Mr. Valenzuela
25Aug/11

Ghana – Kumasi

Kumasi is home to one of the largest markets in West Africa (claimed to be the largest, Kejetia Market is approximately 12 hectares in size) – and to be fair to Kumasi residents, the claim must be true because almost all of the city feels like one huge open air market! The roads are narrow and crowded with bumper-to-bumper traffic and on either side hawkers sell their wares from all corners of the country and beyond. One is constantly reminded of Kumasi’s central nature in the vibrant trade going on in Ghana. Neither can one forget for one moment about the history, tradition, and power of the Ashanti. At a time when European contact was increasing their contact with West Africans along the coast, the Ashanti were gaining power in the central region of Ghana, expanding their empire through conquest stretching even present-day Ghana’s borders to make their empires one of the largest and strongest in West Africa in the 18th and 19th centuries. In the process, they controlled the lucrative trade routes that went through Kumasi and ultimately to the coastal regions, which included the most lucrative trade of the time – slavery. Just as then, Kumasi remains important for its rich cultural and political history, and its centrality in the trade coming through the city from all corners of the country.

Today we decided to start our visit by walking to the National Cultural Center, a large expanse devoted to displaying Ashanti artisanal arts and culture. The center gives a nice overview of the different traditional Ashanti trades that are still practiced and maintained today. Inside the well-manicured grounds is the King Prempeh II Jubilee Museum created to display the many artifacts of the Asantaehene from 1931-1970. Our guide gave us an excellent tour of the small museum that covers most of the items used in royal life, also explaining the politics of the Ashanti. There are wonderful photographs, and the artifacts demonstrate the immense wealth of the Ashanti royal family, which would have rivaled any European royalty in the 19th century, to be sure.

Tomorrow we plan to tour the various artisanal craft villages that surround the Greater Kumasi area to see the traditional techniques of the wood carvers, sculptors, kente cloth weavers, and Adinkra (cloth with dyed and stamped patterns). I will update on how that visit goes! Stay updated right here!

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