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ACCRA, Ghana — At the entrance of the Black Star Square in Downtown Accra, Ghana, the words “Freedom and Justice” are displayed with a black star and the year 1957. This symbol commemorates the year that Ghana gained independence from its colonial power, Great Britain.
Just outside Black Star Square, also known as Independence Square, is a large open space built by the first president of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah. Rows of seats painted the colors of the Ghanan flag flank the main Independence Arch. The site also includes a statue of a soldier which symbolizes the soldiers who gave their lives for Ghana’s freedom.
Ghanaians view the five-pointed black star as a symbol of their own freedom from Great Britain, and this star is the focal point of Ghana’s flag. In Africa, a black star symbolizes membership and pride in Africa and its freedom from colonialism.
Ghana’s official language is English, so there are few language barriers for visitors, but the local languages in and around the capital city of Accra are called Twi and Ewe.
This square holds all national events, including festivals, gatherings and the annual Independence Day parades that occur on March 6.
The National Theatre of Ghana is also a hub for music, dance and other performing arts attractions in Accra. A current production at the theatre is “Kookua,” a Ghanaian twist on the classic tale of Cinderella.
H.L. Daniel, the playwright of the show, sat in the front row of the theatre to watch her latest masterpiece unfold. An acclaimed author and playwright, Daniel recently founded the Creative Writing Academy that gives Ghanaian students the opportunity to explore their creative side and practice their writing skills. “Kookua” is proof the writing academy students are in good care and are contributing to Ghana’s literary and artistic culture.
Not too far from Accra lies the city of Sekondi-Takoradi, a popular shopping destination for visitors and locals alike. Takoradi’s Market Circle continues the celebration of traditional arts and culture. It offers an array of products, including fresh fish and vegetables, packaged food, raw cloth, ready-to-wear clothes, furniture and handmade jewelry. The market is practically overflowing with vendors selling unique finds in all the nooks and crannies, popping up in every direction you turn.
For 1 cedi — about 25 cents — you can buy a Ghanaian pineapple from a street vendor, who will chop it up and serve it in a plastic bag with toothpicks. Unlike the tart pineapples found in the United States, pineapple found at the market in Takoradi is sweet, juicy and is perfectly in season in September.
Ghanaians also recognize their history in the city of Cape Coast, just a few hours from Takoradi and home to the Cape Coast Castles and slave dungeons. There’s a string of castles along the coastal city, where Europeans who dominated the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade lived with the indigenous people they captured.
There is a stark difference between the vastness of the slave traders’ quarters in comparison to the cramped, suffocating spaces that housed hundreds of slaves for weeks at a time. Though the castles are deserted now and the Atlantic slave trade is over, they are an eerie visual reminder of the history that occurred in Cape Coast and the number of people who passed unwillingly through its walls.