I can’t think of anything that I love more about living abroad than getting to take part in cultural festivals. I love that Winneba, where I live in Ghana, has some wonderful annual festivals: Aboakyer and Fancy Dress. When I heard about what many people call Fire Festival in the North, I knew I had to go.
One thing I’ve heard many visitors say about their time in Ghana is, “It’s so colorful!” It seems like life here is extra vibrant, with many of the container stores being painted bright colors. However, I think the one part of daily life that is extra colorful are people’s custom-made clothes from African-print fabrics.
I’ve seen in some rankings and lists that Ghana is often among the most religious countries in the world. Living here, it’s not that difficult to believe. Many shop names mention God or Allah or reference a Bible passage. One of the first questions I get asked when I meet new people is often, “What religion are you?” And on Sunday mornings, life slows down considerably and the air is filled with the singing and preaching from the dozens of churches. Religious beliefs are very much a part of life here, and there’s an interesting break-down.
A few weeks ago, my friend and co-worker gave birth to her first child – a baby girl. This was pretty exciting, as it is culturally a good sign for her to have a baby so soon after her wedding, and I was excited because it meant I had a chance to take part in some of the cultural practices around welcoming a new baby. These traditions are commonly called naming ceremonies.
High Street is filled with rivers of people, shoulder to shoulder, flowing in competing directions. From Usher Fort at one end to the Jamestown Lighthouse at the other, the road has been blocked off and foot traffic has taken over, supplemented by street performers, muralists, artists, vendors and the ubiquitous women and children selling water from atop their heads. It’s Chale Wote, Accra’s annual street art festival breaking down the conceptions of West African art.
In Ghana, May 25th is a national holiday, with offices closed and a day off from school. It’s called African Unity Day and celebrates the founding of what is now known as the African Union.
If your only exposure to Africa is through the main news media, you probably imagine the continent as being populated with lots of charismatic megafauna (think elephants, giraffes and rhinos) and a few inspirational individuals who managed to climb out of the poverty and war that is rampant across the continent. But what if I told you that income inequality in Ghana was similar to that in the United States?
You’re in Ghana and you’re at the market. You’ve got all of your produce selected and the maame tells you, “15 cedi.” You open your wallet and pull out a 20 cedi note and see six faces looking back at you. In fact, all of the paper money in your wallet has these same six faces staring out at you. These men are collectively known as Ghana’s Big Six. But who were they and why are they important enough to be on all of the money?
One of the things that I really like about living in another country and culture is learning about the various tools each culture uses for communication. In Ghana, being direct with your words can interfere with the social harmony, as so communicating indirectly via proverbs is very common. Not only that, but there are a number of idioms that can be strategically used as well. Here are some of my favorites that I’ve heard*.
No matter what country you consider yourself from originally, moving to a new country comes with learning a whole new way of doing things. Here in Ghana, that can mean learning a whole new way of getting around town, getting around the country, getting new clothes and even how to eat.