The 5th episode of the Wonders of Africa webinar was another exciting show as panelists from Ghana, and Zambia, as well as the African Diaspora in Belize and Brazil took the faithful audience on an educative and intriguing adventure.
The richly rewarding ride began with Kwame Ansong of Sunseekers Tours Ltd, Ghana, who informed the eager audience that the West African country formerly known as Gold Coast was the centre of the world. According to him, in Tema, about an hour from Accra, the Greenwich Meridian (longitude zero degrees) runs southwards through the ocean to meet the equator at the centre of the earth making the country the closest to the centre of the earth.
Highlighting Ghana as a country with big ecotourism and conservation drive, Ansong spoke about the famous Kakum National Park in the Central Region, which is one the best bird watching destination in West Africa. Kakum has a community-based ecotourism approach with a flora and plant conservation. Aside from these, the park boasts of the first canopy walkway in West Africa and arguably the highest.
From Kakum, Ansong took the audience to down to Assin Manso Ancestral Slave River Site. Assin Manso was the final link in the slavery route from northern Ghana, and it was known to have been the largest slave market for merchants supplying slaves to the forts and castles along the coast.
At the Slave River (Donkor Nsuo) the slaves take a last bath and were ‘fattened’ in preparation for their sales and onward journey to the Americas. The slave raiders knew that the healthier slaves fetched more money, so they would feed them after their bath at the river.
There is a Memorial Wall of Return where most Africans in the Diaspora write their names on the wall indicating they have found their root. There are two tombs of enslaved Africans; Samuel Carson from the USA and Crystal from Jamaica.
Following the discovery of the mass graves from the ‘Black Wall Street’ massacre, the Ghanaian government requested that some of the dead African slaves be brought and re-interred in Ghana.
Assin Manso links straight to another famous slave monument, the Cape Coast Castle, one of the largest of the numerous slave castles and forts – estimated to be about 45 – in Ghana. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the castle was also the seat of the colonial government where the Governor of Gold Coast lived on the upper floor, while the African slaves were kept below in prison and dungeons.
To cap off his presentation, Kwame Ansong shared some insights about the 2019 Year of Return project embarked on by the Ghanaian government and the sequel, a 10-year project dubbed Beyond the Return.
Taking time to explain the Black Star on the Ghanaian national flag which comes from the Black Star Line, a shipping line incorporated by Marcus Garvey; Ansong remarked that Dr. Kwame Nkrumah had schooled in Pennsylvania, USA, unlike some of his African contemporaries who schooled in Europe. This had exposed him to the lives of blacks in the Diaspora and he met people like W.E.B. DuBois, among many others, who was commissioned to write the Encyclopedia Africana.
From West Africa, the ship sailed to the Diaspora in the Americas, where Fabien Anthony, Chairman of the Pan-African Council, a body that fosters cooperation between Africa and the Diaspora, took over the wheels. Reporting from Bahia, Brazil, Anthony took the audience straight to Haiti, the first independent Black Country. Sugarcane profits had made Haiti the richest country in the Americas.
On the north coast of Haiti lies Cap-Haïtien, the ancient colonial capital of Saint-Domingue, historically nicknamed the Paris of the Antilles, because of its wealth and sophistication, expressed through its architecture and artistic life. After the Haitian Revolution, the kingdom was split into two and Cap-Haïtien became the capital of the Kingdom of Northern Haiti under King Henry Christophe until 1820. Atop a nearby mountain, 5 miles (8.0 km) away from Cap‑Haïtien is the Citadelle Henry, a massive stone fortress bristling with cannons.
According to Chairman of the Pan-African Council, Polish slaves fought alongside the blacks to drive out the French for the independence of Haiti. He also, took time to dispel the rumours about a pact with the devil made by Haitians during the Independence struggle, as claimed by some to be cause of the natural disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes that have affected the island.
From Haiti, the ship navigated the waters to Colombia, a country with 25% population of African descent mostly along it west coast. Interestingly, Haiti supplied soldiers, arms, etc. to Simon Bolivar during the liberation of Colombia from Spain. Historians claim that of every five soldiers in Simon Bolivar’s army, three were African.
The large population of Afro-Colombianos are mostly in department of Chocó in the Pacific/Chocó natural region, one of the five major natural regions of Colombia. Close to the Amazon, the region is beautiful and pristine, with lots of exotic fruits and big fish like tilapia, which evokes memories of Africa. There are beautiful lakes and the environment is ideal for eco-tourism with lots of untapped places.
Another attraction is the Rock of Guatape (El Peñón de Guatapé), or simply La Piedra or El Peñol. The landmark is an inselberg located in the town and municipality of Guatapé, Antioquia. The monolith has ladders and takes about an hour to climb. Besides all these, Afro-Colombianos also have very exciting cultural festivities, like the Carnival of St. Patrick celebrated in September.
Next, Fabien Anthony took the audience down to the city of Salvador, capital of the State of Bahia, in the Northeast Region of Brazil. Salvador was one of the first ports for enslaved Africans in the Americas and the African influence of the slaves’ descendants makes it a center of Afro-Brazilian (negro) culture.
Nicknamed ‘Black Rome,’ Salvador is known for its Portuguese colonial architecture, Afro-Brazilian culture and a tropical coastline with lovely islands and beautiful beaches. Its Porto da Barra Beach in Barra has been named one of the best beaches in the world. Salvador is also noted for its cuisine, music and dance. Its carnival celebration has been reckoned as the largest party in the world, while several delicacies take their origins from Africa, like akaraje, which corresponds to the akara made by the Yoruba in Nigeria.
There are also elements of deities and practices from the Yoruba religious worldview with Ifa, Yemoja and the orishas. Capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian martial arts developed by enslaved Africans at the beginning of the 16th century to fight the slave masters traces its roots to Salvador. The practice of capoeira continues today as a means of self-defense and martial arts.
To cap off his presentation, Anthony brought the audience back to Rwanda in East Africa. Speaking about the capital Kigali, he pointed out that it has been rated the 5th cleanest city in the world. He also highlighted the beautiful Lake Muhazi in the Eastern Region of the country, about a hour and a half from Kigali.
It was the turn of the Team Lead for Zambia, Walter Joe Syakalonga of Sigo Adventures and Tours and he did not disappoint, as he took the audience sailing on the mighty Zambezi through Livingstone to the majestic Victoria Falls, all the way to Lake Kariba.
Africa’s fourth longest river, Zambezi begins its journey at about 1,500m (4,900ft) above sea level in the Mwinilunga District, Zambia, very close to the border with Angola. The river either crosses or forms the boundaries of six countries— Angola, Zambia, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique.
The Upper Zambezi stretches between Angola and Victoria Falls, passing through Zambia’s Western Province, home to the Liuwa Plain National Park. Aptly referred to as ‘Small Serengeti’, Liuwa is home to the second largest wildebeest migration in Africa. A colourful traditional ceremony called Kuomboka usually takes place at the end of the rain season, when the upper Zambezi River floods the plains of the Western Province. The large royal barge is paddled by several men in a celebratory move of the King of the Lozi people to higher ground from the flooded plains.
Livingstone is home to one of the seven wonders of the modern world, the awe-inspiring Victoria Falls, shared with a Zimbabwean city which takes its name from the majestic cataract. The city is named after the Scottish missionary, Dr. David Livingstone, the man acknowledged to be the first European to set his eyes upon the waterfalls known to the locals as Mosi-oa-Tunya – the Smoke that Thunders. The Scot was also the one who called it Victoria Falls in honour of Queen Victoria.
The city of Livingstone is known as the Adventure Capital of Africa, boasting at least twenty-five (25) activities ranging from family friendly ones to adrenaline junkie types. These include: game drives, boat cruises on the Zambezi, bungee, zipline, ‘Flight of Angels’ helicopter rides, abseiling, gorge swing, and white-water rafting, etc.
Lake Kariba, perhaps the largest man-made lake and reservoir in the world by volume, is another attraction shared by Zambia with Zimbabwe. Between 1958 and 1963, the lake was filled, following the completion of the Kariba Dam at its north eastern end, flooding the Kariba Gorge on the Zambezi. Offering spectacular views, stunning sunsets, great fishing, boating opportunities, water sports or wonderful relaxing holidays or weekends just soaking up the sunshine, Kariba has become Zambia’s Riveira!
Lake Kariba also has several islands and some national parks on either side. Located at 137km from Lusaka, the Lower Zambezi National Park, lies opposite Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe. The park was previously a private game reserve for the Zambian president and is teeming with wildlife that one gets to spot them within the shortest possible time. Apart from early morning and late afternoon game drives, night safaris are also on offer to spot the big cats hunting.
Perhaps one of the luxuries and fun on Lake Kariba are the houseboats. These vessels are like fully functional mobile or floating hotels, with fully equipped facilities such as swimming pool and gym onboard.
Another journey to the Diaspora was on the cards before the episode ended, as the MD of Belaflika Travel & Tours, Sharon Palacio took the helms, navigating the ship to Belize in Central America. Bordered to the north by Mexico, to the south and west by Guatemala and to the east by the Caribbean Sea, Belize is the only English-speaking country in the region.
Starting of straight from the kitchen, Palacio left the audience salivating with the preparation of Hudut, a popular Belizean dish. Hudut is a mashed plantains recipe from the Garifuna people, a very interesting subset of Caribbeans now spread around Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua.
The Garifuna – or Garinagu – are one of the four main classes of people in Belize. The others are: Mestizo, Kriol and Mayan. The history of the Garifuna people starts in the 1630s with a shipwreck. In 1635, two Spanish ships containing Nigerian slaves crashed and sank off the coast of Saint Vincent. The survivors – almost all Nigerians – swam to shore and were given shelter and respite by the local tribe of Carib Indian people. Over the next century and a half, the two ethnicities intermingled and mixed and created what is now the Garifuna people. Some of the Garifuna eventually made their way to Belize in the 1830s, when a civil war caused many to flee to other parts of the Caribbean.
According to the MD of Belaflika, Belize is much like a little Africa. The country is relatively small and can be circled in 24 hours. However small as it may be, Belize has a slew of interesting adventures for tourists. Boasting of the second largest coral reef in the world, the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve, the Central American country is a great place for snorkeling.
Several other exciting adventures include: zipline, ATV rides and cave tubing, described as a laid back adventure of floating in an air-filled tube quietly down the stream and through limestone caverns.
Meanwhile, the 5th episode of Wonders of Africa webinar will be the last for the year. According to the organisers, since the Christmas season is already here, it is important to take a break, enjoy the holidays and re-strategize the project for the coming year.