As PETRIe’s Creative Director, Campbell Addy captured the essence of Ghana through his images, Samantha Cheddie, Area Development Manager for Inter-Varsity Press, encapsulates the flavour of this vibrant country with her words.
I first visited Ghana in March 2014. Arriving in the capital of Accra in the early evening, the air was thick and the city was bustling with people and traffic - cars, vans, trucks, bikes and bodies pulsing in-and-out - it was a beautiful chaos.
Brightly coloured makeshift stalls lined the roadsides. People were selling whatever products they had, from coffins and pulpits, to furniture, food, building materials, beauty treatments and even manicures. Some had small stoves or fires on the ground, preparing food for passersby. It was a cacophony of colours and activity. The hustle and bustle went on until well after dark. There were very few streetlights, and the smell of kerosene lamps filled the air as vendors lit their stalls and returned to view.
In the light of day, I saw people walking along the road, carefully negotiating the busy roads and balancing baskets on their heads, filled with items they could sell through car windows. Babies were strapped around their mother's backs as they worked.
A very long bus ride took me from Accra to Kumasi. As night fell, the driver continued dropping off passengers into the pitch darkness. Finally, I arrived. The traditional language of Kumasi is Twi, but most people spoke English, albeit in a variety of different dialects. In Kumasi there are various Ashanti tribes, each with traditional tribal gowns depicting which tribe they belong to. At the head is the Ashanti King - hugely influential and wealthy, adorned in gold bangles and rings wherever he goes.
Ghana, like many countries, is built with many layers and dimensions. While many may immediately think it to have been filled with poverty, it was not. There were gated houses with security guards, beautiful homes with swimming pools - belonging to the high profile men of the business world. However, the disparity in this wealth was not hard to miss. Behind these gated mansions, the villages and towns had a great deal of poverty. These were layers I slowly began to peel back during my time there.
Overcrowded and under-furnished, the residents in these poorer parts unquestionably lacked in material possessions yet they were rich in so many other ways and immediately welcomed me. Money was not what mattered most to them – instead, it was their passion, thirst for life and particularly their faith. They would ask you to pray for them, not for wealth or material things but for health, for their families; children asked for the wisdom to learn at school and be able to focus on working hard to become doctors, nurses, pastors and teachers. This passion left a lasting impression.
Regardless of how much money the men and women of Ghana had, however, some things were set in stone. Men here are the heads of the family, and children were well behaved and extremely respectful to their parents and elders. Women, regardless of their background, took pride in their appearance. For many, their clothes were tailored, complete with matching accessories and manicured nails. Fabric was bought cheaply and a seamstress could make a traditional styled dress often within the same day. Some sat at their sewing machines all day long.
Away from the villages, so much of the country is still untouched; the rich green forests, deep lakes and uncompromised horizon were breath-taking. There is so much potential in Ghana, but the real treasure is in its people. The city of Accra is so diverse, and yet everyone upholds the Ghanaian’s natural hospitality. The people take a personal interest in ensuring you enjoy your stay.
They love their country and are proud of their heritage. Their warmth, passion and radiant smiles will remain with me always.
Words: Samantha Cheddie
Photography: Campbell Addy