Kumasi: a local market and a traditional Ashanti funeral
2nd-3rd December 2017
With the aspect of a typical African metropolis, Kumasi still preserves ancient traditions all to be discovered. But we are in Africa and anything can happen... along the way, between cocoa plantations and palm juice distilleries, visitors may come across a traditional Ashanti funeral.
Along the roads of Ghana
, between the capital Accra and Kumasi, it is not uncommon to find stalls selling everything, but especially tropical fruits and vegetables. Ghanaian pineapples are particularly tasty, larger than those found in other tropical regions and more elongated, while the large green bananas sold in one of these stalls are known as Plantains and are eaten cooked (either fried or roasted).
Ghana is the world's second largest cocoa producer
and a visit to a plantation of these trees is particularly interesting. A cocoa plantation
seems a sort of wild forest, the cocoa plant consists in fact in a tree whose height is maintained around 4-5 meters, with a rather thick and branched foliage. The cocoa blossoms are minuscule and can be found directly on the bark of stems and main branches, where a large fruit will then grow. The seeds, once extracted from the fruit, will be left to ferment for a few days, before being dried in the sun and squeezed. The fat that is obtained after pressing the seeds will be refined and transformed into cocoa butter, while the remaining parts of the seeds will be roasted and finely chopped, until the cocoa powder is obtained. The cocoa seeds are paid to the producer about 2 euro per kilo.
The "sensitive" mimosa (Mimosa pudica
) grows spontaneously and can also be found along roadsides.
Along the road to Kumasi we come across a traditional Ashanti funeral
, a ritual that is very different from what we consider a "funeral" in western countries. In fact, for the Ashanti people, a funeral consists in a festive celebration in which the whole community participates (not only family and friends of the deceased), where the predominant colors of mourning are red and black and where the ceremony often culminates with dances that can assume also an erotic character.
Before attending the funeral, the group of visitors ask the permission to the royal family
heading the community. Great hospitality and warm welcome are shown and we take pictures of each others by smart phones.
After some more group photos, we are even offered a bottle of liquor as a gift and we are given permission to attend the traditional funeral
, taking all the photos we want.
The Ashanti funeral ceremony
also includes rituals reminiscent of the work or passions of the deceased: in this case a football match was organized not far from the coffin, because it is the funeral of a young person who loved this sport.
We continue our journey towards Kumasi, before stopping at a farm producing wine and liquors from distilled palm juice
. The ripe palm trunks are laid on the ground, then holes and incisions are made to let the juice come out, collecting it in plastic containers (in these photos they are using an old tank from Total...). Other times the collection of the juice is also performed without cutting down the palm.
The collected palm trunk juice
is left to ferment (to turn the sugar into alcohol), then the liquid obtained is distilled to increase the alcohol content, until obtaining a sort of vodka. The palm wine distillers consist of large metal barrel with a fire burning below: the lighter substances (and therefore the alcohol) evaporate, passing into the next barrel through a pipe working as a condenser.
The first stop in Kumasi is at the Royal Palace museums, where a Crescentia tree with enormous fruits lives on the courtyard. Once collected, the Crescentia fruits will become robust waterproof containers, with an almost perfect semi-spherical shape, known as Calabash.
Inside the Royal Palace museum it is forbidden to photograph, a real shame because there are lot of interesting things which would help to spread around the interesting history that Kumasi has, a place this is not very well known around the world.
The streets, a bit chaotic and busy, of Kumasi
A giant tree of Ficus elastica
(it is exactly the Ficus that is often used to decorate gardens and apartments in western countries)
Visitors in Kumasi should not miss an excursion to the local open air market
, also crossed by a now disused railway line.
The Kumasi market
is classic African market
that develops outdoors in an intricate labyrinth of stalls selling everything, from meat to cocoa butter, from traditional to industrial soaps.
A young girl in Kumasi