Travel
Photo courtesy of Rachelle Salnave.

Travel Diary: Rachelle Salnave & Her Daughters Are Welcomed Home To Ghana In the Year of Return

"No one had to tell us—we felt at home!"

In OkayAfrica's latest Travel Diary, Haitian-American indie filmmaker Rachelle Salnave shares the gift she gave her daughters of traveling to Ghana, West Africa for the first time during The Year of Return.

Staying at Agoo Hostel in Nima was a page out of the 1980's American TV series, The Love Boat—except the characters were Ghanaian!

"Akwaaba! Welcome home my sistahs," is a phrase we were told not just at Agoo, but throughout our entire Ghana girls trip. Akwabba is not just this country's motto—it's the vibe in Ghana.

This girls trip was a graduation gift for my daughters, Kiara and Nadine. Having traveled to Morocco to connect with my Moroccan stepmom and sister, Africa was not unfamiliar to them—but I knew Ghana would be different. My DNA had been traced to Ghana and Benin, it's neighboring country. I immediately saw a taste of Haiti, my parents' country and the girls felt the kinship. I prayed this trip would change our relationship with Africa and bond us closer together as women. Ghana did just that!


After choosing Ghana as our vacation destination, I discovered that it was the "Year of the Return"—a tourist and investment initiative designed to attract the African Diaspora as 2019 marks the 400th anniversary of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. I asked myself, "Was this a coincidence or a real calling for us to return this year?"

When we arrived in Cape Coast, which once served as the first capital of the Gold Coast colony for European slave traders, we were asked "my sistahs, are you here for 'The Year of Return?'" In the touristy areas visited, we encountered many African Diaspora tourists soaking up the culture—which was really refreshing.

Nima was our headquarters for the trip. A neighborhood in Accra rich in character, it was never a dull moment. Agoo Hostel sits behind President Nana Akufo-Addo's private house. BBnZ—a music studio-turned-nightclub—sits parallel to a kente cloth factory with workers singing under a luscious mango tree. Some mornings, we would walk a few blocks to get fresh coconut water from the bustling street market.

We partied at club Onyx, owned by Ghanaian Hip Hop Artist, D Black. We were treated like queens as we were offered complimentary hookah puffs and ginger bitters, a delicious home-grown rum. We frequently ended up at FireFly Lounge, owned by Houssam, a Lebanese entrepreneur who opened his doors in 2011. This funky bar sits in the heart of Osu, an interesting cosmopolitan area in Accra known for its nightlife and pubs.

Ghanaians have three names. The tradition of African day naming dates back centuries used by the Akan people to keep track of time. Depending on the day you were born, each name has a meaning. Since Kiara and I were born on Thursday, we were both called Yaa, which is associated with the earth. To distinguish our ages, she was called Yaa Yaa. Nadine was born on Tuesday, affiliated with the ocean. She was called Abena.

The sounds of Ghana hit our veins with every beat of the drum. It was a soundtrack to our journey navigating from one scenic city to the next. Our African names flowed from our lips at every introduction. No one questioned us. With a warm smile, they would just say, "Akwaaba! Welcome home my Sistahs!"

No one had to tell us—we felt at home!

Our pictures are just a snapshot of our amazing journey. Check it out below.

Photo courtesy of Rachelle Salnave.

After about a 45 minute drive outside of Cape Coast, we enjoyed a 7 canopy and nature walk at Kakum National Park. Home of the butterflies and 270 mammal species and exotic plant life, Kakum is humanity's treasure.

Photo courtesy of Rachelle Salnave.

On any given day, locals offer libations and other offerings to the ancestors who experienced the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade at Cape Coast Castle. Pictured is a local Vodun priest offering libations and telling the ancestors that their descendants have returned.

Photo courtesy of Rachelle Salnave.

Adjacent to Cape Coast Castle is a fishing community. As the sun begins to set, fishermen gather around enjoying the breeze from the strong waves from the Atlantic Ocean.

Photo courtesy of Rachelle Salnave.

Real-life Kings and Queens from the Central Region visit the Center for National Culture in Accra during an end of the year school celebration. During summer break, the art center serves as a meeting place for educators to provide programs to teach children traditional values and stories of the past so they will not forget their original culture.

Photo courtesy of Rachelle Salnave.

Abena Nadine and Yaa Yaa Kiara enjoying Onyx Nightclub—owned by Ghanaian Hip Hop Artist, D Black.

Photo courtesy of Rachelle Salnave.

View of Sekondi on a small mountaintop. Sekondi and Takarodi are twin cities in the Southwest region of Ghana. It's the third largest region in Ghana.

Photo courtesy of Rachelle Salnave.

Abena Nadine, embracing her name and its meaning. Mami Wata loves the ocean and is fully connecting to Ghana.

Photo courtesy of Rachelle Salnave.

Views from Lou Moon Resort in Axim, Ghana. Axim is the largest coastal town west of Takoradi.

Photo courtesy of Rachelle Salnave.

Shai Hills is a reserve located outside of Accra. We encountered baboons, antelopes and various bird species. It is preserved by Ghana's National Parks division.

This is Wakanda!

Photo courtesy of Rachelle Salnave.

A selfie at Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park. President Kwame Nkrumah led Ghana to being the first country on the African continent to free itself from colonialism and served as the first president of Ghana from 1960 to 1966. He was a Pan-Africanist and has welcomed many African Americans to Ghana as a place to call home.

Photo courtesy of Rachelle Salnave.

The Ghanaian Love Boat. The staff at Agoo Hostel in Nima send us off with a huge "see you soon" moment.

Photo courtesy of Rachelle Salnave.

At Tumi Hostel in Kumasi, women learn how to sew and make a profit creating clothes and home goods for the hostel's store.

*

Rachelle Salnave is a Haitian-American indie filmmaker and founder of Ayiti Images and Black Lounge Film Series—a series that explores the African Diaspora and Haitian culture through cinema. She is currently based in Miami, FL.

popular
Photo by Luxolo Witvoet.

'Journey With Me' Is a Window Into the Ups and Downs of Traveling by Train In South Africa

In his new photo series, South African artist Luxolo Witvoet, speaks to everyday people in Cape Town about their experiences commuting via the city's fragile, yet vital train system.

Luxolo Witvoet is a 25-year-old multidisciplinary artist and photographer from Cape Town. In his latest series "Journey With Me," Witvoet set out to document the stories of South Africans commuting to and from work, school, and job hunting. While simply riding on the train might seem like a mundane, everyday act, the train holds special significance in South African history. "During apartheid, the train was the choice of transport that our forefathers & mothers used to travel long distances from one province or state to the next in search of work and a better tomorrow for their offspring—us," says Witvoet. His connection to the train is a personal one, directly linked to his family lineage. "My nineteen year old late grandmother travelled from her birthplace, Aliwal North to relocate to Cape Town using the train. While in Cape Town, she would eventually find work as a maid and she would meet her husband on the train en route to work," he adds.

Keep reading...
Arts + Culture
"La valse des mailles" by Noella Elloh

Photos: 'Weaving Generations' Confronts Environmental Destruction in Côte d'Ivoire

The photo series, by artist Noella Elloh, advocates for collective responsibility around the "environmental question" across the continent by highlighting the threat it poses to a village of fishermen in Abidjan.

Noella Elloh is an Ivorian photographer and contemporary visual artist whose work contemplates identity, culture, environment and the role each play's in the stories of people across the continent.

Her latest work "Weaving Generations" centers on members of the fishing village of Blokosso, located in the center of Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire's largest city. According to the artist, its themes include familial ties, urbanization, and the hazardous effects of environmental degradation, an issue that directly impacts the fishermen's livelihoods. "Today, instead of fishes, the fishermen's nets thrown in the water come back up with waste," says Elloh. "The Ebrie fishermen find themselves with the mesh of their nets torn down by scrap metal. Domestic, chemical, and Industrial wastes are also found in their nets. The depth of the lagoon decreases due to sedimentation. Rising waters are gradually making pieces of the land disappear."

Keep reading...
popular
Photo courtesy of CSA Global.

In Conversation with Congolese NBA Player Emmanuel Mudiay: 'I want more African players in the NBA.'

The Utah Jazz player talks about being African in the NBA, supporting basketball in the DRC and how 'everybody knows about Burna Boy'.

Inspired by his basketball-playing older brothers, by second grade, Emmanuel Mudiay already knew that he wanted to play in the American National Basketball Association. Then in 2001 his family, fleeing the war in Democratic Republic of Congo, sought asylum in the United States.

In America, Mudiay saw basketball as a way for him to improve his situation. After impressive high school and college careers, he moved to China to play pro ball. Picked 7th overall in the 2015 NBA draft, the now 23-year-old guard has made a name for himself this season coming off the bench for the Utah Jazz.

Mudiay attests to the sport having changed not only his life but that of his siblings. Basketball gave them all a chance at a good education and the opportunity to dream without conditions. Now he wants to see other talented African players make it too.

We caught up with him to talk about his experience as an African player in the NBA, his hopes for basketball on the African continent and who he and his teammates jam out to in their locker rooms.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Keep reading...
popular

University lecturer and activist Doctor Stella Nyanzi (L) reacts in court as she attends a trial to face charges for cyber-harassment and offensives communication, in Kampala, on April 10, 2017. (Photo by GAEL GRILHOT/AFP via Getty Images)

Jailed Ugandan Activist, Stella Nyanzi, Wins PEN Prize for Freedom of Expression

The outspoken activist, who is currently serving a prison sentence for a poem she wrote about the president's mother's vagina, won for her resistance "in front of a regime that is trying to suppress her."

Stella Nyanzi, the Ugandan academic, activist, and vocal critic of President Yoweri Museveni has been awarded the 2020 Oxfam Novib/PEN International award for freedom of expression, given to writers who "continue to work for freedom of expression in the face of persecution."

Nyanzi is currently serving a 15 month sentence for "cyber harassment" after she published a poem in which she wrote that she wished "the acidic pus flooding Esiteri's (the president's mother) vaginal canal had burn up your unborn fetus. Burn you up as badly as you have corroded all morality and professionalism out of our public institutions in Uganda."

According to the director of PEN International, Carles Torner, her unfiltered outspokenness around the issues facing her country is what earned her the award. "For her, writing is a permanent form of resistance in front of a regime that is trying to suppress her," said Torner at the award ceremony.

Keep reading...

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.