Sunday, January 2, 2011

Church, Elmina, and African Drumming

Breakfast was by the beach the next morning. We certainly felt revived the morning, although some of us were so excited to find air conditioning in our rooms that we were actually cold during the night. Breakfast was a buffet of fresh fruit, oatmeal, omelettes, coffee, pastries, and the most unique: Hibiscus juice.

On our way to the slave castle in Elmina, we passed small hut villages, and our bus dodged people, as well as cat-sized goats that had ventured very close to the road. At one point we noticed a group of people gathered outside a church, all wearing elegantly tailored dresses and collared shirts, made from identical blue and yellow fabric. it turned out that the church, called the Elmina Bethel Methodist Church, was holding a special service to celebrate its 170th anniversary. We ventured inside as music played and the happy church-goers danced in their seats. We were led straight through the center isle and up the stairs leading to the balcony, where we sat next to what seemed to be the church choir (even though it seemed that everyone in the church was engaged and singing most of the time). Looking around us, it was a sea of blue and yellow. The pastor led the service in Fante, one of languages of the Akan people of Ghana. During the service, Danielle, Lisa, Elaine, and Cate went downstairs to the pulpit to take communion. On our way out of the church we all stood by the pulpit as the pastor publicly introduced our group and welcomed us with a prayer. "Menaace. Afie shiapa!" (Thank you. Happy new year!) Cate replied in Twi, another Akan language.

Our next stop was the immense Elmina Castle. the 529 year-old castle was built by the Portuguese, on the grounds that they wanted to protect trade between the Africans and the Portuguese, and as housing for their missionaries. Our tour guide, Philip, believes that it was actually the intention of the Portuguese all along to use the castle to hold captured Africans, before those who survived were exported on slave ships. The castle was subsequently taken over by the Dutch, who expanded the slave trade. Thus, the Transatlantic/Triangle slave trade began.
We toured the whole castle, and stood in the same humid rooms where thousands upon thousands of Africans sweltered, starved and died, suffering the most atrocious conditions imaginable in the process. Of the Sixty million Africans who were captured from their homes, at Elmina Castle "Forty million people lost their precious lives," Philip told us in a solemn voice. Like the Cape Coast Castle we visited yesterday, this castle also had a "Door of No Return." There we stood, observing a moment of silence in the darkness of the hot, decrepit cell. Sometimes it's the silence that reaches you in a way that words can't reach.

We had delicious "lunch" (it was 4pm) at a local restaurant, and then a couple of us stood on the porch outside watching the villagers walk by with baskets on their heads, and talking with some adorable children. Inside the restaurant, the rest of the group bought beaded jewelry from Suzie, a 13-year-old girl who was selling it to put herself through school.

Arriving back at the beach resort at 6, we had an hour to relax before we joined up by the pool to discuss our expectations and fears about this trip. Cate surprised us by inviting a drumming/dancing troupe of about eight guys to perform for us. There is nothing like seeing traditional African drumming IN Africa. Drumming, dancing, acrobatics, breakdancing, and even fire-eating. At the end of their show they pulled us all into a big circle and taught us a few moves. We were shaking and grooving like pros...almost!

The evening ended with us all hanging out by the beach until members of our group trickled off to bed. Tomorrow will be another new day of our Ghanaian adventure.

1 comment:

  1. What an incredible adventure! Thanks for the descriptive present and historical update. Drumming in Africa! Wow!! Thanks for keeping us informed! Penny Linden