About a year ago around this time, I was preparing to start a new chapter in my life. It was time for me to render my service to my nation. National Service in Ghana is a big deal for all service personnel. It is the start of acknowledging the fulfilment that comes with spending money you know you have earned all by yourself. You also get to learn to live on your own, for a whole year, if you are posted to an institution that is far away from home. And that is exactly what happened in my case.
I was posted to serve at the Anomabo Health Center in the Central region of Ghana. My family lives in Accra, and that meant living entirely by myself for the duration of my service. Anomabo is a great town full of history and beauty. I took every chance I got to learn about the town’s history and by extension, the history of our country.
Anomabo is a town located between Biriwa and Egyaa. The mother tongue of the inhabitants of Anomabo is Fante, although many of them can speak English fluently. The main occupation of the natives of Anomabo is fishing and farming since the town is on the coast and has a fertile land. However, Tuesdays are reserved days for the sea gods. Such a day is observed as sacred and nobody goes fishing. Just like any traditional community in Ghana, Anomabo has specific days reserved as market days. Tuesdays and Fridays are days set aside as market days in the town. On these days, people troop from all neighbouring villages and towns to trade in foodstuff and firewood.
The name ‘Anomabo’ is a Fante word that means ‘bird rock’ in English. During my stay in the town, I usually interacted with one John Blankson Koomson, a worker in the Health Center, popularly known as Mr Koomson throughout the town and its environs. Mr Koomson is an old native of Anomabo and he knows so much about the history of the town. In my conversation with Mr Koomson one day, he narrated to me how the name of the town came about.
“In the past, there used to be a very big rock in the sea. the town derived its name from this big rock which used to be flocked with birds. One day, a hunter on a voyage discovered this rock. The name of the town was initially called ‘Obonoma’, which means ‘rock of birds’ in English,” Mr Koomson stated. The name of the town has undergone a slight change to become ‘Anomabo’ because of changes made in the language.
I initially stated that Anomabo is a town full of history. You can’t talk about the history of Ghana without talking about slavery. Anomabo played a vital role in the exporting of slaves from the country. Sitting in the heart of the town is Fort William; also called Anomabo Castle, a site that keeps bringing many tourists to the town. According to Wikipedia, Fort William was designed by the British engineer John Apperley and constructed between 1753 and 1760. Fort William became the centre of British slave trading along the Gold Coast (now Ghana) until the practice was outlawed in 1807. Eventually, Anomabo became one of the most important trading ports on the Gold Coast. By the 18th century, the town had become one of the largest exporters of slaves on the West Coast of Africa. A name that pops up anytime Anomabo and the slave trade are mentioned, is the popular Ghanaian Prince of England – William Ansah Sessarakoo.
The Okyiri festival is the major festival celebrated by the people of Anomabo. The festival is celebrated in the second week of October. During another one of my conversations with Mr Koomson, he told me the Okyiri festival is celebrated as a sign of cleansing (purifying) the town from evil spirits, and filth and in order to go into the new year with renewed hope. I got to experience the Okyiri festival during my service in the community. During the festival, food is offered to the about 77 gods of the town. There is also a durbar of chiefs where they appear in their colourful regalia. Food is prepared and distributed among friends and loved ones. A vigil is also kept as a means to remember the ancestors and seek protection and favour from them. The climax of the festival which is usually on the second Sunday of October is highlighted with several activities on the beach of the town.
This piece of writing wouldn’t be complete without mentioning some notable people from Anomabo who helped in the struggle for the independence of the Gold Coast among other things. These people are Mr George Ekem Fergurson, Kuntamanto Amonoo IV and legendary teacher, James Emmanuel Kwegyir Aggrey who is known for his speech “The surest way to keep people down is to educate the men and leave the women. If you educate a man you simply educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a whole nation”.
The town has a number of local recreational sites as well as hotels like the BirdRock Hotels, Weda Lodge, Ebenezer Hotel and the Anomabo Beach Resort. So the next time you are in the Central region, pay a visit to Anomabo and learn its rich history. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
WRITER: Kofi Dzogbewu
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