In part one of a six-part series on Ghana, Starrene Rhett-Rocque, a first-time visitor to the country, blazes a trail through the capital city of Accra in search of culture, history, music and dance. Here is what she found.
A visit to Accra is a must for every visitor to Ghana. The energy is vibrant: the sultry air is filled with the smells of palm oil and exhaust fumes; the streets are alive with brightly colored wall murals, street art, and beads; and frenetic sights and sounds come from every direction. People are on a mission to get from point A to B swiftly and vendors are everywhere, even in the streets dodging traffic, selling any and everyone some of any and everything.
This sprawling metropolis doesn’t have much of a skyline or center, yet still feels like a distinct city, stretching from the beach to west, the delta to the east, and the suburbs to the north — which means there are a variety of neighborhoods ready for exploration.
If you’re a newbie interesting in art and culture it can be overwhelming trying to figure out what to do and where to go, but there’s something for everyone, from history buffs to art enthusiasts to music lovers to dancers. Here we break down six places you can get a dose of local — and international — culture in Ghana’s capital city.
Check out the art scene
The art scene in Ghana is fantastic. Pay attention to walls in parts of Jamestown, Nima and other parts of Accra because the arbitrary murals are beautiful. Much of the art is inspired by graffiti and other contemporary styles. Beyond street art, there’s the Chale Wote Street Art Festival, which is a celebration of art in Jamestown featuring musicians, visual artists, people on stilts, wild costumes, amazing dance and more. It happens every year on varying dates, and at actual art institutions like the Goethe-Institut. The latter is a German-funded cultural center that holds art exhibitions that explore the link between Ghanaian and German art via mixed media, performance art, photography and painting. The Nubuke Foundation in East Legon is also a good place to check out. It’s an artistic space where Ghanaian artists can display their talent and enhance their skills. Fruits of the artists’ labor like Kente cloth bedding and tableware are sold in the gift shop, and there are also cultural offerings like poetry night, art works, film, music and various other workshops.
Another must-see art gallery is the Artists Alliance Gallery. It is home to Ghanaian artists and sculptors like Kofi Setoriji, Gabriel Eklou, Ablada Glover (one of Ghana’s most renowned artists) and more. Stop by and browse contemporary art and collectors pieces too. If you see something you like, items are for sale directly from the artist.
Hear reggae at Labadi Beach
There is no shortage of music of any genre in Ghana. Enter reggae at Labadi Beach: Wednesday nights are reserved for the popular musical genre. The bar is stocked with local and imported beers and a DJ plays the best of reggae and rock, old and new. Occasionally a live band featuring artists from Ghana or neighboring countries will stop by for the party, which always draws a motley crowd. Students, travelers from around the world, Rastafarians, and reggae lovers alike come together on this night to enjoy the groove. Labadi beach can get crowded on any popular night — especially on nights like this — and vendors are out in full force selling goods, so if you’re the low-key type then this may not be the event for you. But if you want to mingle and possibly even make new friends, it is THE place to be.
W.E.B. Dubois Cultural Center
William Edward Burghardt DuBois is just as important to Ghana’s history as he is to African-American history. The scholar and civil rights activist became a citizen of Ghana in the 1960s. As one of the leaders at the forefront of Pan-Africanism, DuBois took residence in a house that was given to him by Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah, in life and in death. Now a museum and a mausoleum, the W.E.B. Dubois Cultural Center is an archive of many of Dubois’ books and other personal items like his graduation robes, old grocery lists, and gifts given to him from his travels around the world. The walls are decorated with photos of other prominent figures in African-American and African history like Maya Angelou, Kwame Nkrumah, Malcolm X and more.
Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum and Memorial Park
It’s only right that Ghana’s first president has a memorial dedicated to him. History fanatics who want to get a better understanding of Ghana’s post-colonial establishment should visit the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum, where the late leader and his wife are buried, and check out the museum that’s full of photos and information about Nkrumah. Visitors to the museum can either take a guided tour (recommended), or browse on their own.
Catch a movie at Accra Mall
Malls are typically the same everywhere, but the entertainment you find within an African mall is unlike anything you’ve ever seen — particularly when it comes to film. If you are curious about “Ghallywood” movies then stop by Accra Mall and catch a flick at Silverbird Cinemas. They show authentically African titles like Being Mrs. Elliott, and Single, Married and Complicated, as well as titles that are popular worldwide. It’s the African titles that you want to see though, because the melodrama and over-acting alone will prove to be unintentionally entertaining.
Salsa night at Afrikiko
Even though salsa music is considered a South American phenomenon, it is extremely popular in Ghana — which is not surprising considering that the drums prominent in salsa music draw inspiration from African drums (due to the forced migration of African slaves to various parts of the Latin Caribbean). Salsa nights vary by club, but you can find plenty of fun at the Afrikiko Leisure Center. Afrikiko is an entertainment complex comprised of restaurants and an outdoor courtyard area where there are sometimes live performances and plenty of room to party. Not being able to dance salsa isn’t an excuse because at Afrikiko, there are salsa classes, and if Wednesday isn’t a good option then there will be other chances through Saturday to show off your skills or acquire new ones — with no judgment.
Read more from Starr’s series:
Part 2: Staying Safe In Ghana: A First-Timer’s Tale
Part 3: Shopping In Accra: Five Places To Get Your Bling On
Part 4: Gettin’ Wild In Ghana: 5 Attractions For Nature Lovers
Part 5: Off The Beaten Path: Four Places Worth Finding In Ghana
Part 6: Coming Full Circle: Tracing My Roots In Ghana