“No one had to tell us—we felt at home!”
By Rachelle Salnave In OkayAfrica
Haitian-American indie filmmaker shares the gift she gave her daughters of traveling to Ghana, West Africa for the first time during The Year of Return.
Staying at Agoo Hostel in Nima was a page out of the 1980’s American TV series, The Love Boat—except the characters were Ghanaian!
“Akwaaba! Welcome home my sistahs,” is a phrase we were told not just at Agoo, but throughout our entire Ghana girls trip. Akwabba is not just this country’s motto—it’s the vibe in Ghana.
This girls trip was a graduation gift for my daughters, Kiara and Nadine. Having traveled to Morocco to connect with my Moroccan stepmom and sister, Africa was not unfamiliar to them—but I knew Ghana would be different. My DNA had been traced to Ghana and Benin, it’s neighboring country. I immediately saw a taste of Haiti, my parents’ country and the girls felt the kinship. I prayed this trip would change our relationship with Africa and bond us closer together as women. Ghana did just that!
After choosing Ghana as our vacation destination, I discovered that it was the “Year of the Return”—a tourist and investment initiative designed to attract the African Diaspora as 2019 marks the 400th anniversary of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. I asked myself, “Was this a coincidence or a real calling for us to return this year?”
When we arrived in Cape Coast, which once served as the first capital of the Gold Coast colony for European slave traders, we were asked “my sistahs, are you here for ‘The Year of Return?'” In the touristy areas visited, we encountered many tourists from the African Diaspora tourists soaking up the culture—which was really refreshing.
Nima was our headquarters for the trip. A neighborhood in Accra rich in character, it was never a dull moment. Agoo sits behind President Nana Akufo-Addo’s private house. BBnZ—a music studio-turned-nightclub—sits parallel to a kente cloth factory with workers singing under a luscious mango tree. Some mornings, we would walk a few blocks to get fresh coconut water from the bustling street market.
We partied at club Onyx, owned by Ghanaian Hip Hop Artist, D Black. We were treated like queens as we were offered complimentary hookah puffs and ginger bitters, a delicious home-grown rum. We frequently ended up at FireFly Lounge, owned by Houssam, a Lebanese entrepreneur who opened his doors in 2011. This funky bar sits in the heart of Osu, an interesting cosmopolitan area in Accra known for its nightlife and pubs.
Ghanaians have three names. The tradition of African day naming dates back centuries used by the Akan people to keep track of time. Depending on the day you were born, each name has a meaning. Since Kiara and I were born on Thursday, we were both called Yaa, which is associated with the earth. To distinguish our ages, she was called Yaa Yaa. Nadine was born on Tuesday, affiliated with the ocean. She was called Abena.
The sounds of Ghana hit our veins with every beat of the drum. It was a soundtrack to our journey navigating from one scenic city to the next. Our African names flowed from our lips at every introduction. No one questioned us. With a warm smile, they would just say, “Akwaaba! Welcome home my Sistahs!”
No one had to tell us—we felt at home!
Our pictures are just a snapshot of our amazing journey. Check it out below.
After about a 45 minute drive outside of Cape Coast, we enjoyed a 7 canopy and nature walk at Kakum National Park. Home of the butterflies and 270 mammal species and exotic plant life, Kakum is humanity’s treasure.
On any given day, locals offer libations and other offerings to the ancestors who experienced the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade at Cape Coast Castle. Pictured is a local Vodun priest offering libations and telling the ancestors that their descendants have returned.