Notes About our visit to Ghana

Posted on 5th September 2009 by admin in River Blog

The Danzu River
Ghana, Afrrica

The man who burst through the crowd and jumped into the arms of my traveling
companion at the Ghana airport was dressed in patchwork African fabric from
head to toe. His giant smile and exuberant greeting had the entire crowd of
people smiling at us. This was Kwami Bakoji Fornar, an amazing artist and
environmental activist of Ghana, Africa.

We had just arrived in Ghana carrying 20 paintings from intercity youth of
Cleveland Ohio. The paintings concerned the plight of the nearby Cuyahoga
River. Our mission in Ghana was to study the ecological problems of the rivers
of the Ashanti lands and gather paintings from both their most talented youth
and adult artists. Kwami was our facilitator. Six months before our journey I
had received a fax from him saying, “sister Bernice I would give my life for
chance to save the environment of Ghana.” In a matter of hours after our
meeting, I started to understand the urgency of his message.

Kwami brought us directly to the office of Johnny Aquae who is one of Ghana’s
leading environmentalists. He works for Friends of the Earth Ghana, a
worldwide organization dedicated to promoting environmental awareness. Our
education began with a shock when we read a poster that hung in Johnny’s
office. It showed a man wearing a gas mask standing in front of a landscape of
cut down trees. It said in the year 2012 Ghana will be out of fresh air, water
and firewood. Wood and charcoal are the only source of cooking fuel for most of
the population and it is already so scarce that the average woman must travel
ten miles a day on foot just to find enough wood to cook her family’s meal.
With a scarcity such as this no tree is safe in Ghana.

Tears welled up in my eyes as we traveled through the countryside and I saw the
Danzu River. Each side of the grassy banks of the once lovely Danzu are pilled
high with tons of trash. The people have been using the river as a dump for
waste of all kinds. The stench of raw sewage was unbearable and the water was
thick and gray.

Ironically, as we traveled, Kwami told us of an old Ashanti legend of a water
goddess named Mammy Water who is said to live at the bottom of the rivers. She
holds all the gold and wealth of the people. If she is respected, the people
prosper, if she is disgraced the people die. It was certainly an erie feeling
to be told this story at the same time as we viewed a river in such poor shape
as the Danzu.

The paintings from Cleveland were hung in a large room on the airy top floor
of the Cambridge International School in Kumase, Kwame’s home town. 3,000
kids attend this school, which offers classes from kindergarten all the way
through high school. The artists, both young and old, gathered to view the
Cleveland pictures, discuss their messages, and share information about their
own rivers . We learned that just outside the school a lush river used to run;
now it is the site of a dump that even overflows onto the playground. The
riverbed has been dry now for fifteen years.

For five days fifteen artists painted together as musicians played and dancers
danced . We were celebrating as we created. The children really got into the
warrior spirit of fighting for the environment with their art.
By the end of the week we had a powerful new set of paintings to add to our
collection, and we promised our hosts that we would share with people all over
the world.

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