Ghana: People-to-People
Bicycle Africa / Ibike Tours

 
     
     

Dispatch 3 - Ashanti Region: Kumasi

 

The Ashanti are often associated with Ghana, at the expense of other groups, because there controlled the inland region when the British were making there move to colonize the area.  In fact, historically, they were one of many significant groups vying for power, including the Guan or Kyerepons, Bono, Denkyero, Akwamu, and Ga.

 
     
 

splayed and smoked large rodent generally called a "grass cutter" pangolinRoad side markets can be entertaining -- sometimes more entertaining than is desirable when they are selling monkey meat and endangered animals.  Fortunately today's offering was just a splayed and smoked large rodent generally called a "grass cutter" and a live pangolin, which are the world's only scaly mammals. The are considered a delicacy in parts of Africa and Asia.  In November 2010, pangolins were added to the Zoological Society of London's list of genetically distinct and endangered mammals.

Nkawkaw saddles the Kumasi highway about 150 kilometers northwest of Accra.

Ghana, Nkawkaw street Ghana, Nkawkaw streetIn Nkawkaw the streets are for people.  There is nothing physically constraining the vehicles, except there are just too many of the them -- consider it a self-inflicted traffic calming.  So amidst the gridlock the people go about their business with more speed and agility than the cars.  Unfortunately idling cars have the nasty habit of poisoning the air, which detracts from an otherwise nice setting.

Ghana, Nkawkaw street Ghana, Nkawkaw street Ghana, Nkawkaw street

Ghana second largest city and the traditional seat of power of the Ashanti is Kumasi:

Ghana, Kumasi, clock towerGhana, Kumasi, commercial buildingA lot of central Kumasi is surprising unchanged in the last one-hundred years: The Donald Stewart Clock Tower was erected in 1907, there is a commercial building that is dated 1910 and many of the churches in the Adum Ghana, Kumasi, Wesley Cathedral (Methodist)section of town probably were built in about the same era. They keep moving the roads around -- often widening them Ghana, Kumasi, churchto accommodate traffic, but sometimes blocking routes to divert traffic, but the building stock has turned over very little. With a vision to something other than roads, and some planning, the old physical history could be pulled together into a historic district that would created a unifying theme and identity, and preserved the heritage and character of the old town.

Ghana, Kumasi, commercial street Ghana, Kumasi, old house in Adum Ghana, Kumasi, Presbyterian church

Ghana, Kumasi marketGhana, Kumasi marketThe dominant feature of Kumasi is the market.  Depending upon your source, it is said to be the largest market in West Africa, the largest market in sub-Saharan Africa and the largest market in Africa.  Who knows?  But it is large.

Ghana, Kumasi marketAlong the north edge of the market is a bicycle-street (photo on the left).  The street is filled with bicycles with only a narrow path preserved to walk between them.  Ghana, Kumasi, bicycle marketMost of the bicycles are used -- imported from overseas.  The kiosks that line the street behind to bicycle are filled with parts and accessories.  It is niceGhana, Kumasi market to see the ample supply of hardware to support a bicycle-culture, but there doesn't seem to be much bicycling being done in Kumasi.  Maybe it is hidden in the suburbs or maybe the merchants are waiting for it to boom.  If it is the latter, I hope that it is not long in coming and that their patience is sufficient.Ghana, Kumasi, agro-chemical for sell in the market

One aspect of the market that was a little spooky was the agro-chemical sellers.  Like most categories of sellers in the market they are somewhat clustered, but they are also a little interspersed with some food vendors.  Some of the containers of agro-chemicals look almost exactly like the bottle you might buy fruit juice and other drinks in.  Hopefully no children get any of this confused.

        

Ghana, Kumasi, sculpture in a traffic circleThere are a few nods to heritage around town.  A few of the traffic circles have cultural related sculptures in them, a former fort has been preserved and converted into a historic/military museum and Kumasi is home to the Ghana National Culture Centre. The sculpture seen here seems to be a musician or town crier standing on the back of a lion.  We couldn't find any one who could confirm our interpretation of the content or tell us what the images relates to in the context of local culture or history.  [If you have some information about this please send it on to us.]

Ghana National Culture Centre, entrance Ghana National Culture Centre, grounds Ghana National Culture Centre, sculpture garden 

Within the grounds of the Ghana National Culture Centre there are a museum, library, administrative offices, cafes, performance space, sculpture gardens, general gardens, working artists and craftsmen, and boutiques selling the creations of the artists and craftsmen.

Saturday (and Sunday) are typically funeral day in Ashanti land.  All day as moved about we say people coming to, attending and leaving from funerals.  Women wore assembles made from black brocade lappas and many men wore black traditional adinkra cloth.  Because it takes a while to get the word out and organize a big "funeral" these events don't always involve burying the body, which might have happened sometime earlier.  They tend to focus more on celebrating the life of the deceased.

Kumasi, wedding party on the steps of the cathedral Kumasi, wedding party in the garden of the National Culture CenterPleasantly enough, Saturday is also a popular day for wedding.  While exploring the city there were wedding parties posing for pictures both in front of the cathedral and in the garden of the National Culture Center.  It is now there good luck to have their images on this website into perpetuity.

Kumasi bus stationKumasi bus station, goods for saleJust like in Europe and North America, you can go to the airport to do your shopping, in Kumasi bus station you can go to the bus station to do your shopping. Some of the more common items were plastic bags, bread, beauty products, and plastic stuff.

Kumasi bus station, goods for sale  Kumasi bus station, goods for sale Ghana, traveling by bus

Kumasi, strip-city, television for sale on the road sideLeaving Kumasi: the road out of Kumasi is reminiscent of the strip-cities on the outskirts of towns along the old inter-city highways in America.  For more than a dozen kilometers leading out of Kumasi the roadside was lined with business and merchandise; appliances, televisions, computers, lamps, tires, and so much more.

We left Kumasi to in search of more information on bamboo bikes.  The most active bamboo bike building team in the Kumasi area, works in the village of Yonso, about 40 kilometers north of the Kumasi.  Yonso is sort of a happening place because, besides bamboo bikes, through the Millennium Challenge Account program it looks like they are getting new water, electricity and road infrastructure. The Millennium Challenge Account is an initiative to help developing country that are doing things politically,Ghana, Yonso, Methodist Church judicially and economically right to boost there economy.  A couple other building that caught the eye of the camera were the solidly built Methodist Church and Master Kwame's Coffin Shop and its solidly built coffins on display.

The visit to the Yonso Project gave a much clear picture of the bamboo bicycle building process. The project director of the Yonso Project gave us a tour.  The bamboo is carefully selected for its diameter and the length of space between the nodes.  Different varieties of bamboo have different characteristics.  Onetubing for bamboo bicycle drying after being soaked in insecticide of the tasks of the bamboo bike project is to figure out where they can find the best bamboo for their purposes, in Ghana.

An early step for the bamboo is to be soaked in an insecticide (right) -- it would be a bummer to have your bamboo bike nibbled into dust by insects.

Bamboo tubes sorted and ready for assembly into a bicycle Jig for building bamboo bikesAfter the tubing is prepared it is sorted by diameter and length.  Each tube on the bicycle has a specified diameter and length so the sorting makes the assembly process more efficient. The assembly of the bike is done Bamboo seat tube and down tube epoxied to the bottom bracket over a plan.  Jigs support bamboo top tube and down tube epoxied to head tube.the aluminum bottom bracket, head tube and a metal gusset in the top of the seat tube -- the main metal parts of the predominately bamboo frame. Other guides are also used to insure proper alignment. A bamboo top tube and down tube is then mitered andSupplies for making bamboo bikes. Setting up the assembly of a bamboo bicycleepoxied to the head tube, and the down tube and seat tube are epoxied to the bottom bracket.  Small diameter seat stays and chain stay are also epoxied on.  These are joined by aluminum rear dropouts. The epoxy used is called eco-poxyEcoPoxy Systems.  [The company website describes the resin as, "odorless, *non-toxic, *safe, 100% solid, non-solvent, non-hygroscopic, non-conductive."  The asterisks are theirs but it is not clear what they refer to.  There is any similar information about the hardener, but I will give them the benefit of the doubt that it is more environmentally friendly than traditional epoxy.] After the main components of the frame are glued up all of the joints are wrapped or lashed with epoxy soaked fiber.  In the hands of an expert this creates a very elegant look.  There is some additional finishing work, with the final step being a coat of clear-coat so that the beautiful grain shows through.  The frame builders say they can glue-up and wrap a frame and have it ready for clear-coat in about four days.

Ghana, Yonso, Kuapa Kokoo building Ghana, Yonso, drying cocoaA second story in Yonso is the spotting of a Kuapa Kokoo building.  The cooperative has "fair-trade certification," and works at improving the social, economic and political wellbeing of its members.  It also sells its beans to and is part owner Divine Chocolate, so cooperative members benefit from the manufacturing component as well.  There are Kuapa Kokoo branches in villages all around the cocoa growing region of Ashanti land.

Kumasi, cocoa fetilizer advertisementWhile Kuapa Kokoo highlights there fair-trade status and effort to do outreach on  practice that can reduce or mitigate global warming, they are silent and don't make any claims about being organic farmers.  In Kumasi there were big advertising signs for cocoa fertilizers and at CRIG we were told that the use of fungicide was very common, if not almost universal and necessary.  Neither is proof about the practices of Kuapa Kokoo farmers, but their silence on the topic raising the questions of how green can cocoa farming be, and for those who are claiming to produce organic chocolate, how are they achieve it?

Addendum

: Kumasi Catering Rest House
A photo of a cottage at the Kumasi Catering Rest House.

Ghana, buy a snack of roasted plantain and peanuts.
Buy a snack of roasted plantain and peanuts.

 

 

  Next dispatch.

 
 

 
     
 

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