Ghana Pilgrimage Summer '23
Visiting Africa has always been of interest to me, and I’d say it was definitely on my bucket list. This summer I had the privilege to embark upon an epic journey to the motherland, Accra, Ghana. Outside of my travels to Israel many years ago, my pilgrimage to Accra was one of my most memorable travel experiences to date.
Last year, when I turned 50, I became determined to live this chapter of my life in full swing! I made a pact with myself that whatever I dream of doing should become my reality. At first thought, the idea of planning a trip to Africa seemed overwhelming and expensive. The flight time and logistics of it all were also a deterrent. With those obstacles in my head, the thought was pushed to the side of my mind. It wasn’t until I decided to do some light travel research for a totally different destination, Greece, that my spouse and I decided it made more sense to follow our bliss and go to Africa. And just like that, three months later, we had our Yellow Fever vaccines completed and travel visas in hand.
We caught an evening flight the night of August 24th and arrived in Accra, Ghana the following afternoon. We hadn’t debarked the plane for more than five minutes when a young Ghanaian officer approached us requesting to manage our bags. The officer claimed he was trying to provide us with unsolicited security. He would not leave our side, which prompted me to text my colleague, who is from Ghana. My colleague explained that the officer was doing nothing other than trying to hustle us for a tip. I never went for the bait! Instead, the entire time was spent with me questioning him and expressing my displeasure with his tactics. Instead of us getting hustled, his plan backfired thanks to my nonstop questions. Later I realized, I must have thrown him off his game with my rapid-fire questions. I think I exhausted him! This unfortunately would not be the last time someone in Ghana would try to hustle us for money. However, we were prepared now, and we understood the game, so the gig was up!
Once we cleared customs, we were en route to The Kempinski Gold Coast Hotel. Our driver Moses had been waiting for us at Arrivals the entire time, so we lost no time there. The Kempinski Hotel is one of Accra’s most prestigious hotels. Before entering the hotel, guests must go through a body scanner and have their bags checked. We got through security successfully, then entered the most grand and opulent space. The interior has a marbled floor, dark wood paneling, the highest ceilings, a marble wrapped staircase in the distance to the right, oversized mirrored walls and a swanky check-in area. The lobby is filled with jewel-toned velvet club chairs and ottomans; it's a sea of luxuriousness. At check-in we decided to upgrade our room, but upon entering the guest room we felt that the upgraded room was less than impressive. It was small, dark and somewhat outdated. I was a little taken aback, but didn’t want to immediately start complaining, I was still processing the odd experience at the airport. We both agreed to just settle in and make moves the following day. We sat poolside and enjoyed cocktails and light bites. It was just the recovery I needed.
Our first adventure in Ghana was a city tour, where we visited the most amazing markets. I saw the most beautiful fabrics and prints; I felt like a kid in a candy store! I encountered so many design influences, I can’t wait to see what my imagination does with so many inspiring visuals. I was overwhelmed by the beautiful people and colors that decorated the streets. Women walked by balancing their belongings on the top of their heads with ease and grace. I wondered to myself at what age they had perfected this skill! It was a masterful image of Black excellence in the rawest, most uninhibited way.
The following days were led by more touring, but it was the Assin Manso river site and slave dungeons along the Cape Coast that captivated my soul. The day before the ceremony at the Slave River I was told it was tradition to wear a white dress. I’d packed off-white but didn’t want to risk getting it wet by the elements of the experience. Our driver Hector The Selector didn’t hesitate to take me to a local market, where I was able to purchase a basic white sheath in time for the ceremony. It was shapeless and nothing I’d typically wear, but I made it work.
As soon as we arrived at the Slave River, I was greeted by the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. Her complexion was the deepest shade of chocolate. It was as smooth as silk and shined in person like brand new money. She was the definition of Essence, her smile bright as the sun. Essence (that’s what I named her) came right to me, simultaneously beckoning me to dance with her and the live drummers beating in the background. I didn’t care that I was offbeat, I was in the moment and enjoyed every second! The Last Bath, located roughly 2.5 hours away from our hotel, was an extremely touching experience. The Last Bath is where slaves were traded; once sold they took their last bath at this location. After the last bath, slaves were then taken to slave dungeons where they waited to be transported by ship to the New World.
Before the ceremony we had leis placed around our necks made of a plant that resembles a vine called Cerasee, a powerful cleansing herb. It was also used as a drink and could be prepared as a tea back in the day.
At the end of our ceremony our feet were washed and dried from a bin by a native. I was totally honored and slightly uncomfortable with this, but I didn’t want to be rude 💕. Between the naming ceremony, intimate prayer, toast to my amazingly resilient ancestors and visit to the slave castles, I’m left humbled and appreciative. Our guide/driver delivered more than expected.
My name and that of any woman born on Monday is Adwoa. “Adwoa is a woman with character! A very powerful personality, who has little reason to envy the opposite sex. Like them, she is ambitious, courageous, impatient and even a little domineering. She enjoys a good fight and needs regular exercise to work off her excess energy.” This describes me perfectly! #unapologetic
I would seriously urge every person of color “specifically” to visit Ghana to experience up close and personal what I did. My experience has given me value and presents a level of pride and appreciation for my ancestors that I did not expect. The visual in this month's blog post is me nestled inside a hollow tree that was overtaken by parasites from 1906 to1936; for 30 years this tree was living while dying slowly. But in the end, it still stands tall. Battered, bruised and broken, still it remains, if only just a shell. It’s still here and has morphed into something magical! Sound familiar?