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
A person holds an umbrella bearing the colors of the rainbow flag as others wave flags during a gay pride rally in Entebbe, Uganda. August 09, 2014. (Photo: ISAAC KASAMANI/AFP/Getty Images)

A Lesbian Woman, Who Fled Uganda for the US After a Homophobic Attack, Is Now Facing Deportation

The Trump administration does not believe she faces a threat in Uganda, despite the country recently threatening to re-introduce its "Kill the Gays" bill.

A lesbian woman who fled Uganda in the face of homophobic violence, now faces being deported from the US by the Trump administration.

According to a recent report published in Rolling Stone magazine, a Ugandan woman by the name of Margaret sought asylum in the US after being beaten and raped at a festival in Uganda known as a gathering place for the country's LGBTQ community. Following the attack, she entered the country through the US-Mexico border—a dangerous, yet increasingly common route for migrants coming from the continent.

In the Rolling Stone article, she recounts several of the hardships she faced as a lesbian woman coming of age in Uganda and as an African migrant seeking refuge in the US. "I pray that everything works out," Margaret told Rolling Stone. "Because it has been so tough. Ever since I was 13, I just wanted to be free, instead of hiding who I am. I just want to be free, that's all. And happy."

Keep reading... Show less
Video
Joey B & Boj in "No Waste Time."

Watch Joey B's New Music Video For 'No Waste Time' Feat. Boj

PREMIERE: Head to the southeast coast of Ghana in this new music video from buzzing Ghanaian act Joey B featuring Boj.

Joey B comes through with the new music video and single for "No Waste Time," his collaboration with Boj of DRB LasGidi.

"No Waste Time" sees Joey B—who's track "Stables" alongside La Même Gang was one of The Best Ghanaian Songs of 2018—connecting with Nigeria's Boj over a head-nodding mid-tempo beat from Altra Nova.

"'No Waste Time' was a fast collaboration that happened while BOJ and I were looking to work for the second time. We 'no waste time' (haha)," Joey B tells OkayAfrica. "Our styles are quite similar so it was a breeze, with production by the phenomenal Altra Nova."

Keep reading... Show less
popular

6 Things We Learned About African Migration to Europe in 2019 From a New UN Report

UNDP representatives presented their "Scaling Fences: Voices of Irregular African Migrants to Europe" report last night at Okay Space. Here's what we found out.

Yesterday, Okay Space hosted a discussion between UN luminaries Ahunna Eziakonwa, Mohamed Yahya and OkayAfrica CEO, Abiola Oke about the new UNDP report, Scaling Fences: Voices of Irregular African Migrants to Europe. The report examines young Africans who are leaving their homes to make the dangerous journey to Europe for economic opportunities—not solely for asylum or to escape persecution. The evening was both enlightening and sobering, and the main findings may be a little different than what you might expect.

Immigration to Europe from Africa is roughly 90 percent lower than what it was in 2015.

In 2015, slightly over 1 million Africans left for Europe. In 2018, it was just over 100,000. However, the percentage of those who drown on the journey has increased. In 2015, it was 1.6 percent of that million, while it grew to 2 percent in 2018. Meaning just over 2,000 people died enroute in 2018 alone. It is a disturbing factor that, four years on, more people are dying proportionately than when the large migrations began.

Even though most of Africa is rural, most of the youth leaving the continent for economic reasons are from the urban areas.


85 percent of those who the report identified came from urban cities or towns, though only 45 percent of Africans overall live in those urban areas. This means that most of them are coming from regions with "relatively low levels of deprivation." Analysts believe the rapid urbanization of many African cities could be a contributing factor. Benin City, Nigeria, for instance, has urbanized 122 percent in only ten years. These cities cannot actually support the people—and their ambitions and talents—who live there. It plateaus and does not allow for further upward mobility.

Only 2 percent of those who left say knowing the dangers would have deterred them.

This means 98 percent would do it again, despite the knowledge of fatalities and difficulties in crossing. The appeal of elsewhere is greater than death. This realization is crucial for all nations to better comprehend the true elements belying migration, particularly for those that this report is concerned with. Of the 1,970 migrants from 39 African countries interviewed for the report, almost all of them are willing to face death for economic opportunities abroad than stay home. As most of the migrants had relatively comfortable lives at home, they are not migrating to flee death or persecution as with asylum seekers. This prompts great questions and led the report to look at the issue from four angles: home life in Africa, motivations for leaving, life in Europe, motivations for returning.

58 percent of those who left were employed or in school in their home country.

Not only that, in almost every demographic and country, those who left had a considerably higher amount of education than their peers. From Malu, those leaving had an average of five years of education, compared to one year with peers in their age group and two years for the national average. In Cameroon, those leaving had an average 12 years, their peers had seven and the national average of six. Even when broken down by gender, both men and women who leave have about nine years of education while the national average is five and three, respectively.

Though the average African family size is five, most of those who leave have an average family size of 10.

When asked, migrants said their main motivation to leave is to send money home. This information is important as it may impact the motivations for needing to leave. The report reasons that an increase in population may also be playing a role in the motivations to leave. It was also reported that those who go abroad and find work send an average 90 percent of their earnings to their families. Essentially, they are leaving existing jobs to live on 10 percent of their new wage, highlighting that working below minimum wage in Europe is more prosperous.

Though 70 percent of those in Europe said they wanted to stay permanently, those who were working were more likely to want to return to their home country.

Conversely, the majority of those who did want to stay in Europe were not earning anything, 64 percent of them, and 67 percent did not have a legal right to work. Over half of those who did want to return home had a legal right to work. Analysts reason that those who did want to stay would likely change their mind once they had an income. This correlation speaks to a significant relationship between work and migration permanence. It also underlines the claim that migration for this group is focused solely on economic results as opposed to social factors.


***

What was most striking about the event, however, was the strong feeling communicated in the space about exchanges between Africans regarding what needs to be done. The discussion did not only surround the facts and figures alone, but also the humanity behind understanding why people migrate. At one point, when addressing the crowd of various influential people on the continent and in the diaspora, Eziakonwa said "What are we missing here? What are we doing by leaving young Africans out of the development discussion? Our programs are clearly failing our African youth."

Later, Yahya responded to a question by stating there was certainly a cultural barrier in which Africans do not often address, listen to or respect the youth. "I can say by looking at you that no one in this room would be given a true say," he said. "This is clearly part of the issue." When asked what can be done by others, the response was to work to change the narrative, to focus on prosperity rather than charity and to provide better access and platforms for African youth to share their stories so that the idea of who migrants are shifts. And so we, as Africans, can better know ourselves.

Check out some photos from last night below with photos from Polly Irungu. Follow and share in the changing of that narrative via #ScalingFencesUNDP and #MyJourney.

Photo by Polly Irungu


Photo by Polly Irungu


Photo by Polly Irungu


Photo by Polly Irungu


Photo by Polly Irungu


Photo by Polly Irungu


Photo by Polly Irungu


Photo by Polly Irungu


Photo by Polly Irungu

popular
Anjel Boris, Question Mark, 2019, Acrylic and posca on canvas, 133 by 7cm. Image courtesy of Out Of Africa and @artxlagos

What You Need to Know About ArtXLagos 2019

We talked to artistic director of ArtXLagos, Tayo Ogunbiyi, about Lagos's unique art scene and what's to expect from West Africa's biggest art party.

OkayAfrica is a media partner of ArtXLagos 2019.

In three years, ArtXLagos has successfully established itself as West Africa's premier art fair, cementing its reputation as a center of culture for the entire region. Since its founding by Tokoni Peterside in 2016, the art fair has attracted exhibitors, art buyers and members of the West African art scene and beyond—providing a platform for both emerging and established artists and playing a notable role in the global art ecosystem.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.

popular.