Coming ‘home’ to Ghana was very exhilarating, interesting, overwhelming and enriching. It was a sojourn that fulfilled my diasporic double-consciousness. The rich cultural heritage and traditions of Ghana will be etched indelibly in my psyche. Cecilia Hall, University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT)
I thought this trip would be one of a lifetime and I was not disappointed. We were welcomed with open arms by our Ghanaian brothers and sisters so it was no surprise that Akwaaba which means welcome was the word most commonly heard and the first we learnt. Kiola Swanson, Holy Cross College
The experience was FANTASTIC, fabulous, rich and overwhelming. We were in Africa, in Ghana, a country of our ancestors, our enslaved mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, who had suffered all the indignities of slavery. Monica Regisford, ASPnet National Coordinator
In celebration of the International Year for People of African Descent 2011, within the framework of the Transatlantic Slave Trade Education Project (TST), a Trinidad and Tobago student and teachers exchange visit took place in Ghana from 22nd July-16th August 2011. The exchange visit was organized by the Trinidad & Tobago National Commission for UNESCO, the Ghana National Commission for UNESCO and the UNESCO Accra Office. The 25 member group of students and teachers was led by the ASPNET National Coordinator (Trinidad and Tobago). The visit was a "return to the roots" initiative which gave the team the opportunity to participate in the PAN African festival (PANAFEST), tour places of cultural, historical and international significance, participate in a number of cultural workshops, better understand the heritage, rituals and practices in Ghana and simply interact with everyday Ghanaians.
Activities began in the Central region where they spent 8 days in Cape Coast participating in PANAFEST and visiting heritage sites including some of the World Heritage Forts and Castles of the region. The highlight of their experience was the teams’ participation in the EMANCIPATION Day celebration. This included a candlelight procession in the streets that ended at the Cape Coast Castle where wreaths were laid in commemoration of the Africans who died in the slave trade. The slave passage through the ‘Door of No Return’ into slave ships was re-enacted. The visits to both castles evoked emotions of sadness, tears and even anger. The team then visited Ho, in the Volta Region, where they spent 3 days learning traditional dances and witnessing the dexterity of Magician Gatukpe Kpeve, (‘Metal grinds rock’).
The next stop was the Ashanti Region, where they spent 5 days visiting heritage sites, cultural centres, and learning to dance the Sanga, the Adowa and other dances. The highlight of the stay here was the visit to Otumfuo Osei Tutu II and participating in the Akwasidae ceremony in Kumasi. Akwasidae is an ornate ceremony, commemorating the day that the Ashanti Golden Stool was magically brought down from the sky, ‘heaven’. It was a spectacular sight for the team who paid homage to the king, offered gifts and shook hands with him. The team visited an impoverished school for which they vowed to mobilize support once back in Trinidad & Tobago. Upon their return to Accra, the teachers in the team participated in a three-day ASPnet TST Teacher Professional Development Workshop and in Accra. During a meeting with the team, the Minister of Education (Ghana), Mrs. Betty Mould-Iddrisu, stressed the need for member states of the United Nations to strengthen their collective actions against human rights violation, racism and discrimination in the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Visits in the Greater Accra Region included the Ghana National Museum, the W.E.B. Du Bois Memorial Centre for Pan-African Culture, Accra planetarium, and Noyam Dance Institute in Dodowa. Noyam is a professional dancing institute that uses the power of dance and the arts generally, to address social issues and to instill in the youth the necessary level of consciousness, empowerment and the creative ability needed for social development.
Reflecting on the myriad of sights, sounds, smells, tastes and feelings experienced in Ghana, the Trinidadians expressed their profound thanks, recounting lessons learnt from the exchange visit. It was unanimously recommended that African students and teachers should be given similar opportunities to visit other countries involved in the Transatlantic Slave Trade beyond Africa and facilitate a more complete learning experience from the slave trade.