By Ms. Han Yuri, alias Esi
(Culture, Tourism and PR Officer of the Embassy of Ghana in Seoul)
The following are excerpts from an interview with Ms. Han Yuri, alias Esi, the Culture, Tourism and PR officer at the Embassy of Ghana in Seoul.—Ed.
Question: As the Culture, Tourism and PR officer of the Embassy of Ghana in Seoul, what are your main activities at the Embassy?
Answer: My main work as a cultural, tourism and PR officer is a combination of cultural and tourism promotion, marketing, public relations and that of management.
At the Embassy, my specific work as a tourism officer is to promote tourism and come up with tourism initiatives/programs, prepare tourist or visitor information, produce promotional and display materials among others with the main aim of making GHANA, the Gate-way to Africa, known to the world and especially to the beautiful Korean People.
Q: Your name "Esi' does not sound like a Korean name. Is it a name from English or another language?
A: "Esi" is a name given to a female born on a Sunday by the Akan tribe, specifically the Fanti people. When I started working at the Embassy, the then Ambassador of Ghana to South Korea, who was a Fanti lady, gave me the name "Esi," to correspond with the day l was born in Korea. The Ambassador and myself were happy to use "Esi" as it helped bring us closer and also as a gesture for her to show her appreciation and honor me for my hard work at the Embassy.
Q: What are the special features of Ghana?
A: Before we talk about Ghana, I would like to mention that it is rather unfortunate that some Koreans consider Africa as one big community. Africa is a continent consisting of 54 countries with its unique rich cultures and histories. Ghana is a country located on the Atlantic Ocean, in the sub-region of West Africa.
Q: Most African countries were colonized by the European powers. From which country did Ghana declare her independence?
A: Ghana regained her independence from the British colony on 6th March 1957 under the leadership of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. This made Ghana the first sub-Saharan African country to regain her independence. In 2019, Ghana commemorated its 62nd independence anniversary.
Q: Is Ghana divided into several tribes like other African countries?
A: Yes, of course. Ghana has more than 50 tribes and 16 administrative regions.
Q: Do they use the same local language?
A: No, they don’t. Each tribe has its unique local language, however, there are similarities in some of them.
Among them, the most dominant spoken local languages are Twi, Ga, Ewe, Fanti, Dagbani, Hausa, etc.
Though these local languages are also taught in schools, English is used as the official medium of communication.
Q: How many times have you been to Ghana?
A: I have been there four times. I traveled from the Northern part to Accra which is the capital of Ghana.
Q: Does the democratic system of government coexist with the traditional system in Ghana?
A: Yes, though Ghana practice democratic governance, traditional rulers (kings and Chiefs) are very much respected and play a major role in maintaining peace, law and order among the citizens. For example, the paramount chief of Asanti kingdom (The Asantehene) is one of the most prominent traditional ruler in Ghana and in Africa.
Q: How can we identify the symbols or marks showing the Royal authority in Ghana?
A: There are several ways to identify Royalty in Ghana, commonly is their dress – code for events and symbols displayed at homes (especially chief palaces). On special occasions, the dress code is “Kente” with a necklace made of beads, gold, diamond and Royal crown mostly made of gold or diamond. Also “Kente” is a special traditional handmade woven fabric.
Q: Is this kente fabric outfit that you are wearing today?
A: Yes. Ghana kente fabric is indeed beautiful.
Q: I can see some symbols on your outfit. What are these symbols?
A: Adinkra symbols represent concepts. Adinkra symbols are used extensively in fabrics, wood carvings and pottery among the Asantis of Ghana. They are incorporated into various ways. Among them, is ‘ SANKOFA ’.
Sankofa is a word in Twi language of Ghana that translates to “Go back and get it”. You can see that a mythical bird with its feet firmly planted forward with its head turned backward. It is wisdom in learning from the past which ensures a strong future.
Q: Please introduce the tourist industry in Ghana.
A: The Ministry of Tourism has put in efforts to develop sustainable tourism pivoted around the Ghanaian culture and creative arts as a key driver to accelerated national development. Ghana is endowed with rich and diverse tourism products such as natural attractions, eco-tourism, historical attractions and heritage, cultural tourism, sports and recreation tourism, educational tourism, etc. There are various festivals, events, arts and cultural events all year round in Ghana.
Q: Please introduce some attraction sites.
A: Let’s start from the Upper East region, there is Paga Crocodile pond which is inhabited by West African crocodiles and Sirigu which is a village well known for its basketry, pottery, traditional architecture and wall paintings.
Boti falls is located North – East of Koforidua, the Eastern region. It is amazing, splendor and grandeur.
The Lalabangga mosque which is the oldest mosque in the country and one of the oldest in West Africa has been referred to as the “ Mecca of West Africa ‘
Kakum national park, located in the Central region of Ghana consists of a 40m – high canopy walkway in a virgin forest, birding trail and treehouse.
Elmina castle also located in the Central region of Ghana was built by the Portuguese in 1482 and it was the first trading post built on the Gulf of Guinea and the oldest European building in existence south of the Sahara.
Accra, the capital of Ghana is home to the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial park which honors Ghana’s first President who helped led the country to regain independence. Also, Christianborg castle also known as Osu Castle was built by the Danes in the 1660s, as served as the seat of government in Ghana until the seat of government was moved to the Golden Jubilee House in 2009.
Q: Has Elmina castle any special symbolic meaning?
A: Yes, it serves as a transit point for the slave masters to transport their slaves to their respective destinations through the sea. It was the place of no return for any slave that is taken there. On my visit to this castle and listening to the histories, I felt bad and this brought to bear the violations of human rights.
Q: Ghana is one of the most famous countries for cocoa production, the main ingredient for chocolate, could you tell me more about it?
A: To talk about cocoa, I will need to briefly introduce the Ghana Cocoa Board.
Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) is a government-controlled institution that controls the buying price of cocoa in Ghana.
COCOBOD was established by ordinance in 1947 and it has worked very hard to sustain the cocoa industry in Ghana.
Some specific roles of COCOBOD are to encourage and facilitate the production, processing and marketing of premium quality cocoa, coffee and shea nut in all forms in the most efficient and cost-effective manner.
Ghana is also known for its rich resources such as gold, diamond, bauxite among others. It also boasts of numerous agricultural resources such as shea nut, cashew nut, palm, corn, yam, cassava, coconut as well.
Recently, I was invited to a cosmetic shop in Korea launching an event to promote a new moisturized body cream using Ghana made organic shea butter.
It is indeed very true as can be seen in the Korean market, and in most parts of the world, the ‘Ghana chocolate brand’ is one of the most widely consumed chocolate products. I believe, the brand name “Ghana chocolate‘ goes a long way to recognize the fact that, the major ingredient which is used in chocolate production comes from no other place than Ghana.
Q: Do you have additional information you wish to introduce to the Korean readers about Ghana?
A: Ghana is indeed ‘GATE TO AFRICA.’
From the warm welcome message, ‘AKWAABA or WOEZOLOU’ and reception that one is likely to receive upon arrival at the airport, or while staying in Ghana gives you the joy of being in the country. I would like to encourage all persons from all parts of the world and especially all Koreans to visit at least once in your lifetime. Ghana is home to all.