Sunday, 12 May 2013

History: Ghana’s Majestic Past –People & Culture in Black & White from 1850 - 1950

"Old house in Aburi built by Brother Meischel 1848-49."

"Ornocke Ata [Quaccoe Attah]. King of Cape Coast." 1856 -1857


"Kobina Owysiel, Chief of Domanasi." Date: 1856- 1857


"Slave caravan." No date



"Messengers from the King of Ashanti." Date: 1856- 1857

  • "King Atah of Kyebi [Amoako Atta]." 1860


    "Alex Clerk and Philip Smith Kwabi, catechists in Abude." Date: 1860


    "Girls boarding school in Abude with Rose Anne Miller in the centre." 1860


    "Benjamin Tete, bookbinder in Christiansborg." Date unknown


    "Joseph Sebastian." 1861

    "Catechist Th. Svanikier and his wife, with three brother's children." 1861

    "Catechist Paul Staudt and his wife." 1861


    "Catechist P. Fleischer, his wife, and a nephew." 1861

    "George Lomotey and his wife. Trader in Osu." Date: 1861-1880


    "With Mrs Lutterodt film to Mrs M. Schweizer."No date

    "Phil. Smith and family, catechist in Aburi." Date: 1861

    "Alex Clerk and family, catechist in Aburi." 1861

    "Christiansborg. - Counting cowries." 1861
    "Nana Otuo Achampong, Paramount Chief of Kumawu, in his African battle dress." No date


    "Th. Swanikier [sitting], Brother C.F. Aldinger [sitting], Th. Wulff [standing], Paul Fleischer [standing]." Date: 1861 -1865


    "Boys' boarding school in Christiansborg." 1861


    "Christiansborg. Shoe-maker Bohner's workshop." Date unknown

    "Freed slaves in Kumase who have been taken over by Rev. and Mrs. Ramseyer." Date unknown

    "The Wesleyan mission house in Accra, and behind the hills of Fanteland." 1861


    "Kyebi - Royal grouping from Akem." 1866-1867

    "Cape Coast at the time of the Asante expedition 1873-4."


    "Women spinning yarn with a spindle."1865-1868


    "A.H. Engmann, Maria Engmann, teacher in Christiansborg, both mulattos." Date: 1861 -1880


    "Catechist Karl Rheindorf with his wife and father - in Odumase." No date


    "Kufur and wife." Date: 1880

  • "Mrs Rottmann and daughter with girls in Christiansborg." Date unknown

    Fetish priest and priestesses Gold Coast." 1880

    "Pastor Asare with familiy Tutu." 1880

    "Negro types from Akem and Akuapem Gold Coast."Date: 1880

    "King Kwaku Dua and the Golden Stool in Kumase, with attendants." Date: 1880


    "Ampofowa, Queen Mother of Akem, (on her right a slave, on her left a grandson)." Date: 1881


    "Kindergarten in Aburi." Date: 1881

    "Ga girl with broom for sweeping." 1883

    "A Mutilated woman. A woman whose nose and mouth has been cut off." Date: 1883


    "Executioner." (Kumasi) Date: 1888- 1895


    "The King of Kwahu." Date: 1888- 1895



    "King of Odumase." No date


    "Girls' boarding school in Odumase."  Date: 1883-1888


    "Church in Winnebah." 1885

    Woman with tribal tattooing." 1885

    "Native man with tattoos." 1885

    "African children with the scars of inherited syphilis on their noses." 1885 -1905

    Man with leprosy, Gold Coast." Date unknown

    "Ex-King Mensah and his mother." 1888



    "Fetish clan." 1889




    "Road through the forest. The turning to the right leads to Nsuta, where Rev. Bauer lies buried."


    "Liquor store." 1880

    "Licensed liquor store." Date unknown

    The King of Nkoranza with his entourage." (Brong Ahafo) 1888

    "King Taki II, the king of Accra, with some of his servants 1891."


    "Aburi Hospital." Date: 1885


    "Native Ga pastors in the Ga district, Reindorf, Saba, Richter." 1885


    "Odow Kwame, Chief of Abetifi." Date: 1888 -1890


    "Ado-Kwame - Abetifi chief his palaver hall."


    "The teacher Oko with his school-children in Kpemo." Date: 1888 -1895


    In Ashanti -Date unknown


    "A victim of the King of Kumase - he had had his lips and ears cut off."  1888 -1895 Asante man whose lips and ears have been cut off as a punishment for theft."


    "Mutilated woman."

    "A 'soul', a person dedicated to the King of Asante. The round plate on the chest is made of gold, the string is white." 1888


    "Women dressing their hair." Date: 1888


    "Young women doing their hair." Date: 1888



    "Head of the swordbearers of Odow Kwame of Abetifi." 1888- 1891  

    "The King of Akwapim." Date unknown


    "Aristocratic Asante woman with special hair-style." Date: 1896

    "A christian girl from Obosumase near Akropong." Date unknown

    "Market scene in Kumase." Date 1896


    "Old Kumase: Bantama." Date: 1896 


    "Haussa traders roasting snails in Kumase." Date unknown

    "Freed slaves in Kumase." 1896

    "Copper-smith in Kumase - a former slave." Date: 1896

    "Blue Cross Society Kumase." 1896

    "Bank in Kumase with Miller's trading post." Date: 1896



    "Selling palm-wine and tobacco." Date: 1899

    "House-girls doing the washing." Date: 1899 -1912


    "Charles, Samuel and Timothy Amaning." Date unknown

    "Secondary school in Christiansborg." 1900

    "Boy being punished for stealing water , Christiansborg." 1900

    "Africans playing 'Awara' (dice)." 1900

    "Thieves under arrest." Date unknown

    "An African beauty from the Gold Coast." Date unknown

    "Indigenous people from the Gold Coast." Date unknown

    "Pounding fufu." Date unknown

    Haussa woman greeting one another." 1900

    African children in European clothes." Date unknown
    "Three police-men in Winnebah." 1900
    "Hausa huts in Winnebah." 1900
    "Winneba. The church was designed by a native pastor from Winneba and built by a Winneba stone-mason without European help." Date unknown

    "Ruin of a slave-trade castle in Teshi." 1900

    "A catechist's family in Christiansborg." 1903


    "Sextuplets born in Accra in 1903."

    "Haussa women." Date: 1900 -1904


    "A Hausa beauty in Winnebah, Nsaba, daughter of a Hausa priest." Date: 1900 -1904


    "Waterfall near Anum." 1900 -1904


    "Women in Christiansborg, with three different hair-styles, dressed in European cotton material." Date: 1900 -1904

    "Salaga Market, Accra." Date unknown
    “Christian soldiers in Accra. West Indians from the Asante war, with their decorations. At tea given by the missionary O. Schultze.,” Date: 1900-1904
    "Arrival of bush people for the celebration of the native festival Homowo, Accra." Date unknown
    "Business morning at the railway station Accra II." Date unknown

    "Prätorius Church in Accra." Date: 1900 -1904

    "Railway to Kumase and Tarkwa." 1900 -1904

    "In the compound of the christian cabinetmaker Bannermann. Altar and pulpit for the church in Christiansborg." 1900

    "Arrival of first train to reach Kumase. 1.10. 1903."


    "Kumase railway station." Date: 1903

    "Accra, Eastern part of town." 1901 -1905

    "Accra races, before the start." Date unknown

    "YMCA in Kumase. The missionaries Schwerin, Perregeaux (+), Giezendanner, Zimmermann." 1904 -1905

    "Teacher Seku in Kumase." Date unknown

    "Christians carrying stones to the building site in Christiansborg." Date: 1905


    "The teacher Asa with his family in Gyakiti. 1907."




    "Kumase: Ebenezer Church." 1908


    "Ordination of the first native pastor, Samuel Kwafo, in Kumase 15th August 1909."


    "Ex-King Prempeh of Asante in exile on the Seychelles. The King and his relatives." Date: 1901 -1917


    "Missionaries eating breakfast in the teacher's compound in Antoa (Kumase): Jost, Lädrach, Berger, Kunz." Date: 1910

    “Syphilitic man with Dr. Hey, Odumase.,” 1912

    "Pastor Reindorf, Christiansborg." Date: 1914

    "Rev. and Mrs Reindorf, photographed on [his] 80th birthday, June 1914, retired in Christiansborg."


    "Anomabu." 1921

    "Winneba market." 1925


    "Goldmine near Obuase." Date: 1925-1929



    "Savelugu with our carriers from Tamale."

    "Chief of Pong with entourage." Date unknown


    "African medicine man carrying his pharmacy on his head." Date: 1925 -1955

    "Market scene in Tamale 1928."

    "Train to Kumase." Date: 1931 -1945


    "A fetish child." Date: 1931

    "Lorry with teachers from Agogo." Date: 1931 -1945


    "Kumase, Kegyetia.Commercial quarter. 1931



    “The King of Pamu being carried in his palanquin to attend a service in the chapel in Pamu.” 1931

    "Tamale. 1936

    "Dagomba chief in Tamale, 1936."

    "Advertisement on a wall opposite the Post Office in Kumase." 1938

    "Sekondi: Bata store, October 1938."

    "Sekondi, Lorry Service Sekondi-Accra." Date unknown

    "Three Gold Coast stools." Date unknown


    "The drummer Kwame Ayebeng at the dedication of the church in Akropong." 1939


    "Accra earthquake 1939: Upper part of a house which has collapsed." 

    "The side wall has collapsed." Date: 1939



    "Ancient African History. The science of chemistry was originated by Africans in the ancient empire of Ghana." Date: 1946 -1960


    "Ancient African History. Aesop imparting the wisdom of Africa to the Greeks." Date: 1946 -1960

    "Ancient African History. Africans teaching Greeks mathematics." Date: 1946- 1960


    No Title / Date unknown



    Paulina Opoku-Gyimah says: Looking back ---Sankofa styleeee is very important; it helps us to learn from our past, from our mistakes, celebrate our successes and move forward… But it has, today, -allowed me to be less romantic and more realistic about Ghana’s golden past!!!

    You know…….I blame my parents for the quixotic views I had of Ghana’s past. Tales of sunshine, safe childhood fun, peace, a place where doors were left open -and neighbours looked after each other, stories of Royalty and majesty -of culture and festivals –were all I had in mind with regards to Ghana’s enigmatic past.

    I now know that like all nations, Ghana has had its fair share of the good, the bad and the darn right ugly!!!

    The above photographs have hit me like a bolt of lightning, -enlightening me to a past of struggle, hope, brutality, Victorian disciple and of a strong people.

    Still, I think it’s important to point out that I’m under no illusions that these images were taken by missionaries in Ghana, –a team of Victorian Christians sent to the ‘Gold Coast’ to convert and westernize our people, thus they had their own agendas... But I don’t believe ….that any of these images were set-up, -certainly not the images of mutilated people or sooo called fetish or Komfo children; nope these phenomena’s are all ours (mercy). Thus I’m feeling more balanced about Ghana’s past… and coming to terms with some of its daily brutal occurrences.

    The above images offer us a fantastic insight into the lives of a cross section of people, cultures, customs and societies living side by side from the 19th century to the present, - and are true gems.

    Some of the images –especially of the sick and the handicapped were very emotive. Images of rich people in everyday setting are also insightful –as some were still not shod. I didn’t like the missionaries calling the dreadlocked children --fetish or Komfo children (whether the indigenous populations call them that or not) –as you get the feeling ….‘these men of God’ felt said children, like their heathen fetish parents were going to HELL. Still I wasn’t surprised to see images of sooo called ‘fetish or Komfo children!!! 

    I remember my mother sharing with my siblings and me, –her reasons for not liking dreadlocks.  Apparently there are some children who are born with hair –that no matter how much you brush it –it remains naturally twisted in dreadlocks –thus they are seen as past ancestors come back –reincarnates say, -or people called by various spirits to do their work –thus were frowned upon by Ghana’s ‘moral’ Victorian Christian class.

    What was surprising --- was the laissez-faire way the general public behaved with regards to slavery!

    From images of various slave caravans – where scores of people (adults and children) were dragged from one state to another –shackled and chained in large groups –groups that finally end up in one of Ghana’s many slave ports and then transported to the new world –didn’t seem to shock the general public.

    Slavery just wasn’t the big moral deal it is now; -well not until the Europeans started making money out of it!!!!

    The Ghana of yesteryear appears uber conservative, I know it’s still somewhat conservative now, but it appeared more so!!!

    ‘Old’ Ghana appears severe –one based on discipline and uber respect, a society where everybody knew their place and didn’t dare go against the status-quo. You were born something or somewhere –and that was your lot. In fact it’s the presence of Europeans that seems to bring about a more upwardly mobile verve.

    The Europeans brought career prospects and social opportunities, thus creating a new class, –one where former orphans, some former slaves and some working class men -were able to elevate their status by becoming part of the clergy class, or by becoming:  bookbinders, traders or cabinet makers etc. Thus for some –especially liberated former slaves (the missionary emancipated scores of slaves) -the church became a way out of poverty and into the professional classes… Plus services needed by the missionaries and their families like gardeners, cooks, nannies, shoe menders, locksmiths, bookbinders, cabinet makers etc created more opportunities –what I don’t know is if their household staff were paid!!!  
    Plus, it’s easier to see how the likes of some -especially the Fantes and some Ga’s with European names like: Swanikier, Svanikier, Fleischer, Sutherland, Reindorf, Bannermann, Hanson, Lutterodt, Brew, De-Graft, De-Bords, Spio-Garbrah etc –prospered.  Note some names that existed then like Bohner which is now Fantefuo’s Bonner –have changed somewhat ---becoming more British sounding after our last colonial fathers. Also, not only did their European merchant ancestors pay for them to be educated, many were also left homes and inheritance –not just in name (we all know how much Fantefuos love their ‘Wesleyan’ Christianity and their European names) -but money and opportunities…

    As for the masses –it was a life of work and whether our ancestors thought it a struggle or not, looking back with my 21st century eyes…it looks like hard work, ---I guess it still is for many!!!

    House girls, house boys –all this and much worse existed before Trans-Atlantic slavery.  As I’ve already stated –everyone knew their place and didn’t dare resist, thus for these house children, it was a life of servitude.  I personally don’t like the idea that in modern day Ghana –today, we still have ‘house girls and house boys’ –it feels sinful to me.

    If your distant cousin dies and her child is left in your care –the child isn’t automatically a ‘house boy or girl’ –but is instead ---your child, a human being that deserves love and education etc –and not a modern day slave, ---because that’s what they are.

    When my father was relocating to Ghana a hundred years ago –my siblings and I (and himself) made it clear that ‘gate man’ was the beginning and end of his staff –because anything else would be wrong. You can always pay someone to clean your house, or do your laundry etc etc –I guess Ghana still has a long way to go!!!!

    I also learnt that all Ghanaian kings/chiefs /kingdoms bought, stole and won slaves in war –and most shockingly –that many of these slaves were born into slavery.

    From the above images, I get the feeling that there was much more fear or respect -then –and if you dared to rock the boat ----- there were consequences!!!

    Image after image of mutilated women and men, – individuals who dared to steal, or say the wrong thing or were seen as rude, disrespectful or worse witches or wizards casting spells or plotting evil –are a testament to Ghana’s brutal past. Not forgetting sacrifices… and not all were animal sacrifices (mercy)..

    Also, boys and young men called ‘souls’ –a group of people dedicated to the king/chief at birth –whose sole purpose was to take care of their rulers, –thus were killed on the death of their monarchs –so they could look after them in the afterlife, a fact, I sooo can’t relate to –but was the norm and our culture once-upon-a-time!!!

    Flies, pestilence and numerous diseases like leprosy and syphilis meant short painful lives for some –or worse, an insecure future as an outcast –sent away from your tribe/clan/family, -leaving you vulnerable to attacks by other tribes or wild animals or starvation.

    Children were little adults who worked hard, and women –though they were traders, mothers, and teachers –bore the weight of the family on their shoulders –with division of labour very much in their men’s favour. 

    I’m not saying that all of what I’ve learnt today about Ghana’s great past is negative or a struggle, --we are strong happy people –after all, -only that…… it’s pretty sobering to see images of palaver palaces –where the chief and the men folk would drink and unwind, images of grown men playing one game or another –but only images of women pounding fufu, grinding maize, fetching water or ---and this might also be a form of relaxation –doing or having their hair done!!!

    Women were also banished to a special hut once a month during their menstruation –as they were considered –unclean.  Still, there are numerous images of various Queen mothers –and we all know how powerful they are!!! I wonder if things have changed.

    As I’ve mentioned before Ghana also had its leisure class, thus, numerous images of fashionable ladies –wives of traders, chiefs and ministers sitting about leisurely is evidence that not all women were struggling!!!

    Still, what I do ‘love’ and continue to ‘love’ about Ghana’s past and present, -is the way all tribes/clans lived and traded alongside each other and intermarried.

    Its amazes me that the Hausa population is as small as it is now in Ghana -because via the above images and others I’ve shared with you in the past –show a large Hausa population. I wonder if years of intermarrying and we Ghanaians becoming Christians means many just disappeared/became part of the Akan majority. Certainly, I’ve always believed that most Fante-s are just Ashanti mixed with Hausa especially when you stumble across the Moslem Bance families of Fanteland!!! I often wonder if Burkina Faso’s Aristide Bance originated from this clan.    

    I also love the swagger!!!  Image after image of beautifully dressed women –wearing bold wax print cloths with amazing hairstyles, and men in traditional wear –and whilst the majority of women wore traditional attire -most of Ghana’s newly emerging clergy class and tradesmen, -or should I say Ghana’s new middle professional class –tended to mimicked their Victorian colo masters.

    Suited and booted, with their hair cut just soo, Ghanaian men then and now,  –were not messing about  -just take a look at the amazing ‘Amaning’ brothers above!!!

    Charles, Samuel and Timothy Amaning cut a fabulous dapper dash with their Victorian elegant-men-about-town swagger. 

    From our elegant Kentes to our elaborate hairstyles, -our handmade beautiful wax print cloths to our bodacious adornment with gold and silver jewellery, –we Ghanaians have always been uber fashionable and cutting edge…

    But mostly, -I’m happy that we are still here, still alive, because our kinfolks had a whole lot to survive and overcome –Amen!!!!!



    1. Thanks for sharing these telling photos; they provide wonderful insight into life during this time period. Where did you source them from??

    2. Hey great article again, where did you get the pictures from and can you recommend any books regarding the dreadlocked children and victorian missionaries?

    3. Brilliant! Somewhere, a feeling of belonging is awakened in me.

    4. There are some brilliant pictures, which are very telling of our past.
      However whilst I do not deny that, just like any other human society - brutality and cruelty were sometimes part of our old ways, I would suggest that in fact your parents did not misinform you as much as you think. In regards to slavery and class - the victorian europeans society was much more rigid in terms of distinguishing between class and it was almost impossible to move upwards, let's not forget their society was also very much misogynistic too. In contrast our old systems were more fluid and if you are not aware there is a tradition that someone's background was not discussed as there was a chance that they were or had 'slave/servant' ancestry. The reason for this tradition was because slaves would be absorbed into the families and I understand that there have even been instances were when absorbed into royal families they have eventually ascended to become monarchs. Furthermore the slaves had full rights just as any other person in that society.
      Wilhem Bosman in the early 18th century wrote a critique - in his book a new and accurate account of Guinea - in which he expressed alarm at the fact, just about anyone could rise to prominence in African society (he was for some time based in Fort San Antonio in Axim) and he found this quite unsavory and foreign to his beliefs.

      In regards to slavery whilst there is no doubt many Africans were complicit in it, a reminder that say for example a Fante would regard a Dagomba (in those days) very much like the british perceived their french neighbors and may I remind you that these two countries (gb & france) were almost always in a perpetual state of war. Moreover the europeans had tried to enslave - Arawaks, Caribs and even the irish as some point in time, but these ventures were unsuccessful for many reasons other than resistance. Furthermore there are no records of Africans being taking away and returning to tell of the brutality and misery perpetrated by the europeans in the Caribbean or americas. what I am trying to allude to here is that to understand why Africans were involved in slavery in those days was not as simple as you would imagine and it certainly wasn't because we mistreated our own people, There and many stories of Kings and people trying to protect their citizens, see the slave walls at Gwollu and Nalerigu. Many people were kidnapped and slavers were usually renegades from different states and regions.


    5. Continuation

      Many people were kidnapped and slavers were usually renegades from different states and regions.

      In regards to your comments about Hausas, may I clarify that the Hausa people traded all over West Africa and thus there language is widely spoken, however Hausa whilst spoken in Ghana is not a Ghanaian language, Northern Ghana has many ethnic groups including Nanumba, Sisala, Dagati, Chereponi, Builsa, Lobi & Busanga, but not Hausa.

      In regards to children having to work, this also is more likely a modern phenomenon rather than one of our past. I recently came across numerous academic articles that suggest in days gone Africans including those on the Gold Coast where regarded as some of the best swimmers in the world and europeans actually learnt these techniques from Africans, up until these times most europeans including most sailors did not know how to swim. In one article - I believe the author may have been quoting Bosman again - he describes how ' quite condescendingly' children in places like Axim spent their whole days swimming in the sea and that parents encouraged this. He describes how boards and some form of floats were given to the children to help them, until they became excellent swimmers. This was an essential life skill as they may later become fishermen. Anyway I think this rather illustrates a very carefree and wonderful childhood in days past rather than the gloomy pictures you have painted.

      I have provided some links.

      I would also suggest that you look at the wonderful traditional architecture in Abertfifi and Kumasi, these great arts seem to have been lost, but I think our past was much more glorious than we care to believe and the problem is not what we are told but the many things we don't know.

      Nana K

    6. This is so great. Thank you for taking the time to highlight to the younger generation of Ghanaians at time in our history. It is my hope that we the younger once can learn and gain some insights from this and contribute to the success of our nation Ghana and Africa beyond