Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Fragments of the Mind: Travel in Ghana

Image taken by myself for Barima Photography with a Sony Alpha A7ii with an Olympus Zuiko 50mm legacy lens

   Four years mark the time between my visits to Accra, capital city of Ghana, which, as a British-born and based Ghanaian, gave me much to engage with and celebrate today. The speed with which life in Accra has continued to adapt Westernisms gathered pace over the second tenure of the previous governing administration, thumbing its nose at the infamous, attendant "Dumsor" period: four years of electrical load shedding that plunged the country into continual blackouts and challenged the normally irrepressible megawatt smiles of its people. Thankfully, Dumsor's effects were much less felt when I visited Accra at the end of 2016. Indeed, the city bore the hallmarks of the Christmas seasons I remember from my lifelong family visits - glamour to make the West End of London resemble a Tuesday night in Stoke; moreish banquets of jollof rice, grilled meats and peppery stews; parties commencing at midnight and genuinely all-ages dancefloors at 2am in clubs, streets or at home

   Still, I found constant reminders of Accra's new face, with most billboards (Ghana's primary mode of advertising) bearing rendered announcements of town house and apartment developments stretching all around the metropolis. The previously completed offerings impress to this day - the multifunctional Vilaggio development, situated minutes from Kotoka Airport, affords the best view of Accra for miles, which I took in from its alluring Sky Bar. This aspect, along with its live music programme made me something of a regular during my stay  - despite the appetite for Afrobeat that informs many travellers, Accra's live musical lifeblood remains jazz, which Sky Bar, +233 and Table Bay Bar deliver to local acclaim. However, though heartened to see my family's homeland galvanised (literal prayers to improve road quality and safety over the years have begun to be answered, for one), I couldn't help but sense an incoming loss of Tropical Modernism, the European-led architecture that met Ghana's heat and dust with airy and rational spatial solutions, in favour of anonymous neo-classical or exuberantly adventurous glass-and-steel designs that veered from overly busy to curiously unformed and, on occasion, aesthetically bland

   With the end of the working week came the expected opportunities for getaways and I chose to spend time with my pampering relatives in Kumasi, Ghana's second city and home of the resplendent King of the Ashanti people, Otumfuo Osei-Tutu II, every inch a traditional tribal institution in a modern world. Whilst the general mood was reflective due to the recent passing of the King's mother, Nana Afia Kobi Serwaa Ampem II, the Queen Mother, Kumasi's homely, elegant atmosphere offered a calming antidote to Accra's mixture of business pace and unending traffic. So too did a later trip to Aburi, a mountainous region overlooking Accra, affording me another breathtaking view of a city that positively shines as the dusk sets in

Also captured for Barima Photography with a Sony Alpha A7ii with an SMC Takumar 28mm legacy lens