My city INVISIBLE
Accra is the capital city of Ghana, located on the Western coast of Africa. It became Ghana’s capital in 1877 when the British moved the seat of government there from Cape Coast. By that time Accra was already a thriving port and market town centred around three former slaving and colonial trading forts built by the Danes, Dutch, and British.
Behind the old British fort is Jamestown which is where most of the images in this volume were taken. Following a large fire in 1895 Jamestown was replanned with a series of linear streets and large plots that are still mainly intact today. Centred around Salaga Market the various merchant trading companies built their warehouses, stores, and factories. Many of these structures from the early 20th Century survive today, although repurposed and often dilapidated.
When a new deep-water port and harbour was built at Tema in the 1950s international trading at Jamestown was dramatically reduced. The neighbouring High Street was redeveloped as a banking centre with large new banking offices, but the trading and markets moved away from this coastal town and along Kwame Nkrumah Avenue. Here new department stores, parking lots, and supermarkets with the latest good and fashions were developed in anticipation of the booming opportunities of the Independence era of the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Jamestown fell on hard times, and many of its residents returned to fishing and petty trading to survive. The architectural and planning infrastructure remained however, and today it forms one of the most exciting and intriguing parts of the city. Amongst the colonial period housing and warehouses are boxing rings, football pitches, and performance areas. Music videos are shot here along with arts festivals and cultural events. Ussher Fort has also reopened to visitors and displays important artefacts from the slaving period, as well as more recent history on the fight for independence.
Some 18th Century architecture survives along Brazil Lane, including a ruin known as Franklin House. In one of the former department stores is Jamestown Café and Gallery that broadcasts a radio programme, live music, and hosts exhibitions. It also liaises between local guides and visitors. There is a rich and important history in this part of the city – yet it’s being allowed to slowly crumble, and only just manages to survive. The historic Sea View Hotel was located here until it was recently demolished, and many other important historical buildings are also at risk.
There needs to be a fresh vision for this heritage district – it could be one of the most beautiful parts of Accra. Whilst just a mile away the new Cathedral and Marine Drive development (both designed by Sir David Adjaye) promise high-end design and high-rise real estate, it is important not to overlook what is already there and with so much promise.