Saturday, October 13, 2007
MUSEUM OF SLAVERY OPENS AT SESEMI
By: EDMUND MINGLE
Sesemi a hamlet near Abokobi, in the Ga East District, on Thursday, October 11, found itself not only the proud host of an international array of prominent personalities, but also making history in Ghanaian tourism.
The occasion was the opening ceremony of “the Frederiksgave Plantation and Common Heritage Site Community Museum’, a joint initiative of the University of Ghana and the National Museum of Denmark.
It is also a Common Heritage Project-Ghana initiative whose objective is “developing our cultural and natural heritage for tourism”, under the Department of Archaeology of the University of Ghana.
The museum is housed in a restored architectural complex, Frederiksgave, built by the Danes in 1832 as a plantation mansion where the slave masters lived.
Addressing the gathering, Deputy Minister of Tourism and Diasporan Relations, Kofi Osei-Ameyaw, said the Sesemi museum had given Ghanaian tourism a new dimension: heritage tourism.
Other personalities who graced the occasion included the Ga Mantse, Nii Tackie Tawiah III, the Danish Minster of Culture, Brian Mikkelsen; the main financier of the project, Mr. Peter Augustinus and his wife, Lis; the Danish Ambassador to Ghana, Mr. Flemming Bjork Pedersen.
Others were: The Director of the National Museum of Denmark, Mr. Carsten U. Larsen; the Chairman of the Augustinus Foundation, Axel Kierkegaard; the Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Professor C. N. B. Tagoe, the Chief Director of the Ministry of Tourism, Mrs. Bridget Katsriku; the Chairman of the National Commission on Culture, Prof. George Hagan; Prof. Kwabena Nketiah and Prof. J. R. Anquandah.
The large crowd at the function also included some Danes in Ghana, tourists from the US, personnel of the Ga East Assembly and the University of Ghana.
On exhibition in the museum, in white in a serene environment, are various historical items used by both the slaves and their masters, including the remains of guns, knives, clay pipes, bottles, pots, hammock, jars, beads, bed and animal bones, which reflect life during the plantation slavery.
The prime objective for the reconstruction, which was funded by the Augustinus Foundation, a Danish organization, is to underscore the common Ghanaian and Danish cultural heritage to inform the present and future generation as well as document the history of the plantation.
From 1831 to 1850, the site was one of the plantations where the Danes used enslaved Africans to cultivate a variety of crops including cotton, coffee and tobacco.
But after years of cultivation and shipments to Denmark, the plantation took on another function. It became a recovery and recreational centre for the Danes who moved from the main Danish fort, the Christiansburg Castle, at Osu some 30 kilometres away.
The slaves were liberated in 1848 after the abolition of slavery and in 1850, all Danish property including Frederiksgave, were sold to the British.
Some of the liberated slaves left while new inhabitants joined, until the 1920s when the original village was eventually abandoned in favour of a new one called Sesemi.
“This is a very dear place for the Ga State,” said the Ga Mantse, who lauded the restoration project, describing the museum as magnificent.
He was happy to see a renewal relationship between the people of Sesemi and Denmark saying in contrast to the historical relationship, the new one is devoid of anger and seeks to raise the consciousness of the people for progress.
He urged the chiefs of the area and all stakeholders to explore avenues of exploiting the agricultural potential of the areas since the plantation aspect also needed to be restored.
Mr. Osei-Ameyaw, expressed appreciation to the University of Ghana and its Denmark partners for the project and urged the chiefs to ensure that the site was protected.
Mr. Mikkelsen, was delighted to see a common vision materialized, adding that the project provides an opportunity to reflect on the past so as not to repeat slavery.
He said the monument should serve as a constant reminder against subjecting people to the cruelty of slavery.
Dr. Yaw Bredwa-Mensah, an archaeologist with the University of Ghana led the restoration project. He explained that the project which started in 2005 involved the excavation of the building and this helped in tracing the original foundation.
He said the items found in the earth, supplemented by letter and notes written by Danes, currently in National Archives in Copenhagen, gave a detailed picture of life in the plantation.
Following the findings, he said the architects were able to design the building to look exactly like the original one.
The museum, now a property of the University of Ghana, will be managed by a board of directors chaired by Professor Seth K. A. Danso, Director of Ecological Laboratories at the University of Ghana. Summing up, Prof. Danso said: ‘I think Sesemi will remember today for ever and ever”.
The Ghanaian Times Saturday, October 13, 2007 Page: 11