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Notes on the Geography of Ghana: Accra 2: Makola and Kaneshie Markets

We'll visit two markets: one central, the other suburban.

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It's impractical to arrive by train, but we'll fake it. Here's the city's main station.

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A nod toward ornament.

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The business end.

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The superintendent is out. The Gold Coast Handbook, 1928, states that one train daily goes each way between Accra and Kumasi. The trains leave at 6:30 in the morning and cover the 150 miles in about 12 hours. That's mighty slow, but trains now only travel as far as Nsawam, about 25 miles from Accra.

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The station's rest rooms.

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The adjoining market had another name when Elspeth Huxley came by. She wrote: "The market now known as Selwyn market was constructed at a cost of approximately L50,000...the work was commenced in 1920 and completed in 1924-5. Provision was made for 322 stalls and 410 hawkers' pitches, but almost as soon as completed it was found to be inadequate. A new fresh fish and meat market was therefore built on the old Salaga Market site, the Selwyn Market is being extended, and new markets at Christiansborg and Korle Gonno are under constuction" (p. 123). The market she saw was destroyed in 1979 and replaced by this concrete one.

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The market spills over into adjoining buildings. Why the name? Not a clue.

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And into the nearby streets.

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Wright wrote: "In front of the Indian, Syrian, and European stores African women sat before wooden boxes heaped high with red peppers, oranges, plantains, cigarettes, cakes of soap cut into tiny bits, okra, tomatoes, peeled coconuts, small heaps of matches, cans of tinned milk, etc" (p. 69). The Indian, Syrian, and European stores are gone, but the peppers and oranges are still heaped high.

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Wright: "I took out my camera to photograph the scene and the children let out a warning yell that made every face jerk toward me. At once the women began covering their breasts and the boys rose and ran toward me, yelling: "Take me! Take me!" (p. 92). Today, breasts are covered, and cameras are regarded with resentment or hostility. The photographer has to be either conversationally gifted or damned quick.

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No spillover in front of this still in-service police barracks.

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So, once again, cameras are easier to use on Sunday.

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Space for a game.

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Behind the trash, a handsome building.

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A newer building, though not one bit handsomer.

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And here's the other market, five miles away in Kaneshie. Parking's a challenge.

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Parking discipline, on the other hand, is good.

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Huxley wrote that the markets here were "packed (like all markets) with chatterers but especially remarkable for the size, vigour and astuteness of the women traders, who hold a position unique, I should think, in Africa. Strong as buffaloes, large-boned, strident, gaily dressed in patterned clothes with little jackets, either plump and soft-fleshed as marsh-mallows or else lean as old leather, their faces look imperious and uncompliant, like the faces of cattle-dealers in English country towns.... They are down at their stalls by six in the morning and stay there till dark, concocting behind piles of printed cotton, silk and velveteen, or in dusty alley-ways between stalls of bright-hued vegetables and toilet preparations... This is their life; all day long they bargain, gossip, argue, stir the pot, pound the fu-fu, suckle babies, greet friends.... Husbands are, in a sense, adjuncts, like male spiders..." (Four Guineas, 1954, pp. 79-80).

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Could the tomatoes and onions be held together with pins? A dab of glue?

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Upstairs, there's a collection of cloth stalls. It's hot as an oven in here.

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Steady as she goes.

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How many dozen eggs will be sold today? Who buys them? Where did they come from? So many questions, so little time. Outside, it's blindingly bright.

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The market lavatory.


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