The castles and forts of Ghana constitute treasures par excellence, a legacy of the historic past as much to modern Ghana and Africa as to the world at large. Though built on West African soil, their authors came from Europe – Portuguese, Dutch, Britons, Brandenburg – Prussians, Danes and Swedes. For several centuries European masters and native African servants lived and worked in them. The warehouses teamed with gold and ivory exports as well as African slaves destined for auction to the new world, there to become ancestors to future generations of black populations.
Hence, not only modern Ghanians, but also many millions of countries of the western hemisphere and elsewhere constitute stakeholders with an interest in ensuring the preservation of these historic castles and forts. Recognising their unique place in world history, the world heritage convention of UNESCO has designated Ghana’s castles and forts and world heritage monuments.
In the late 17th century, the small state of Acorn – sandwiched between the larger British allies of Agona and Fante sought to have a strong fort built on its territory to defend it in case of attack. The Dutch, while willing to erect a fort at Apam, were in no position to build a large one. Building of the fort commenced in 1697 on the summit of a promontory close to a sheltered beach and bay. However, disagreement between the two sides concerning the form of the fort delayed its completion until 1702. Hence the name they gave to the fort – Lijdzaamheid, meaning patience.
You negotiate a junction in the tro-tro and from the junction in Accra take a taxi to the small village of Apam. Fort Patience stares at you from the hill when you enter her Apam. “I have been here longer than any of you.” she says, and she smiles like a Zulu African Mama.
Fort Patience, named quite appropriately, was initially built for the slaves that waited here in the dungeons before they were shipped to the larger Elmina and Cape Coast Castles to be sold in the New World, and secondly also for the odd traveler that chooses to spend a night there. There is nothing. The patient fort is a small ‘halfway fort’ still waiting patiently on the hill.
Apon arrival a woman, that surprisingly speaks very little English, shows you the well where you can collect wash water, fills your spare hand with newspapers cut into squares for toilet paper and then leads you to your room with the thinnest mattress in the entire Ghana.
All this sounds a little distressing, but Fort Patience is by far the most intimate and beautiful of all the castles and forts of Ghana. Many years ago it used to be white washed. What remains now is simply the ‘half-way-stop’ European building on an African shore, practically forgotten. Something that is really worth mentioning is the view over the Gulf of Guinea that make you feel like you are seeing it for the first time.
Should your travels ever take you to this small village of Apam and you get discouraged by your thin mattress: simply carry it outside, place your Yoga mat underneath it for additional comfort and look up at the stars before you close your eyes to sleep. When you wake up the next morning don’t drop your bucket in the well and wash yourself in front of an open window overlooking the bay.
Places like this are important to visit. The make for good holidays as we reflect on injustices of the past and how inportant is is to both forget and remember then at the same time.
Words: Daréll Lourens