Take a tour through Ghana's amazing history at these essential sights.
The National Museum is home to some of Ghana’s most absorbing historical finds. The museum, opened by the Duchess of Kent in 1957, gives an opportunity to travel through the country’s history from both an archaeological and ethnographic perspective. Much of the display is dedicated to indigenous art and crafts: there are regalia, musical instruments and the all-important royal Asante stools. Other displays include Asante gold weights, currency, instruments, textiles and leatherwork. Slighty hidden away is the chair used in Kwame Nkrumah’s inauguration and the chair of the last British governor, rescued from Christianborg Castle. An exhibition about the slave trade is essential viewing, outlining the era’s brutal history, and showing poignant relics such as shackles. There’s also a gallery with pieces by Ghanaian artists.
A national park erected in memory of Osagyefo (the Messiah) Doctor Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president and one of its founding fathers. Built on a former British polo field, it was the point where Nkrumah declared independence in 1957. The park consists of five acres of land and holds a museum tracing Nkrumah’s life. There are many personal items on display, but the centrepiece is the mausoleum, Nkrumah and his wife’s final resting place. Tours in English can be taken. Kwame Nkrumah is an essential part of Ghana’s history and a good half-hour here will fill you in on most of the details. Events are held on Independence Anniversary celebrations on 6 March and the Celebration of Emancipation Day on 1 August.
William Edward Burghardt Du Bois was an African-American civil rights activist who became a citizen of Ghana in the 1960s. He was known as the ‘Father of Pan-Africanism’. The centre, where he and his wife once lived, and where they are now buried, houses his personal library, a small museum with a handful of personal effects such as his graduation robes. The couple’s mausoleum is surrounded by Asante stools, a seminar room, a restaurant, a gallery, an amphitheatre and a research centre for Pan-African history and culture.
With modernist and Soviet- influenced lines, the stands around Independence Square can seat 30,000 people. The vast area, built under Kwame Nkrumah, is designed for huge events and military marches, but it is usually empty except for a few soldiers sheltering from the sun. The only times the square comes alive are at commercial events such as concerts and fashion shows, which take place throughout the year. Even if there’s not much happening it’s worth wandering around just to marvel at the sheer audacity of it all.The Independence Arch, at the centre of the busy roundabout, is also known as Black Star Square, thanks to the motif that dominates the arch. The sculpture is a nod to Ghana’s acclaim as the ‘Black Star of Africa’: it was an inspiration to other African countries vying for independence and the Flame of African Liberation, lit by Nkrumah, still burns strongly nearby. Please note that there are (seemingly unwritten) laws about taking photographs and we strongly suggest that you don’t take photographs of any part ofthe area.
Along the seafront near Black Star Square is the Arts Centre. Hawkers attack from all sides as soon as you arrive, but if you’re not exhausted by the scrum you can find carvings, baskets, drums, bags, beads, fabrics, sandals, sculptures, stools, rugs and occasionally antiques. It’s a place to unearth some incredible finds and gifts. The best bet is to head past the hassle which you’ll inevitably encounter at the entrance and make your way towards the back of the complex, where it’s a bit more relaxed. Haggling is expected. There’s also an art gallery, which sells prints and paintings at reasonable prices.