Final Discussions and Writing a Declaration

Yesterday was our last intensive day of site visits. Today’s sessions in Legon marked the culmination of the week’s visits and workshop’s goal to write a declaration about Ghana’s archaeology and cultural heritage sties. Our activities today were held at the University of Ghana’s (UGL) International House. Workshop organizers, Ray Silverman (University of Michigan, History of Art) and Kodzo Gavua (University of Ghana, Archaeology and Heritage Studies), led the discussions for the morning and afternoon sessions.

In the morning, three graduate students from the University of Michigan (Andrew Gurstelle, Travis Williams. and Allison Martino), summarized the week’s activities and began making connections between the site visits and some of the critical questions we began discussion at the start of the workshop. Next, William Gblerkpor continued yesterday’s discussion with a short presentation about the dissertation research he conducted at Krobo mountain. Following, the current director of the Ghana National Museum, Zagba Nahr Oyortey, shared his insights about the relationships between archaeology and museums, and his anticipated plans for new partnerships and future collaboration. We ended the morning session with campus visits to the bookshop and the Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies. Workshop participants visited the department’s archaeology museum, which currently features an exhibition on Ghana’s glass beads organized by Gertrude Aba Mansah Eyifa-Dzidzienyo, workshop participant and lecturer in the Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies at the University of Ghana.

After our break for lunch, we resumed our discussion with an intensive afternoon session to address major issues arising from our site visits. Some of the themes emerging from our discussion included: integrative approaches and attention to local community engagement, alternative museum spaces and conceptualizing museum as process, education and modes of communication, management practices, and the roles of heritage sites in cultivating social cohesion. The conversation then shifted to focusing on the goals and objectives for the declaration.

A five-person committee was formed to draft the declaration in the afternoon. After the committee met to draft the declaration, the session resumed as they presented the document to the group. The workshop participants then worked together to refine the declaration. By the close of the day’s activities, the participants successfully produced a declaration about Ghana’s archaeology and cultural heritage sites. It will soon be disseminated to important individuals and institutions in Ghana. The declaration represents the culmination of the workshop’s week-long activities and site visits, and participants hope that its recommendations will make a significant contribution to Ghana’s heritage sites.

To celebrate the workshop’s successes and our last evening in Ghana, we went to Chez Afrique, a popular restaurant in East Legon, for a dinner filled with delicious Ghanaian entrees and live music to enjoy on the outdoor patio. Tomorrow, the visiting participants from the UK, South Africa and the United States will return home. The completed declaration represents a significant accomplishment from the workshop. But the conversations with one another arising from our site visits were equally valuable experiences as workshop participants look ahead to future collaboration and continued discussion about the critical issues surrounding archaeology and cultural heritage sites in Ghana.

*Blog entry by Allison Martino, University of Michigan


Parks, Beads, and Coffins: Visiting Heritage Sites in Ghana’s Eastern Region

After visiting Elmina and other heritage sites in Ghana’s central region, the workshop participants returned to Accra. On Thursday, our last day of site visits, we traveled to Ghana’s eastern region and visited Shai Hills resource reserve, Krobo mountain, the Cedi bead factory in Odumase, and a “fancy” coffin workshop in Akuse.

Shai Hills Resource Reserve

Our first stop on Thursday morning was to the Shai Hills Resource Reserve. Located northeast of Accra, the site became a reserve a few years after Ghana’s independence from Great Britain in 1962. Ghana’s forestry commission currently manages the reserve. A family of baboons greeted us at the entrance area near the roadside. Many families of baboons make their home at the reserve, along with monkeys, antelopes, ostriches, and other animals. A guide from the reserve introduced workshop participants to the site at a reception area and joined us for our tour.


Shai Hills consists of grasslands, quarries, and hills where the Dangme organized settlements around the foothills and hilltops. We drove through the park, stopping in an open area near one of the hills where William Gblerkpor, lecturer in the Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies at the University of Ghana, shared more about the site’s archaeological importance: the site’s history dates to at least the 14th century; radio carbon tests suggests that the site dates to the 11th century. The Dangme first built settlements around the foothills. But during the 1300s, the settlements expanded upward on the hilltops where some terrace structures remain. The archaeological record at the site indicates a continuity of ceramic traditions used at the court or for puberty rites, in addition to burials and shrines dedicated to the gods. In 1892, the settlements were relocated from these ancient sites to an area 8km away, but some rites continued to be held at the ancient sites.

Next, we visited an area of the reserve that features a large open-air building. The World Bank built this structure as a “museum” in the mid-1990s. But the building has to yet to be realized as a functioning museum or to serve any other purpose. Instead, it is unfortunately an example of an unsuccessful heritage site. In its current state, the building is in poor condition from not serving any function other than a home to some of the animals living in the reserve. Consequently, this sparked an important conversation among participants about the factors and decisions that have resulted in the building’s current state. Additionally, it led to discussion about the site’s potential and possible ways to start using the building. This discussion centered on three important issues: first, this building exemplifies a common problem when outside companies take action without local involvement. Second, it also indicates the problem of maintenance at heritage sites when business plans are not made or upheld. For example, the World Bank did not seek local collaboration to build the structure or to develop a management plan, which prevented the community from using the space after it was constructed. Lastly, the building’s open-air plan and layout raises important conceptual issues regarding its intended function as a “museum.”

Krobo Mountain

After leaving Shai Hills, the workshop participants continued north to visit Krobo mountain. But en route to Krobo, maintenance problems with the bus returned and we were forced again to make impromptu arrangements. Luckily, two tro-tro buses came by that were nearly empty with only a few passengers. Tro-tros are refurbished minivans that are independently run and form the main bus system and the most affordable transportation option for Ghanaians. Instead of waiting for the bus to be repaired before we continued, we requested to have the tro-tros take us to Krobo mountain before they resume their normal route. After leaving our bus behind and boarding the tro-tros, we continued our journey to krobo mountain.


Arriving at Krobo mountain, we drove into the park along a winding gravel road. We soon reached an open clearing at the base of the mountain. William Gblerkpor introduced us to Krobo Mountain, the primary site of his PhD dissertation field research. Some of the workshop participants then hiked up the mountain to view the terraces that William described in his discussion of the site’s archaeological record. But the mid-day heat and steep, rocky terrain kept other participants from joining the hike, as they opted to explore the area surrounding the base of the mountain.

Cedi Bead Factory in Odumase

Our bus was still being repaired when we completed our visit at Krobo mountain. So we continued our travels in the tro-tro buses to Odumase, a town in Krobo known for glass bead making. Odumase features a large market selling glass beads and a bead festival (since 2009) that draws customers and visitors from throughout the country and abroad. Glass beads are important objects in Ghana’s archaeological record and have a long history as trade commodities in exchanges between Africa and Europe. In Krobo society, beads are important family heirlooms as they symbolize status and are often used in dipo puberty rites for girls entering womanhood.


During our visit to Odumase, we stopped at the Cedi Bead Factory to meet bead maker Cedi. He learned the trade at a young age from his family, and has since continued the family business. Cedi is actively involved in the economic and cultural dimensions of Krobo’s bead making industry: he serves as president of the Manya Korbo Bead Association and is a founding member of the Ghana Bead Society. During our visit, Cedi explained the processes involved to make glass beads. He demonstrated how to make five different types of beads: recycled antique beads, recycled transparent beads, recycled glass powder beads, glazed painted beads, and bodom beads.

The Royal Senchi Hotel

Following, we took a break for lunch at the Royal Senchi Hotel, a luxury hotel recently built in 2011 along the Volta River near Somanya and Denkyenyam. The hotel’s serene environment and upscale appeal as one of only a few four-star hotels in Ghana sharply contrasts daily life outside the hotel’s entrance gate. Its architectural design suggests broader reference to “African” design and its interior décor seeks to celebrate Ghana’s heritage as it features adinkra symbols, woven kente cloths, carved Akan wood stools, and wall hangings referencing akua’ba dolls. While we enjoyed the gourmet buffet lunch, we also discussed important issues that the hotel raises regarding heritage tourism in Ghana, including: the “invisible boundary” that separates access and involvement from the local community, and how heritage is visualized and commodified through reference to Ghanaian and African cultural practices.


“Fancy” Coffin workshop in Akuse

Following our lunch, we stopped at Cedi’s bead shop located separately from the bead factory along the roadside before traveling to our last site visit: a “fancy” coffin workshop in Akuse, a small town near Odumase-Krobo. “Fancy” coffins, sometimes referred to as “fantasy” coffins, are painted wood caskets carved to depict the deceased’s occupation or aspirations. At the “fancy” coffin workshop, participants had the opportunity to speak individually with the carpenters to learn more about the trade and view examples of their work on display. For example, some of the completed “fancy” coffins on display included: a bible, car and taxi, and a two-story white painted house. Other popular examples include cocoa pods and sugarcane for farmers, cameras for photographers, airplanes and other animals. Funerals are important religious and social events in Ghana, but the expensive costs associated with “fancy” coffins limits their use to elite families. The workshop we visited also manufactures plain wood caskets, a more affordable option for local customers.

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“Fancy” coffins have also garnered international recognition for their creativity and imaginative designs. Consequently, these objects have gained additional roles as they are displayed in museum exhibitions and attract tourist visitors to their workshop. In addition to Akuse, “fancy coffin” workshops are especially prevalent along Accra’s coastal towns of Teshie and Nungua (notable carpenters include Kane Kwei and Paa Joe).

After visiting Akuse, we concluded our site visits for the day and returned to Legon. The range of our visits today – from natural, environmental heritage sites at Shai Hill and Krobo, to artistic cultural heritage practices at Odumase and Akuse, and lunch at the new Royal Senchi hotel – provided workshop participants with dynamic experiences to consider how heritage manifests in different forms.

*Blog entry by Allison Martino, University of Michigan

From Forest to Fort

The workshop participants began the day by leaving the beach of Elmina for the tropical rainforest of Kakum, a national park overseen by the Heritage Conservation Trust and the Forestry Commission. The park itself is larger than three hundred square kilometers, and serves as a sanctuary for countless species of flora and fauna, including the endangered forest elephant. Though we were not fortunate enough to lay eyes upon such rare animals, we nevertheless enjoyed walking through the undergrowth of the now protected ecosystem. Before the creation of the park, the landscape was deforested—the species now populating the forest constitute a regenerating forest. Our guide was careful to point out interesting plant species throughout the tour, including an ebony tree.

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Left: Workshop participants walk along a forest path in Kakum.  Right: We gather around an example of new growth springing up from a forested stump. 


The highlight of our trip to Kakum, however, was definitely the canopy walk, which consisted of a series of rope bridges suspended up to 35 meters above the forest floor. Many of the workshop participants had their phobias of heights tested on the sky bridge, but all who tried its walkways were laughing and smiling by the end. The canopy walk afforded a magnificent view of the rainforest below, a much different view than might have been seen a century ago before logging and hunting were sanctioned in the now protected area.   The trip to Kakum served to remind the workshop’s participants of the multiplicity of the concept of heritage. Though our workshop was initiated with the cultural heritage in mind, we were keen to see how heritage could also include natural resources.

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Workshop participants scale the ropes of the canopy walk. 


We set out from Kakum in hopes of reaching Assin Manso to observe the tourist sites set up around a “slave route” narrative involving the crossing of a river delimiting the Asante heartland and the final bath of enslaved people. Unfortunately, our bus was not cooperating, and we were left temporarily stranded on the side of road. The automotive detainment inspired an impromptu archaeological survey of the surrounding area, and we managed to find a single potsherd in a nearby agricultural field. When we had exhausted that endeavor, we were then treated to a show of the juggling capabilities of some of the workshop’s participants.   Fortunately for us, the bus had broken down within site of a local mechanic’s garage, and he was able to have the bus up and running in a relatively short amount of time.


Workshop participants entertain each other while waiting for the bus to be repaired. 

Our bus troubles, however, made us improvise our plans for the afternoon, and we decided to check out a nearby fort. Unlike Elmina, this fort, Fort Amsterdam, has very little supporting heritage infrastructure. The site had some work done in the 1970s to rebuild collapsed portion, but it has not be restored, there is no museum display, little signage, and no regular staff. However, the potent slavery narrative is just as present. Fort Amsterdam was the first British castle on the Gold Coast. It was built near the Koramantse village, which eventually overtook and destroyed the fort. The participants were struck by how the same narrative reverberated differently in the structures. We discussed how the polished structure of Elmina lent itself to a fuller exploration of African heritage involving European trade, outside of the slave trade. This contrasted with Fort Amsterdam, where the spectre of slavery loomed larger—in both the narrative and the architecture.

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Left: View of Fort Amsterdam, looking southeast.  Right: Workshop participants listening to our guide narrate his rendition of the fort’s history. 


We returned to Accra, looking forward to tomorrow and our tour of sites that related more strongly to Ghanaian cultural heritage.

Elmina: Tour/Counter-Tour

Though yesterday’s presentations and discussions served to provide background and incite consideration of the workshop’s themes, we were all eager to set out and explore the issues on the ground as they relate to local heritage sites. Thus, we headed west and south from Accra, towards the coastal town of Elmina and it’s rich cultural heritage.

Our visit to Elmina began at Elmina Castle (or St. George’s Castle), a large fortification initially constructed by the Portuguese in 1482 (making it one of the oldest European settlements in Sub-Saharan Africa).   The Dutch took the fortification by force from the Portuguese in the first half of the 17th century, who subsequently ceded the fort to the British in the late 19th century.   Though initially built as a trading hub for material commodities such as gold, the fortification ultimately served as an administrative center for the sale and shipment of human beings. Nearly 100,000 slaves disembarked their home continent from Elmina, and it is this legacy of bondage that looms large in the historical narrative told to visitors at the site today.

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Left: Workshop participants gather outside Elmina Castle’s walls for the tour.  Right: A cannon lays pointing from the castle’s walls into the present town of Elmina; note Fort Jago on the hill in the distance. 

Local surgeon and history enthusiast, Dr. Anthony Anan-prah, graciously provided us a guided tour of the castle and its grounds. The doctor’s tour, though entertaining, was largely characterized by a sort of shock-and-awe approach to the legacy of slavery at the site; dark tales of cramped, dirty dungeons and promiscuous governors permeate the narrative given by tour guides at the site. Though these tales no doubt have a basis in the reality of the past (if not at Elmina Castle proper, then certainly in similar places), their exact veracity is challenged by historical documents regarding the fort’s occupation, as well by as the material evidence and architecture of the fort itself. One of the workshop’s participants, Dr. Mark Horton, deftly provided a counter-narrative of the castle’s heritage as presented by our guides, an interesting juxtaposition to the story presented by Dr. Anan-prah. For example, a small, gated door that exits the sea side of the fort was presented by our tour guide as the “Gate of No Return” of the castle.   Through this door, slaves were marched from the keep’s dungeons to the beach and then to the slave ships waiting anchored in the water beyond for transport across the Atlantic Ocean. The door, however, lies roughly three to four meters above the ground surface, with no visible remnants of a staircase or any other means of descent to the sand below.   Furthermore, a drainage system of the castle clearly empties from this passageway, suggesting the door is nothing more than an exit for the structure’s rainwater.

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Left: Drs. Anthony Anan-prah (far right) and Mark Horton (far left) stand in front of a brick compass constructed during the Dutch occupation of the fort.  Right: Workshop participants listen as Dr. Anan-prah gives his tour of the fortification’s courtyard.  

After lunch, Dr. Anan-prah led a guided walking tour of the town of Elmina and some of the town’s sites of significant cultural heritage.   He began by describing the layout of the town, the streets of which follow a loosely gridded pattern that corresponds to the boundaries of former plantations in the area. Over the bridge, just beyond the castle, we came to the Bridge House. Built by the Dutch in the 17th century, the house exhibits typical architectural motifs common in the Netherlands and its colonies at the time. Today, the Bridge House is owned an operated by the Coconut Grove Beach Resort, and visitors may rent rooms to stay overnight within its aged walls.

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Left: Workshop participants walk down a steet of Elmina; note the rock structure to the right is part of the Bridge House.  Right: A view of the lagoon and part of Elmina castle from the bridge connecting the fort to the town. 

Next, we were led by Dr. Anan-prah to three of the seven Asafo club houses in Elmina. The Asafo were once a seven-part military organization that served as the de facto force of the local people in the town. Though the martial responsibilities of the Asafo companies have long been abandoned, to this day they remain important organizations of cultural and political practice and belief for the people of Elmina. Each company has its own associated iconography, and their clubhouses serve as material reminders of this rich cultural heritage. Dr. Anan-prah also led us by the Dutch cemetery in town, in which many Dutch colonists (including governors) were buried.

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Left: Asafo post #5, Abese Comany’s clubhouse.  Right: Workshop participants climb the hill towards St. Joseph’s basilica; note the Dutch cemetery in the foreground of the town.

Lastly, we visited St. Joseph’s Minor Basilica and the small museum now housed in the former Catholic boys school building on the basilica’s grounds. The basilica sits upon a hill, and offers a commanding view of the Fort Jago (another fort built by the Dutch in Elmina in the 17th century) and the surrounding town. According to Dr. Anan-prah, St. Joseph’s is the oldest Catholic church still in use in the entire country (built 1892). The Catholic Church Museum just across the courtyard from the basilica was began as a hobby by Dr. Anan-prah, but has since grown into an extensive repository for cultural resources related to Elmina and especially St. Joseph’s. These include a scaled replica of many of the important buildings in town, as well as significant historical records from the church dating back into the 1800s. Dr. Anan-prah conveyed that the church complex sits upon the former grounds of yet another fort in the town, Fort Schomerus, the remains of which were not readily visible on the heavily developed hillside.

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Left: Miniature exhibit of Elmina’s buildings in the Catholic Church Museum.  Right:  A view of Elmina from St. Joseph’s hill; note Fort Jago and Castle Elmina (more distantly) in the background to the right of the frame. 

During the night’s closing discussion, many of the workshop’s participants remarked on the juxtaposition of the two tours we received in Elmina. First, we were told the narrative that all visitors to Elmina Castle are given—a shock-inducing narrative of bondage and horror, the details of which remain historically unsubstantiated but emotionally compelling. The first tour was marked by a literal and figurative segregation of spaces and bodies; few local people of Elmina have cause to venture within its walls, and tourists visiting the castle can avoid spending any time whatsoever among the pulsing throngs of daily life in the town. The second tour, however, felt much different in connecting the place to its people. Local residents on the streets remarked that tourists never ventured far from the castle to explore the other rich cultural heritage sites of Elmina.

Overall, the trip to Elmina provided us a wonderful context within which to view the issues our workshop seeks to address.  The contested narratives the town’s heritage are readily apparent in the spaces we traversed, and we look forward to visiting more sites before the week is done.

Critical Questions

The African Heritage Initiative Workshop revved up today with a full day of in-depth presentations and discussions. We were greeted by Samuel Kwame Offei, Pro-Vice Chancellor of Academic and Student Affairs at the University of Ghana. Prof. Offei summarized the mood of the workshop concisely when he ended his welcome address on an optimistic note that the framework and policy guidelines we develop will enhance management of Ghana’s archaeological heritage. We were pleased to be recognized, but even more so that the workshop drew the attention of many other UG faculty and students. Throughout the day, we were joined by colleagues in the departments of Philosophy, History, and the Forestry Commission. Their presence and comments enriched our discussion of heritage sites in Ghana.

The morning was devoted to bringing together the participants of the workshop and orienting ourselves to a set of framing questions. Among these questions, our discussions centered on the critical examination of heritage and how different theoretical perspectives (e.g., southern, northern, Ghanaian, Diasporic) could be incorporated into heritage practice. More than the examination of heritage sites, it is our goal to produce some kind of actionable recommendations to direct Ghana’s growing marketing, consumption, and conservation of heritage resources.


William Gblerkpor leads the workshop discussion at the International House, University of Ghana.

It is premature to say we’ve arrived at a conclusion. After all, we have three full days of site visits scheduled. We did, however, succeed in establishing a common ground. In the afternoon, our discussions shifted from the theoretical abstract to the contextual backgrounds of the sites to be visited. Our first presentation, by Joseph Adjaye, touched on the social organization of Elmina society—and how different groups factored into the exhibition of European castles. Elmina is one of Ghana’s most visited heritage sites, but also one where its meaning has been contested by multiple groups. Next, Nii Wellington returned to discuss his theory of Osu architecture based on the Ga term Gboshinii. This term defines architectural heritage sites as “owned by the dead,” and therefore locations to be venerated by a broad public. Cletus Nateg described the development of Ghana’s Protected Areas from informal “traditional” protections to the current system of state controlled forests and game reserves. Kakum National Park has grown over the past 20 years from receiving 600 visitors annually to 170,000—70% of which are Ghanaians. James Anquandah joined the workshop to share his reflections on the development of Ghanaian archaeology and heritage sites over the past 40 years. He remarked that he was pleased to see Ghanaian-led research diversify from basic site recording in the early 1980s to different types of theoretical, experimental, and developmental archaeologies in the successive decades. He also described his research in the Shai Hills, remarking that heritage is at once foreign and local. There are no clear demarcations of cultural influences. This sentiment was echoed by Kodzo Gavua in the discussion, who emphasized that the most crucial component of heritage was the meaning invested in objects and places. Naana Ocran next described the creation of heritage sites and festivals at Assin Manso that relate to the coastal slave trade narrative. The sole focus on slavery, however, has come at the expense of developing the area’s ecological, cultural, and more recent historical significance. Wazi Apoh provided an excellent comparison of Ghanaian and Australian cultural resource management practices. His presentation ended with the strong assertion that any guidelines the workshop produced should include provisions for requiring heritage impact assessments ahead of large-scale development projects that were separate from more general environmental studies. The day’s session ended with a talk by William Gblerkpor who discussed the inter-disciplinary research at Krobo. Archaeological, historical, ethnographic, and documentary methods are used to investigate how heritage is actively produced and consumed by Krobo peoples themselves and marketed to domestic and foreign visitors.


James Anquandah, the first Ghanaian chair of archaeology at the University of Ghana.

Though the focus was on Ghana, conversations turned to the similarities and differences with heritage practices elsewhere. University of Michigan graduate student Andrew Gurstelle contrasted how slavery is invoked in Benin, where its legacy is more visible. Cynthia Kros and Ciraj Rassool noted that in South Africa there was a much stronger emphasis on a national heritage project, and also described how research permitting policies could be used to focus more attention on heritage issues. UM professor of anthropology Carla Sinopoli described heritage in India, another country with a strong top-down national heritage project. Nana Baffour Asare Twi Brempong II (Emmanuel Kwasi Asare), in his role as the Adontenhene of Techiman, brought the discussion back to Ghana, contrasting heritage at coastal sites with the Techiman landscape where heritage is oriented to local peoples through shrines and ecological features.

Tomorrow, we begin out tour of heritage sites. We are encouraged by the day’s robust discussion, and look forward to many more in the field!

Osu Area, Accra

Today the workshop visited the Osu area of Accra, site of the 17th century Danish fort and its associated town (Christiansborg). Our guide for the tour was workshop participant Henry Ni-Adziri Wellington, professor emeritus of architecture and foremost researcher on the architectural history of Osu (see his 2011 book Stones Tell Stories at Osu). We visited several sites in the area with preserved Danish colonial architecture dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. Though each building was certainly historic, many workshop participants wondered whose heritage was on display, and how well did this material heritage match the typical “Slave Route” narrative—that is, that these sites represent the historic locations of the transport, housing, and sale of enslaved peoples?

At the Richter house site, an arched doorway, a staircase, a galleted wall, and a paved stone courtyard are the most visible remains of what was once the compound of a prominent Danish trading family. Worn away into the repurposed ballast stones that make up the courtyard are many circular impressions arranged into a number of oware game boards. Based on his research, Dr. Wellington states that these game boards were created and used by enslaved peoples that spent long periods in the courtyard, waiting for slave ships to call at the port. But, as William Gblerkpor points out, it is difficult to ascertain when these grooves were created. Though evocative of how enslaved peoples retained their identities through horrible circumstances, the compound has been continuously occupied for hundreds of years—the game boards may belong to another era. Mark Horton noted that the value of heritage must certainly suffer if it loses it credibility, even if the overarching narrative is important. Far from abandoned, the Richter house site has been redeveloped into numerous small compounds and apartments. As the workshop group took pictures of the architecture, several residents approached Dr. Wellington and loudly rebuked him for not compensating them for allowing us entry into the site. Dr. Wellington expressed skepticism about their demands, but they claimed to be descendants of the very people who had been enslaved by the Richter family, now officially squatting on the property the Richters had abandoned. Later in the evening, the group discussed this as an example of difficult set of issues: Who controls heritage resources? Who uses heritage resources? Who defines what is heritage? Who gains from these definitions?


The Richter house site becomes a space of contested heritage, as Dr. Wellington and residents negotiate differing visions of the space–one as a heritage site of a shared, national history and one as a personal site as an familial home.

At the Wulff house site, much the structure dating back to 1840 is still standing. Wulff Joseph Wulff was a Danish Jewish trader who initially resided in the Osu castle. However, Wulff was persecuted by the other Danes over his faith which led him to build a new house in the adjacent town. Wulff’s life represents the blending of cultures in the coastal contact zone. He married a Ga woman from the town and was buried beneath the house floor, wrapped in cloth, and standing upright—the burial customs of the time. Workshop participants noted how the Wulff site and its narrative blur the line between African heritage and European heritage. University of Michigan professor Raymond Silverman suggests it goes beyond these two, as the Wulff house can also be experienced as a Jewish heritage site. This is a fair point, as the monoliths “African” and “European” can be further broken down or transformed. Indeed, the workshop was received at the site by Leslie Wulff Cochrane (the sixth generation descendant of Wulff Joseph Wulff) who proudly claimed the house as representing his “mulatto heritage.”


Dr. Wellington and Leslie Wulff Cochrane explain the significance of the Wulff house site.

One final landmark to remark on is Osu castle itself. We were not able to visit inside, but we did view it from the beach, where we could see how successive Danish, British, and Ghanaian additions that were brought together. The castle seems to lend itself to a typical “slave castle” narrative, complete with a door of no return from the dungeon. Modern fishing boats were nearby that could serve as stand-ins for the transports that would have taken Africans out to the European ships off the coast. While the workshop group was not concerned with the veracity of this narrative, we did wonder what other narratives were precluded by this. The Osu castle was used by the British as a trading fort after abolition, and later as a colonial administrative center. After independence, the Ghanaian government also used it as the seat of power, and it continues to be used by governmental services to this day. The beach itself was once home to an artificial lagoon that housed productive fish hatcheries, but has since degraded through waste dumping and sedimentation. Are these stories of history, nationalism, and ecology overshadowed by slavery? Are different narratives more salient to different audiences?

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The fishing beach and Osu Castle (Christiansborg) in Accra.

The first day of the workshop has already posed some challenging questions, leading in to many animated discussions. We will continue our exploration of heritage, history, and archaeology over the coming week as we visit more sites in southern Ghana.


Our workshop began with introductions at a local restaurant. Everyone was in good spirits and looking forward to the week ahead, though the international visitors were tired from their travels and the Ghanaian participants were equally drained from having rushed around to get everything in order for the workshop.

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As we have all introduced ourselves to each other, allow me now to introduce the participants to you. Below are short profiles of the attendees.


Allison Joan Martino, University of Michigan

Allison Joan Martino is currently a PhD Candidate in the Department of the History of Art at the University of Michigan. My research interests include: visual and expressive culture; communication and storytelling; art and social change; politics of display and representation; practices in everyday life and social relationships. My dissertation research examines historical developments in Ghana’s adinkra cloth since the 19th century as an avenue for understanding larger social and cultural shifts in society. In these efforts to study visual and expressive cultures, I follow an interdisciplinary approach that draws upon art history, anthropology, history, and African studies.


Andrew W. Gurstelle, University of Michigan

Andrew W. Gurstelle is a PhD candidate in anthropological archaeology in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Michigan. His research examines the development of political and economic networks in West Africa over the past 2500 years. His current research, directing the Savè Hills Archaeological Research Project, investigates the early history, architecture, and material culture of the Shabe Yoruba kingdom in central Bénin. He has previously conducted research in Ghana, Togo, southern Bénin, and the US Midwest.


Brian Stewart, University of Michigan

Brian Stewart is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Michigan. His research focuses on the archaeology of prehistoric hunter-gatherers in southern Africa, with an emphasis on the evolution of adaptive plasticity. His current project, Adaptations to Marginal Environments in the Middle Stone Age (AMEMSA), investigates early modern human adaptive responses to two challenging landscapes in southern Africa: highland Lesotho and the Namaqualand semi-desert. Both regions have heritage resources that are under serious threat from large-scale development projects, including hydroelectric dams and opencast mines. He has published his research in outlets including Journal of Human Evolution, Quaternary International and South African Archaeological Bulletin.


Carla M. Sinopoli, University of Michigan

Carla M. Sinopoli is Professor of Anthropology, Curator of Asian Archaeology, and Director of the Museum Studies Program at the University of Michigan.  She is an anthropological archaeologist, whose research focuses on imperial states and emergent political complexity in Southern India, where she has conducted research on the 14th-16th c CE imperial capital of Vijayanagara.  Her current field project focuses on late prehistoric (Iron Age) to early historic periods in the Tungabhadra River Valley. Sinopoli has published on the archaeology of empires, political economy of craft production, archaeological ceramics, South Asian archaeology, and the history of anthropological collecting in museums.


Geoff Emberling, University of Michigan

Geoff Emberling is Assistant Research Scientist in the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology at the University of Michigan. As a museum curator and director working with collections from the ancient Middle East and North Africa, he has engaged heritage communities in discussions about presentation of the Nubian and Assyrian past. He currently directs an archaeological project at El Kurru in northern Sudan, the burial site of the Nubian kings who ruled Egypt as its 25th Dynasty. Current funding for this project comes from the government of Qatar and supports both excavation and heritage work—community discussions as well as restoration of monuments


Raymond Silverman, University of Michigan

In 2002, Raymond Silverman joined the faculty at the University of Michigan where he is Professor of History of Art and African Studies. He served as founding Director of the UM Museum Studies Program from 2002-12. Silverman’s research, writing and exhibitions have examined a variety of subjects concerning the movement of material/visual tradition through time and space in Africa, particularly in Ghana and Ethiopia. Most recently he has been examining the visual cultures of Orthodox Christianity in Ethiopia and exploring “museum culture” in Africa, specifically how local knowledge is translated in national and community-based cultural institutions. He recently published an edited volume, Museum as Process: Translating Local and Global Knowledges (Routledge, 2015).


Travis Williams, University of Michigan

Travis Williams is PhD candidate in the University of Michigan’s Museum of Anthropological Archaeology. He received his BA from Vanderbilt University (2009) and his MA from the University of Oklahoma (2011). He has participated in archaeological research on four continents, on sites spanning less than two centuries in age to those more than three millennia old. Williams’s dissertation research focuses on attempting to find and document material evidence of African-Cherokee ethnogenesis in the early 19th Century. More specifically, he hopes to investigate the domestic spaces of enslaved Africans at a Cherokee plantation in Northwest Georgia (USA). His research interests include: colonialism, American Indians, race and racialization, and the African diaspora.


Benjamin W. Kankpeyeng, University of Ghana

Benjamin W. Kankpeyeng is an Associate Professor and the current Head of the Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies, University of Ghana. He studied at Syracuse University in the United States of America where he obtained an MA and PhD in Anthropology in 1996 and 2003, respectively. Prior to his graduate studies, obtained a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree in History with Philosophy from the University of Ghana in 1981. He worked at the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board from 1983 to 2004, before joining the Faculty in the Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies at the University of Ghana in 2004. His research interests include culture contact studies, archaeology of rituals and religions, public archaeology and heritage studies. His archaeological research projects are linked with the sites of Kpaliworgu, Tongo-Tengzug, Koma Land, Slave trade in northern Ghana.


Ciraj Rassool, University of the Western Cape

Ciraj Rassool is professor of history and director of the African Programme in Museum and Heritage Studies at the University of the Western Cape. He is chairperson of the District Six Museum and has served on the councils of the South African Heritage Resources Agency, Iziko Museums of South Africa and the National Heritage Council. He is a member of SAHRA’s Archaeology, Palaeontology, Meteorites, Burial Grounds and Heritage Objects Permit Committee. He is also a member of South Africa’s Human Remains Repatriation Advisory Committee. He has co-authored and co-edited six books about museums, collecting and public culture.


Cynthia Kros, University of the Witwatersrand

Cynthia Kros is a historian and heritage specialist who has published in the field of the history of South African education and curriculum development, and more recently in areas pertaining to memory, memorials and monuments. She has also undertaken comparative work on truth commissions and was the co-editor of the South African Historical Journal for several years. In 2010 she published a book based on her PhD dissertation, The Seeds of Separate Development: Origins of Bantu Education. Currently, she is the head of the Division of Arts, Culture and Heritage Management in the Wits School of Arts at the University of the Witwatersrand and leads two research projects, one on the Market Theatre Archive and the other on the theme of ‘repairing the legacies of harm’, focusing on deep histories of injustice and exploitation.


David Wilkins, University of Witwatersrand

David Wilkins is a post-doctoral fellow at Wits School of Arts at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. His current project with Prof. Cynthia Kros is called ‘Repairing the Legacies of Harm’, exploring how South Africa, in the process of overcoming apartheid has to recognise and repair the legacies of more distant harms, notably slavery. This project builds on ideas from his PhD, ‘Repairing the Legacies of Transatlantic Slavery’ (University of Hull, UK). The thesis argued that revising the history presented by schools and museums could be akin to a reparative process of historical truth telling that could help address the attitudinal and relational legacies of transatlantic slavery.


Emmanuel Kwasi Asare (Nana Baffour Asare Twi Brempong II), Social Welfare and Community Development Officer, The Adontenhene of Techiman Traditional Area

Emmanuel Kwasi Asare currently serves two positions: as the Social Welfare and Community Development Officer and as the Adontenhene of Techiman Traditional Area, a position in the chieftaincy institution in Ghana. Both of these positions bring with them responsibilities for ensuring peace, harmony and improving the quality of life for the citizens of Techiman. I have a university diploma in social administration, a degree in psychology and sociology, as well as a postgraduate diploma in museum and heritage studies. I am currently leading an ambitious project to develop Techiman’s first community-focused cultural center that involves working with the many communities that comprise our city’s diverse population.


Gertrude Aba Mansah Eyifa-Dzidzienyo, University of Ghana

Gertrude Aba Mansah Eyifa-Dzidzienyo is an Assistant Lecturer in the Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies, at the University of Ghana, Legon. Her research interest includes Archaeology, Ethnography, Issues of Gender in Archaeology, Indigenous Architecture, Museums and Heritage preservation and presentation. She is a PhD Student in the Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies researching on the Heritage of the Talensi in the Upper East Region of Ghana.


Goodman Gwasira, University of Namibia

Goodman Gwasira worked as a curator of archaeology at the National Museum of Namibia before joining the University of Namibia where he currently lecturers archaeology and heritage studies and early southern African history. He is a Doctoral candidate at the University of the Western Cape in South Africa focusing on the history of archaeology in Namibia. His research interests include emergence of history of archaeology, public archaeology, prehistoric art studies and community participation in archaeological resources management.


Henry Nii-Adziri Wellington, University of Ghana

Professor Dr Ing. Henry Nii-Adziri Wellington was born on 1st December, 1942. He is a part-time Lecturer in the Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies at the University of Ghana, Legon. He teaches Issues in Heritage Management, Exhibition Development and Management and Monument Conservation. Currently, within the context of his study of the Danish Trans Atlantic Slave Trade in Ghana, he is researching on a 19th century historic site in the Accra Plains which served as a haven of refuge for run-away enslaved people, established by an indigenous human rights activist, known as Frederick Noi Dowuona who hailed from the Danish-Osu community. Prof Wellington contributed to the Department’s published Reader (2014), with a chapter section titled: Tangible Cultural Heritage Interpretation and Presentation in Ghana – The case of Christiansborg and Fort Metal Cross (with a colleague: Fritz Biveridge), and contributed to the published anthology on “Fortresses, compounds, and plantations – Danish cultural Heritage shared with Ghana” (2013); and contributed a Paper on “Territoriality, Boundaries and Filters – The Power of Architectural Design in Christiansborg, Osu”(2012). He recently published an epic book titled: “Stones Tell Stories at Osu – Memories of a Host community of the Danish TransAtlantic Slave Trade” (2011) and peer-reviewed the UNESCO sponsored publication on “Ghana, Land of Culture and Tradition – Panaroma of Ghana’s Heritage, Monuments,Sites, treasures and Icons” (2012) authored by Prof James K. Anquandah.


Louise Akanlu, University of Ghana

Louise Akanlu is a first year Ph.D. Student in Museums and Heritage Studies in the University of Ghana. She holds a Diploma in Film Directing from the National Film and Television Institute (NAFTI), a BFA in Theatre Arts with Music from the University of Ghana, Legon, and an MFA in Film and Media Arts from Temple University, Philadelphia, on Ford Foundation’s International Fellowships Programme. Prior to enrolling in studies for a Ph.D., Louise Akanlu was an Assistant Lecturer in the Department of Theatre Arts where she taught African-American Theatre, Fundamental of Radio, Television, Film/Video, Play Analysis and Interpretation, and Playwriting to undergraduate students. She was an Assistant Registrar in University Relations at the University for Development Studies (UDS) and an Adjunct Instructor in Film and Media Arts, as well as a Co-Instructor in International Cinema at Temple University. She was also a freelance documentary producer/Director for many years.


Mark Horton, University of Bristol

Mark Horton is Professor in Archaeology at the University of Bristol, and has 30 years of experience in African archaeology and heritage – particularly working historical sites with complex architecture. Based in Bristol – one of the key 18th century Atlantic ports, he also has strong interests in the transatlantic slave trade and how its legacies can be understood and interpredeted. Beyond Africa, Mark has global interests, with current and recent projects in the Caribbean, the East coast of America, Madagascar, Sri Lanka and Mongolia. He  also works closely with broadcast media and is a regular presenter on history and archaeology topics for the BBC.


Nick Shepherd, University of Cape Town

Nick Shepherd is Associate Professor of African Studies and Archaeology at the University of Cape Town, where he convenes the Project on Heritage and Public Culture in Africa. He was founding editor of the journal Archaeologies: Journal of the World Archaeological Congress. In 2004-5 he was based at Harvard University as a Mandela Fellow. In 2008 he was a Visiting Professor at Brown University, and in 2009 at the University of Basel. He has published widely on questions of archaeology and society in Africa, and on questions of public history and heritage. His books include the volume Desire Lines; Space, memory and identity in the postapartheid city (Routledge, 2007), New South African Keywords (Jacana Media and Ohio University Press, 2008), After Ethics: Ancestral voices and postdisciplinary worlds in archaeology (Springer Press, in press), and The Mirror in the Ground: Archaeology, photography and the making of a disciplinary archive (Centre for Curating the Archive, in press).


Wazi Apoh, University of Ghana

Dr. Wazi Apoh is an archaeologist with a broad anthropological training. He has a B.A and M.Phil degrees in archaeology from the University of Ghana and a doctoral degree in Anthropology from Binghamton University, NY, USA. His specialty is in the fields of cultural heritage management, contract/salvage archaeology and development anthropology. He is currently a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies, University of Ghana. His current books include “Concise Anthropology: the Five-Field Approach” 2010, Kendall Hunt Publishers, “Germany and Its West African Colonies: “Excavations” of German Colonialism in Post-Colonial times.” 2013. Lit Verlag, Germany. Current Perspectives in the Archaeology of Ghana. 2014. Subsaharan Publishers, Accra.