Inside the foyer of Agbazo We, a prominent family house famed for the selection of Chief Fishermen for Lakple, Lower Prampram landing beach, the Chief Fisherman, Nene Sorsey Quarshie, patiently sat in a plastic chair in readiness to welcome a group of students from Furman University, South Carolina, United States of America.
The students – about fourteen of them – together with other professors, led by Professor Janet Kwami, were in the country for an intercultural Study Away programme. The visit to Prampram was therefore to gain insight into the fishing operations, and also tour some interesting sites, including Fort Vernon, which was built in 1742 to facilitate the slave trade along the coast.
A stand-in linguist wearing a Manchester United shirt, William Norman, performed the customary rites by welcoming the team to the House. He then invited Professor Kwami, who disclosed their mission and places they had already visited prior to coming to Prampram.
Nene Kwashie happily told the group to feel at home and assured them of maximum protection from residents. He gave a brief history about the House and pointed to the family shrine stationed at the entrance.
“Our ancestors came from somewhere and you can see when you entered,” he said, pointing to the shrine outside. Wearing a white shirt with vertical patterns made with Ghanaian fabric and complimentary shorts, with royal beads around his neck and right wrist, he stepped into the baking sun with the group to begin the tour around the beach.
He started the exercise by first pointing to the various family houses within the enclave. He explained to the group the significance of the names in relations to the identity of the occupants, or persons associated with it. Outside one of the houses, Ayiku We, the poster of a dead relative dances to the direction of the wind.
At the landing beach, the Chief Fisherman pointed to the base of canoes that are yet to be molded into a complete piece. He said the wood for the canoe is procured outside of Prampram, mostly in forest or rural areas, and skilled artisans then piece the various parts together into a whole.
Professor Janet Kwami, who was walking next to the Chief Fisherman, pointed to the various inscriptions written on some of the canoe. Most of the canoes have religious inscriptions on them.
“The names on the canoes reflect the faith of the people,” she told students. Approaching a beat-down canoe with the inscription: ‘Agbaadzennaa’ or ‘Don’t Stress About the World’, some of the kids around the beach joined the tour. Nene Kwashie narrated how the activities of suspected foreign vessels, mostly from Asia, have negatively impacted the fishing operations. He said those vessels use ‘light’ equipment in the fishing operations, which often drive fishes away from waters accessible to local fishermen.
Fishing operations are forbidden on Tuesdays. It is an age-old custom, and those who knowingly violate it, according to the Chief Fisherman, are sanctioned.
The tour ended at Fort Vernon. Later in an interview with PramcitiTV, a Ga-Dangme speaking online television channel, some of the students described the experience as ‘eye opening’ and an important learning opportunity for them.
Also, in an interview with the channel, Nene Kwashie thanked the group for the visit, and wished them well. On the increasing decay of Fort Vernon, he expressed regrets about the failed promises from the Ghana Museum and Monuments Board, who after visiting the site promised to help restore it, but zero work has so far been done on it.
He said Prampram has a rich history and a restoration of the fort as a visiting site for tourism will further help project the town in the right direction.