During the fall of 2019 we were pleased to become acquainted with four more students from Ghana.
The course was this year coordinated by Heidi M. Breivik and Heidrun Stebergløkken. In addition to the general lectures (text courses, theory and academic writing), the students got to experience some more excursions with the Norwegian students. This included an excursion to an excavation held by NIKU at Klostergate and a trip to Oppdal with the Norwegian first year students. Lectures/seminars was given on topics relating to the students’ research themes, like iron working in a Scandinavian perspective, inventory and storage of archaeological sites, functions of rock shelters in Norway and historical archaeology in Scandinavia.
The Ghanaian students shared their experiences about their stay with us during Norpart day. The Norwegian students Une Jensen Aas and Julia Haraldsdatter also shared their experiences from their visit to Ghana in January the same year. This collaboration shows we learn a lot from each other, and we want to get even better finding activities to connect the Ghanaian students with the Norwegian students during their stay with us.
Written by: Sigrid Vadstein, Ole Christian Gjevik, Halidu B. Sule and Dorothy Agyapong
The Names of Commercial Ventures in Winneba – Ongoing Proof of Atlantic Heritage
It is quite difficult not to notice the many shops and trading ventures with the countless names of religious character in the small town of Winneba along the coast of Ghana. We have a mixture of Ghanaian and Norwegian students in our group, and when the Norwegian students mentioned that they thought the naming practice was unusual, the Ghanaians were equally surprised to hear that Norwegian stores do not follow a similar practice. As a result, we have chosen this topic based on its link with Atlantic connections, and intercultural relations at play. It can be inferred from the findings that, the names are associated with Christian faith and it is of no doubt that Christianity is integrated into Ghanaian societies due to the Euro-African interaction that took place during the Atlantic Era. Hence, it is prudent to investigate how Christian beliefs have been imbibed into commerce in contemporary times within the Winneba township.
The concept of Europeans partaking in petty trade has been ongoing since the building of the forts along the Gold Coast. Soldiers were receiving parts of their salaries as European goods that they needed to sell themselves, and thus they had incentives for engaging with the local commercial actors (Simensen: 42). However, we have found few descriptions of how this was taking place, and nothing about the naming of such ventures. Thus, drawing on soldiers as brokers for introducing religious elements into commerce seems speculative at best, given that after the Portuguese departed, attempts to introduce Christianity to the African communities were limited (Van Danzig 1999: 84), and Christianity as a whole is thought to have not taken root in Winneba until 1837 (Goldman 2016: ii).
It is possible to assume that the practice of naming shops with Christian motifs is a practice that originated at around the 1830s, though there might be the possibility that this was initially also done before Christianity asserted its dominance. As Winneba has been a busy seaport town for a long period of time – at the very least since the colonial times (Goldman 2016: 2), it is a possibility that the tradesmen have adopted names with Christian roots with the intent of drawing on European traders. However, given that Winneba has been noted as being notoriously difficult in its willingness to accept Christianity (Goldman 2016: 4), we consider it more likely on this basis that this particular naming practice would have started following the widespread acceptance of the religion.
Considering how multiple shop signs were using Akan language when including religious motifs, we consider it to be more likely that this practice was modified to include Christianity, rather than being a new phenomenon entirely. Putting an exact time to this practice, however, has proven rather difficult. We have tried to look through multiple history books covering the commerce of the Gold Coast region, but unfortunately the way that local trade was conducted is not described in great detail. Historians seem to mostly focus on what products could be made available through trade, which in the 1800s, translated into palm oil (Justesen 2003: 159). This again seems to mostly concern the bigger actors and not the local petty trade.
Process and challenges
We walked around Winneba observing shop names and talked to their owners. We decided to start our search in the market square, and worked our way to some of the outskirts of town, where the shops became less frequent. In general, we found that while shops with religious names were plentiful. However, when we started asking questions, the responses we got were not universally positive. Many wanted to be paid for giving information, or were distrustful of what we were going to do with the names of the shops. On the other hand, some shop-owners were very helpful, and one even started following us around to convince people to talk to us… but again hoped for some compensation for his services. We made sure to ask for permission to take pictures of their shops – not everyone agreed, but in general, this was the easier part of gathering of information.
Names and the Reasonings Given Behind them
We contacted a variety of different shops, and it turned out that the reasons given for why the shops had the names they did, were of a multitude of differing reasons. For instance, Lydia Ndum, owner of With Jesus, No Problem Services, said that she thinks that the name (and the blessings associated with it) is the reason why her shop has made enough profit to open three more stores within just ten years. As a result, she figured she should give the same name to her other stores too. Others simply said that they had chosen religiously based names either because they liked it, or because they figure it will provide some sort of protection. What was maybe the most extensive reason given when asked, was that one of the shop-owners wanted to give God all the glory, with the acknowledgement that nothing can be done without God’s help. As such, including God is viewed as completely natural, even in something as mundane as the shop name, and would explain such a name as Jesus Only Rentals.
Another explained that their shop has “always” had the name, because while the shopkeeper might change, the name doesn’t. The shop may be rented out to a different person, but in most cases the new owner does not change the name. In such a situation, a new occupant is only using the facility and do not own it, and hence cannot alter it. This is likely to be the case for the shops that have faded and generally unkempt signs. We also saw that in some cases, a religious connection is coincidental. For instance, Arkcity Link printing press ventures is named after the owner, Filicity Archurst. When we asked whether the Arkcity has any connection with the Ark in the biblical Noah’s story, the respondent only linked it to her personal name and nothing else, thus being some sort of a red herring in an ocean otherwise filled with religiously inspired signs.
A complete list of the shops we contacted or just observed includes:
God is my helper Grace & Glory Chemicals With Jesus, No Problem Services Mawuli Krozz Trade Arkcity-link Nhyira Venture Psalm 23 Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of host (Zechariah 4:6) (This shop sells soda) Jesus is Lord Ent. Jesus Only Rentals My Redeemer Lives Curtains Shop
Archaic and Declining, or Alive and Spreading?
We have seen that some of these shop names are rather old and faded, to the point where parts are not legible, and in some cases, the shop seems to be newer than the signs themselves. In this sense, one could ask if this trend is still ongoing, or if it is a relic of a former era, especially given that some of the shopkeepers explained that they are unable to change the names of the shops if they wanted to. While we cannot give a definite answer to this, we do see an indication that this phenomenon is alive and still taking place. Not only have we talked to people that actively desired to name their shop with religious motifs, but also by comparing the pictures we took of stores with the street view taken by Google Maps in 2017, we can see that at least two more stores with religious names have taken the places of other shops during these last two years. Simultaneously, we could confirm from the pictures that two of the stores with religious names are still in business. Thus, regardless of what the actual root cause for this phenomenon of Atlantic cultural exchange is, it seems reasonable to conclude that this is likely still an ongoing practice, and is happening in Winneba to this day.
Goldman, Edward Kojo. (2016). A History of Christianity in Winneba. WGCBC Publications Division: Winneba.
Justesen, Ole. (2003). ‘Henrich Richter 1785-1849: Trader and Politician in the Danish Settlements on the Gold Coast.’ Transactions of The Historical Society of Ghana , New Series, No. 7, 2003. The Historical Society of Ghana: Accra.
Simensen, Jarle, ‘Gold Coast Forts and Castles: Key Themes and Perspectives.’ In John K. Osei-Tutu (Ed.), Forts, Castles and Society in West Africa, Vol 7. Leiden: Brill, 2018. pp. 33-56.
van Dantzig, Albert. (1999). Forts and Castles of Ghana. Sedco Publishing: Accra.
Written by: Sigrid Solheim, Eileen Dahl, Solomon Forson and Seidu Tirogo
Impact of the Atlantic Ocean on the people of Winneba
Winneba is a fishing community in the central region of the Republic of Ghana, bordering the Atlantic Ocean to the south. The proximity to the Atlantic Ocean has had – and keeps having – an economic impact on the people of Winneba.
Living by the Atlantic Ocean, many of the inhabitants make their living from activities connected to the sea, fishing being among the most important. In Winneba, fishing is an important part of the community and most of the inhabitants of Winneba are working in a service connected with fishing. In a survey from the University of Education Winneba, Johnson Ankrah is looking at changes of the livelihood of fishers in Winneba. Males dominate the occupation of fishing. Most of the fishers do not have any other sources of income, but some also take part in farming activities and livestock rearing. Ankrah nevertheless concludes that fishing is the main occupation for most of the fishermen.1
With fishing being the main source if income for many of Winneba’s inhabitants, the economic effects of the fishing industry has consequences for many other sectors. For instance is the production and maintenance of the equipment used in fishing a line of work in it self, while the selling of the fishes are done by women, and not by the fishermen themselves.
A common method of fishing is by using nets. The fishermen in the canoes catch fish by throwing nets and gathering the fish before bringing their catch to the shore where it is brought to the market for sale. The making and mending of nets are sectors of their own, and is done by specialists. The usage of nets in canoe fishing has long traditions, as we can read in historical source material. The Danish priest Johannes Rask, who came to the Gold Coast as a pastor at Christiansborg/Osu Castle in the years 1709 – 1713, described how fishermen used nets in his “A Brief and Truthful Description of a Journey to and from Guinea”:
(…) There they are caught either with a fine-maked net //23// like a sack, or in a seine net that is wide or large at the bottom and end in a point at the top, to which they have fastened a line of 20 fathoms or more. The other end is in the canoe. (…).2
Rask’s description is not specific to Winneba, but it gives an impression of what he saw on the Gold Coast in the early 18th century.
Another piece of equipment Rask mentioned are the canoes, still an important part of fishing today. As with the nets, the making of these vessels are not done by the fishermen themselves, but by specialist canoe builders, usually working further inland. In this way, a link is created between the coastal Atlantic economy, to that of inland Ghana, making the fishing industry one with large influence in Ghanaian economy as a whole.
We can also see how cultural aspects have crossed the Atlantic and become a part of the fishing communities by looking at the decoration of the canoes. For instance, in the left half of picture B, one can see a canoe onto which the Brazilian flag has been painted, alongside a Christ-like figure.
Once the fish is taken to shore, it is the women who sell the fish. Often, workers in sectors directly supporting the fishing industry will be given their pay in fish, which they then take to the market in order to turn their earnings into cash. The location of the marketplace close to the shore is therefore a convenient placement for the trade of fish. Here we also see how other sectors take part in the economic impact of fishing. Women sell fish from stalls or as streetpedlers; taxies and others stand by ready to transport the fish to markets further from the shore, while others sell equipment, food and drink to the fishermen and other potential customers.
In short, the Atlantic connection is a vital part of life in Winneba. Fishing has a great economic impact, with influence over many other economic sectors as a consequence. Without the connection to the sea, life in Winneba would not be we know it today.
1 Johnson, Ankrah. Climate change impacts and coastal livelihoods; an analysis of fishers of coastal Winneba, Ghana, Ocean & Coastal Management. Volume 161, 1 July 2018, Pages 141-146: 142
2 Johannes Rask, “A Brief and Truthful Description of a Journey to and from Guinea”, in Two views from Christiansborg Castle, Vol I, translated from Danish by Selena Axelrod Winsnes, page 42.
Written by: Rebecca Stangnes, Martine Valle, Enoch Gurah and Joseph Appau Mensah
The background for this article is a field work that the Norwegian and Ghanaian students have completed during the summer course ‘Intercultural perspective on Atlantic history and Heritage’ in Winneba, Ghana. The field we chose to study was to look at old trading stations in Winneba. During our field work we found an old trading post from the early 20th century. This article will look further into this trading post. What kind of activities went on in these buildings? Thereafter we will look at its connection with the Atlantic. Can we say that this trading post has an Atlantic connection?
The buildings and activities
The information in this article is based on an interview with the owner of the property today, Mr. Richard Ekem. He gave us a tour of the site including the manager’s home, the warehouse, a mechanical shop and the house used as a teaching centre and as a store. We cannot be certain that the information he gave us is completely correct, but this is the case with oral history in general. Mr. Ekem bought the site from the Union Trading Company (UTC) that owned it. We can therefore to some extent believe his information. The UTC was a Swiss owned trading company that operated on the Gold Coast. According to Mr. Ekem both Swiss and German traders were involved with the trading at the site in Winneba. The company was closely related to the Christian missionary society called the Basel Mission (Buser, 2010).
What we need to remember is that a lot of the information in this article is drawn from an interview. This is oral history, and we must be careful and aware of this fact. Since we had limited time, and we were not able to find other written sources, we must be critical to the information given by the owner of the property. Being able to see the site was of course helpful. We could see wooden floors in some of the buildings. This is not normal in Ghanaian houses, this can confirm Mr. Ekem’s information. In an online archive, the USC Digital library on the Basel Mission, we found a few pictures of trading posts in Winneba. We were able to match the pictures with two of the buildings that is currently in the location. The first picture was from 1914 and shows the view from the manager’s house towards the warehouse and the teaching building (Basel Mission Archive). The second picture is from 1929 showing the front of the building (Basel Mission Archive). Today this is the red house by the main road. We can be pretty certain that this is the same house, because we can clearly see the structure of the wooden beams in the first floor, and on the windows. The third picture we believe shows the manager’s house from 1925 (Basel Mission Archive). From the Basel Mission Archive we observed that the same roofing, windows and the building structure matches today’s structure. Mr. Ekem told us that the house had a wooden balcony when he took over, and the picture coincides this.
Teaching centre and store
Closest to today’s main street is a one-storey building that once was owned by the UTC. It was used as a teaching centre and contained a store. According to Mr. Ekem, the teaching centre was used to train students. The students learned how to repair cars that were imported into Ghana. Mr. Ekem told us that when he took over the place there were some cars still in the warehouse. The cars they fixed and maintained were the American Pontiac and Ford. In the same building there was a store where imported goods such as textiles, liquor, roofing sheet, silver buckets and other goods were sold. On the first floor there were rooms for housing. Today the space is used for student housing.
According to Mr. Ekem, the company had a resident house for the European owners. The building was one-storey, with bedrooms, wooden floor, water system and roofed with clay roof tiles from Marseilles, France. He told us that the water system was the first in Winneba and it could have supplied the entire town at that time. We saw parts of the system under the building. Around the house there were traces after a garden with old tall trees, and a tennis court, all for recreation.
The other buildings on the location are a warehouse and a maintenance block. Behind the store and the teaching centre is the warehouse. According to Mr. Ekem the warehouse was used to store cocoa that was to be exported by the UTC company over the Atlantic. There was also a store room for the imported cars, according to Mr. Ekem. We don’t know when the importation and the workshop for the cars first started at the site. We believe that this activity did not start up until after the second world war. Close to the warehouse was a workshop for cars that needed to be fixed or maintained. The imported cars in the area was brought there to be fixed.
The resident house and the teaching and store building by the roadstill had visible elements from the original buildings. Such as in the second floor where the wooden floors are preserved. The ground floor of the building had a concrete floor. From Mr. Ekem we were told that the ground floor was also wooden when he first arrived. Most of the doors are original, you can see the hinges on the houses are similar to the European hinges. They had been imported when it was built. The roofing tiles used were also clay tiles imported from Marseilles in France. According to Mr. Ekem, this was the original tiles, and had not been touched since he bought the property. The building was made with wooden beams and some kind of clay. It shows some similarities to European building architecture. The residence had big windows for ventilation, and the warehouse had smaller windows and big doors. The location of the building is good, you have a view over the sea and the town.
The buildings have been used for different purposes that connect them to an Atlantic trading system. There are several examples that show this connection. Firstly, the warehouse was used to store cocoa before it was transported to the shores. The cocoa was from inland Ghana. The cocoa was brought to the coast and transported from the shore by small local boats to the bigger ships, they could have been American or European ships, and then they got shipped across the Atlantic to different markets. Today Ghana is the second largest country in producing cocoa, and exports almost everything they produce (Leraand, 2014). We do not know exactly when this specific trade took place. Mr. Ekem bought the property from UTC in the 1970s, and he said that the property had not been in use for some time. The trade must have stopped some years before Mr. Ekem bought the property, because when he bought it the trading post was not in use. The pictures from the Basel Mission archive are dated 1914 – so we know that trading existed at that time, which was during the British colonial rule over the Gold Coast. Secondly, according to Mr. Ekem, the company imported American cars, like Pontiac and Ford. Some cars were still in the workshop when he took over. In the workshop they had the mechanical store to fix the imported cars. This shows a strong implication of the Atlantic trade and the importance of this trade.
This short article has looked at a trading post in Winneba, located today on Windy-Bay Avenue. The trading post consisted of several buildings used for trade. There was a resident for the manager of the site. The warehouse was used to store cocoa. There was also a mechanic shop on the site where American imported cars were fixed. The red house by the main street was used for training locals to fix the imported American cars.
The photos in the Basel Mission archive provide us an important source to understand the building and to get some information confirmed. This trading post is a good example of the different kind of Atlantic connections that existed during the colonial period. The UTC was a Swiss company that traded both cocoa and worked on American produced cars. This shows some of the complexity and diversity of the Atlantic trading system in the 20th century.
Buser, Hans. (2010). In Ghana at independence: Stories of a Swiss Salesman. Slovenia: Basel Afrika Bibliographien.
Written by: Pernille Helena Glesaaen, Johannes Lyder Gulbrandsen, Isaac Marfo and Gladys Boatemaa
The interaction between Europeans and Africans on the Gold Coast was both extensive and profound. Evidence of the traces left behind by transatlantic interaction are deeply rooted and still to this day quite possible to come by, if one knows how to look.
The city of Winneba is no exemption to this gross generalization. But as with most generalizations, the details and nuances, while complicated, offer a far more authentic image into the past of the region, and its heritage.
A visible example of shared Atlantic history in Winneba is the Presbyterian church, which can trace its history back to the Basel Mission in 1883 (Dabi-Dankwa, 1985, p. 17). The mission is linked to the nearby Agona traditional area, as its centre was first established at Agona Nsaba, where it was ran by Rev. Henrich Bohner (Dabi-Dankwa, 1985, p. 17). There, the station served as a trading link for the Basel mission trading company.
In Winneba, the Presbyterian church started with a small group under the leadership of Mr S. A. Wentum, who was a senior employee of the Basel mission trading company (Goldman, 2016, p. 66). In a story of humble beginnings, what is now a major church began with workers gathering for morning prayer in the house of Wentum. But the communion grew, and so did their customs.
A western style education
The impact of the Basel Mission is visible in modern day Winneba mainly through its successor, the Presbyterian Church, but also in the presence of a school. The Presbyterian school in Winneba can link both its existence and education style to the impact of transatlantic influence.
Christian missionaries on the Gold Coast frequently established schools practising a western style education (State University, 2019). This is a trend which can be traced all the way back to when Portuguese presence on the coast was at its peak, and the Basel missionaries were no exception (Dabi-Dankwa, 1985, p. 23).
Much later, during the consolidation and subsequent colonization of the Gold Coast by Britain, western style education became increasingly present (State University, 2019). In an attempt to standardize and increase both quality and efficiency in the colony’s education, local teachers were trained to work in the schools established by European missionaries (State University, 2019). As a part of this overarching process, the Basel Mission first received grants in 1874 to further improve their schools. In the following years they expanded their operation and established additional schools as the demand for teaching grew (State University, 2019).
It says in The story of Winneba Presbyterian Church Golden Jubilee, which is a pamphlet of their jubilee from 1935-1985, that the Winneba Presbyterian Church has played a vital role in the development of education in the area (Dabi-Dankwa, 1985, p. 23). One of the primary schools was first housed in a shed or a warehouse abandoned by a European trading firm (Dabi-Dankwa, 1985, p. 24). The pamphlet later describes different usage of different locals which were improved through time. During the development of the schools the Ghanaian Government reduced the erstwhile impact of the Churches in the country in 1951, this was a result of the State school taking over the church schools (State University, 2019). As a result of this the churches could not open new schools. Further on it followed a series of protests by the churches, which led to a compromise between the government (State University, 2019). Whereby the old churches operate by the old regulations but no new schools could be opened without the prior permission by the local council.
It is difficult to measure or indicate the degree of influence the presence of the Basel Mission in Winneba has on the goings of everyday life for people today. All we can do is document the linkages, the red lines of history, and argue in case for or against correlation. It is evident that the presence of the Presbyterian church can be largely credited to the workings and establishment of the Basel missionaries in Ghana. However, to what degree European heritage has been part of shaping the church since its inception in 1935 is a complicated issue. A large part of heritage involves how a being defines and understands itself. In this regard, the Presbyterian Church in Winneba and its conjoint school of its past roots.
Dabi-Dankwa, S. (1985). The story of Winneba Presbyterian Church Golden Jubilee. Winneba: Presbyterian Church of Winneba.
Goldman, E. K. (2016). A History of Christianity in Winneba. Winneba: WGBC Publications Winneba.
Written by: Tor-Einar Siebke, Ingvild Lekve, Seth Aduo and Sarah Adjei-Larbi
The expressions of faith in public imagery in Winneba, Ghana
One will not be surprised to find cultural differences between Ghanaians and Norwegians as people. One such difference, that has become evident for us during our work together, concerns the religious life. Religion is far more prevalent in Ghana and one way this becomes visible is through the diverse and multiple expressions of faith in public imagery. We found this to be a fascinating example of an Atlantic connection due to how Ghanaian religious life was influenced by European missionary work. With this in mind we formulated the following research questions focusing on the background, intentions and effects of the expressions of faith that can be found throughout Winneba’s various posters, signs and social media posts made by both private citizens and certain religious institutions:
How can we trace the development of the large diversity of expressions of faith in public imagery in Winneba, Ghana, back to European religious influence through the transatlantic system? What are the intentions and effects of these public expressions of faith?
The European influence in the area then known as the Gold Coast, started with the establishment of the Portuguese trading stations in 1471.1 The Portuguese created settlements and stayed for two centuries, mostly for trade purposes, and other nations like the Dutch, English and Danish/Norwegian followed. Despite initially focusing on economic gain over religion, Christianity was to become one of the greatest contributions of the European presence in the country.2 The actual christianization of what was to become Ghana mainly started with missionary work in the 1820s. Before that, the work of priests and vicars were mostly for the benefit of the Europeans and their children as they performed ceremonies and taught at the schools at the castles and forts.3 Later in colonial and post-colonial times, the spread of Christianity intensified as European influences came to dominate the religious landscape.
Christianity in Ghana today
About 60 per cent of the population in Ghana today are Christian.4 The four dominating groups consist of Catholics, Protestants, the Classical Pentecostal churches, and the African Instituted Churches5 which vary in practice, doctrines, and ideology, amongst other things. In addition to creating accounts on social media like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and Instagram, the different congregations stay modern and relevant by using technological devices during church activities. Posters such as those in focus in this text, do not necessarily serve a function during the sermons, but is rather used as a tool to spread God’s word to various communities.
According to local sources, these kinds of posters started showing up around 10-20 years ago. This might be due to some change in the way of public religious expression, but we think the explanation is rather more pragmatic. We believe the reasons are related to the availability of more affordable means of production. The development and spread of digital technology and printers made it possible for more people to create larger and more professional posters. This caused a miniature iconographic arms race where more and more people used the technology to attract attention and spread their views.
Religion carries the potential for economic gain and in recent times many so called one man-churches have shifted their focus from helping people to exploit them for their money. They earn money through the sale of merchandise and other goods, and by taking consultation fees. Some of the posters can therefore be viewed as advertisements that seek to gather more people to their congregation. Some of the posters are also without any connection to a particular church and seems to just be a reminder of God and hell and an order to repent and accept Jesus. These seem to have been made by people with a more direct and personal interest in faith and redemption. They carry none or few similarities with the advertisements because they are very simple both in message and design and have no identifying features. The last category that emerges is the more private and personal commemorations of lost loved ones were those who are left behind hang posters that bear the image of the deceased and expressions of love and loss.
With this much time, effort and money dedicated to promote various religious messages or events, the natural question to ask is whether it actually works. Are these images attracting or influencing people the way their creators hoped? The posters rely on the importance of religion in most people’s life and for those who notice them because they have the necessary interest or affiliation, these posters can bring daily inspiration and encouragement. Images easily attract the attention of people and as they say “a picture is more worth than a thousand words”.
The word of God combined with powerful images ensure that the impact is maximized and has the ability to change lives. However, there seems to be a cultural difference when it comes to what catches our attention. The Norwegian students find the posters more overwhelming than their Ghanaian counterparts. This is related to the by comparison virtually non-existent presence of the church in public in Norway. The more private nature of faith and steady decline of religion in Norway makes the cornucopia of religious expression in Ghana seem more like a cacophony. The signs and posters have their desired effect on local Ghanaians because of their connection to a society were religion still has a strong presence and importance in people’s lives.
As the examples have shown there seem to be several intentions behind the expression of faith in public imagery. Some of them are related to the possibility for economic gain, intent on getting the attention of people to get their money, while others actually want to encourage people to find Jesus, and some just want to honour loved ones which they have lost and believe to be in a better place. No matter the reason, it is evident that Ghana’s connection to the transatlantic system has had strong and long term effects on their religious life and that one of the distinguishing features of this is the multiple and plentiful expressions of faith throughout the public imagery.
1 Dantzig, Albert van. (1980). Forts and castles of Ghana. Sedco Publishing Limited: Accra, p. 2
2 Buah F. K. (1998). A History of Ghana. Macmillan: Macmillan Publishers Limited, p. 65
3 Dantzig, 1980, p. 87
4 Jane E Soothill (2007) Gender, Social Change and Spiritual Power: Charismatic Christianity in Ghana. Brill: Boston, p. 1
Written by: Arunas Palionis, Maria Beck, Hilde Langeland, Joana Amoakoa and Alex Akuamoah-Boateng
GHANAIAN VERSION OF BURGERS
I know what you are thinking, burger? Why would students write about a worldwide known food when doing field work in Ghana? Well, for your surprise, the term “burger” has a completely different meaning for the Ghanaians. “Burger” or “boga” is actually a term used to describe people from Ghana who have migrated to other countries, mainly Europe and the United States. It was originally used referring to people who migrated to Hamburg in Germany.
The word “burger” comes from the city “Hamburg” and was used to describe the people that came back from Hamburg to Ghana. Since then it has evolved to cover everyone moving to a western country.
In this blog post we will connect the term Burger to Atlantic manifestations and will present to you an exclusive interview with our professor John Osei-Tutu who can relate to the term burger in a way none of the group members can.
John Osei-Tutu is our professor in the course Transatlantic History and Heritage. He lives in Trondheim, Norway, and is working as a professor at NTNU. He came to Norway in 1988 as part of a group of students arriving from Ghana who where looking for studying opportunities elsewhere.
For John, the term boga is used to describe a person who has migrated to Europe and has lived in cities like Hamburg, Amsterdam and places in The United States. These cities were typical “burger cities” that Ghanaians moved to and came back as “bogas”. According to John, Norway was not an original burger country. Travelling to another western country became popular in the 1980s. The reason for this was mainly because Europe became more open to accept people being persecuted by dictatorial governments and people who were migrating. The reason for people migrating from Ghana was mostly political, for studying or because of financial reasons. These economic specters are one of the main important reason for migrating, both for personal gain but also to support family back home in Ghana. According to John, every boga has a “duty” or are expected to help their families and friends back home in Ghana, either financially or with goods. One aspect of the term is that bogas is expected to have a lot more money when they return to Ghana.
One can see that someone has been spending time in another country by the way they dress, how they carry themselves and the way they style their hair. John considers himself to be a “Norwegian-boga”. With that he means Ghanaians livings in Norway who return on visits to Ghana are usually modest in appearance and appear relatively less ostentatious in their dealings.
There are a lot of different opinions and feelings about the term boga. John, doesn’t mind the term. People don’t call him boga all the time when he travels to Ghana. Friends may call out “Ah, the Norwegian burger has arrived!” jokingly and John does not mind this. For him the term is not negative. However, John emphasized that there are times when the term is used negatively. For example, as we have mentioned, there are expectations that they must come back as a boga with wealth and money. When they don’t return with wealth and money, the word boga is being used to tease these unfortunate people. In this way the term can be considered strongly connected with status. The term changes depending on the status that the person migrating acquires after moving to another country. John mentioned that his family does not call him boga, other than some friends and siblings use it to tease or to be funny. His family is mainly happy that when he contacts them and visits them, he is safe. He mentioned that family members in general does not call their sons or daughters bogas.
According to John, he doesn’t get cultural shock anymore, because he usually comes to Ghana at least once every year, and because of his research he sometimes takes multiple trips in a year. “When I go to Ghana I go home, and when I go to Norway I go home.” It feels normal to go back to Ghana for him because he knows how to act and how things are compared to in Norway, and he can quickly adapt to the Ghanaian ways. At the same time, he can quickly adapt to the Norwegian ways when he goes back to Norway because he also knows how things work there. When he was asked if he prefers being a Ghanaian in Norway or a Norwegian in Ghana, he answered that he prefers to be a Ghanaian in Ghana and a Norwegian in Norway, because he can adapt to both countries and knows how to navigate both countries.
Norway was not a popular destination back in the 80s. The UK, Germany and Amsterdam were more known for migrants. John knew about Norway already in his teenage years after reading a lot about the Norse mythology and Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon Tiki. Even though he already knew some things about Norway it didn’t mean that he wanted to go there. However, he had some kind of connection to Norway. John knew that if he stayed in Ghana to study, he would not get the same opportunities that he would if he migrated to another country. He then started to look for a scholarship and was tipped by a colleague that already was living in Norway to come there. And he did and has remained in Norway since.
Boga and Atlantic Manifestations
So, how is the term boga connected to Atlantic manifestations? Travelling back in time, Norway was part of the Transatlantic slave trade being connected to Denmark and their forts on the coastline of Ghana. During this trading period religion, language, myths and goods spread and connected the world globally. And it is important to note that during this era people became more aware of the outside world and this also made travelling and visiting other countries possible. And with this it opened for more opportunities.
The books that John read can also be seen as a part of the Atlantic connection. This is because the books have been a part of the Atlantic trade. The books contain the Norse stories that were translated into English. These stories were sold as books in Ghana and were potentially shipped from Europe. Other Norwegian story-based books like the Kon Tiki expedition can also be seen as a part of the Atlantic connection since it has been translated into English and sold all over the world, including Ghana.
John’s friend can also be seen as an Atlantic connection in itself since it was he who told John about Norway. This is because his friend had already been to Norway and knew about the country prior to talking to John about it. He shared and passed on the knowledge he had acquired about Norway to John which in turn made John go to Norway. Many more people like John have traveled to other countries across the Atlantic Ocean. Rockson Adofo is another example of a migrant becoming a boga. He has a different view on how bogas are being treated when returning to Ghana. Ghanaians accuse him of thinking of himself as being on a higher level than other Ghanaians, in terms of wealth. Adofo has a negative experience being a boga, but John has a more relaxed relationship with the word.1
“All “burgers” are not the same so please do not paint them with the same brush.” – Rockson Adofo
In John’s experience Bogas in themselves can be viewed as an Atlantic connection. They have gained knowledge about different cultures and have come back to display these cultures. This is the reason that local people gave them the name boga. With many bogas across the Atlantic it has led to the Diaspora Homecoming conference. This is a conference organized for Ghanaians outside the country and those who are at home in Ghana to discuss opportunities, invests in and their contributions to Ghana.
To conclude, we can see that bogas are connected to the Atlantic history as part of the globalization that has happened over the years. We have John as a great example and can learn a lot by his experiences and views on the term.
Written by Jon Olav Hove, associate professor at NTNU
Between the 17th of June and 12th of July, 12 Ghanaian and 14 Norwegian students are taking a coursed called Intercultural Perspectives on Atlantic History and Heritage. This takes place in Winneba, a town located west of the capital Accra, Ghana. The course is funded by DIKU’s NORPART-programme and is organised by the Department of History Education at the University of Education, Winneba and the Department of Historical Studies at NTNU.
The objective of the course is to give Norwegian and Ghanaian students insights into their shared history and heritage. Equally important, it provides the students with experience in intercultural cooperation through lectures, seminars, excursions and various forms of group work. Already in the first days of the course, students are divided into groups comprising Norwegians and Ghanaians, in which they discuss, cooperate and share impressions and knowledge.
In the first half of the course, students travel together on several excursions. They see the two slave trade castles in Elmina and Cape Coast, they see Christiansborg/Osu Castle and the houses of Danish-Norwegians and their children in Accra and they see the reconstructed Danish plantation Fredriksgave in the outskirts of Accra.
In the second half of the course, the students will, in their intercultural groups, do a fieldwork in Winneba. The results if these fieldworks will be published on this blog.
Besides all the work that goes into organsing and completing student exchanges at the different institutuions, an important part of our work is to let other people around us know about the possibilities and benefits of international mobility and exchanges. One of the best ways of doing this is is to organise workshops, where students are invited to come and listen to peers, that have already completed exchanges.
The project recently organised a workshop in Winneba at the same time as the Intercultural perspectives on Atlantic history and heritage summer school was taking place. This was a good oppurtunity for NORPART partners and students to meet and to advertise the program for our guests.
There were a variety of presentations at this workshop; some from Ghanian students that have already returned from their exchanges in Norway, but also from current participants of the joint summer scholl at Winneba.
The workshop was well attended with interesting questions from the floor as well as lively plenum discussions about the future direction of the exchange program.
At the end of the workshop, the heads of the various partner Depts, had a project meeting in order to discuss developments and the way forward.
Thank you to our kind hosts for organising the workshop and to all the presenters and participants. These regular events are vital for the smooth development of the cooperation in teh years to come.
We are two archaeology students who spent four weeks in Ghana, from 3rd of January to 1st of February of this year. We were there on an exchange program with the Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies. The first two weeks we were in separate cities, Denu and Dixcove, where we participated in an archaeological field school. Both of the field schools were connected to one of the many historical forts along the coast of Ghana, and the slave trade in general. We were given interesting insights into how things are done differently in archaeological fieldwork in Ghana, but also how things are similar despite the differences in climate and culture.
After the field school we were united back in Accra where we stayed in the International Student Hostel at the University of Ghana. We spent a few days at the Museum of Archaeology, located on campus. There we were trained in the treatment of the museum’s collection and museum management in general. On our days off we were able to visit Cape Coast where we visited some of the historical sites, as well as Kakum National Park where we walked across the rainforest canopy walkway.
We have learned a lot from our one-month stay in Ghana, both about archaeology and about the Ghanian culture.