three days at the castle.
* It was the first pre-fabricated building constructed south of the Sahara. All of the 
     materials were sent from Portugal to Elmina on board twelve ships, and many of the 
     parts were prefitted. 
* The Dutch captured it in 1637 and made it the capital of the Dutch Gold Coast (and 
     built Fort Coenraadsburg to protect it, as discussed in my last post).
* Approximately two million slaves went through Elmina during the 350 year period of 
     the slave trade.
* During the Dutch period, Elmina was the rival of nearby Cape Coast Castle, owned by 
     Britain.
* In 1871 the castle was ceded to the British, who held it until Ghana received their 
     independence from British colonialism in 1957.
* For a while it was the Ghana Police Recruits Training Center before it became a 
     museum.
* The German filmmaker Werner Herzog filmed a movie here in 1987 entitled Cobra 
     Verde. Based on a Bruce Chatwin book entitled The Viceroy of Ouidah, it is the story 
     of a fictional Brazilian slave trader.

As we approached the entrance, we stopped to look at this grand compass built by the Dutch in 1679, an ironic reminder that those brought here would not stay and that they were part of Western Europe's conquest of the seas. Some sources say that ships' captains would come here to reset their compasses using this as their gauge:
I don't know if that story is history or folklore or just pure tourist blather. Another source says it's a sundial.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

AFRICA: ELMINA, GHANA

We planned to spend a day at a castle and fort that were just a few miles from Coconut Grove Resort where we were staying, so we had a leisurely morning and then got on our way.  Just outside the resort we noticed this interesting hillside.  What was on it? A new kind of farming? An avant-garde art project? 
We decided it must be laundry day for what we guessed was a boarding school, and this was a Ghanaian clothes line:
The beautiful Elmina coastline:

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

AFRICA: GHANA, FORT ST. ANTHONY

Fort St. Anthony (Portuguese) was our third slave-related destination in Ghana after having visited Fort Amsterdam (Dutch) and Cape Coast Castle (British).  While in Ghana I was totally confused about the difference between forts and castles. Both were used to hold slaves until they were sold to slave traders, and they have similar facilities: a central courtyard, offices, living quarters, and slave dungeons. According to my husband, the difference between a slave fort and a slave castle is that a castle was an administrative seat for the country participating in the slave trade, and the forts were satellite facilities. Typically the castles, because they housed more bigwigs, were also larger and better equipped than the forts.
Built in 1515, Fort St. Anthony was the second fort built on the Gold Coast by the Portuguese, who were the first Europeans to get a foothold there. It was a satellite of Elmina Castle, which we visited the following day. In the beginning, Fort St. Anthony was used primarily for the gold trade and was said to have amassed more gold than every other fort on the Gold Coast put together. However, the Portuguese were pushed out of the area, and by the 1720s, this fort was owned by the Dutch, who would have been the ones conducting the slave trading here. In 1872, long after the slave trade was abolished, the Dutch turned this fort over to the British.

I took this photo from the fort, looking back across the muddy field that served as a rudimentary parking lot, towards the city of Axim:
We had driven across the bumpy surface, crisscrossed by channels of water created by rain, and parked next to the fort. Obviously, we were clueless about the big soccer match about to occur on this field--one complete with uniformed players, a rarity.
 I can imagine these boys discussing the predicament:
"What are we going to do about this car parked in the middle of our field?"
"Let's use it for goal practice."
"Nah, we'd better find out who it belongs to first."
"I'M not going to go tell someone to move his car. YOU do it."
"I'm not going to do it. You do it."
"Let's just use it as for goal practice."
"Extra point if you break a window."
"Sounds like a good idea to me."
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