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Photo Essay: Elmina Castle

As a child, my parents would always take me and my brothers to museums, historical monuments, and other cultural heritage sites.  These trips would last ALL DAY sometimes and usually ended in a two-on-one brawl (my brothers being the two, me being the one) leaving my little brother  in tears.

The family clown rarely had the last laugh.

On one trip to a museum somewhere, I noticed a quote hanging in the gift shop window.

Well-behaved women seldom make history – Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

This became my new mantra.

And over the years, I have found the quote to hold true in a lot of places, including Elmina.

Elmina, a vivacious fishing town lined with brightly-colored colonial buildings, is best explored on foot.


A methodist church in central Elmina overlooked by Fort Coenraadsburg.


Elmina Castle from the fishing wharf. Built by the Portuguese in 1482, Elmina Castle is the oldest European building south of the Sahara and a prominent stop on the Atlantic slate trade. Elmina Castle is one of 28 fortified trading posts in Ghana recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites.

On my way to Elmina Castle, I crossed over a bridge and caught a quick photo of a group of friends sitting on the bridge’s guard rail. One of the boys sat in a bucket. I found this quite hilarious. After the shot, the boys noticed my presence and turned around. Of course, I had to ask the boy why he was sitting in a bucket. He laughed and said something in Fanti, the local tongue, to his friends who reverberated his amusement.


Friends sitting on a bridge. Elmina Castle visible in the background.


The front entrance to Elmina Castle passes over two moats. Fort Coenraadsburg visible in the background.

In full sunlight, the castle reflects brazen hues of white, black, and red. The dark red brick marks the original fortifications built by the Portuguese. After the Dutch moved into Elmina Castle, they expanded. To construct the expanded fortifications they imported light-colored bricks as seen in the castle’s archways.


The first christian church in Ghana, built by the Portuguese, in the castle’s central courtyard.


The insignia of the Dutch West India Company.


A grave ornament left in the women’s dungeon by an African American woman.


A canon faces the Atlantic Ocean.


I captured these characters walking back to my friend’s house from Elmina Castle. I hadn’t noticed the birds overhead until copying the photo to Lightroom. These guys are circus worthy.

On the tour, the guide mentioned that a woman named Yaa Asantewaa, was imprisoned in the castle for a period of time for inciting a women’s war. My ears perked. A women’s war?

There’s a woman on a mission that needs no permission.

Yaa Asantewaa led the War of the Golden Stool, also called the Yaa Asantewaa War, against British colonialism in 1900.


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