To understand James town, you need to live and appreciate it. As one of Accra’s oldest districts, James town has witnessed a good number of events – dating back to the colonial era – which eventually contributed to the story of Ghana. The historical value of the town is unparalleled. The stories remain as pristine as the age-old culture which is lived day by day. You never know where the ancient walls of James town are going to lead you to. You just have to keep walking through the maze.
James town Lighthouse
One of the coolest things about James town has to be the long and nervy climb up into the famous lighthouse that affords individuals the chance to have a bird’s eye view of the rest of the town and some parts of Osu and Labadi. The lighthouse may just be the most distinctive building in James town due to its red and white colours and isolation.
Ussher Fort & James Fort Prisons
Behind the tall walls of these two relics lies gruesome stories of toil and beaten down structures that contribute to the colonial and slavery era of the Gold Coast. These two prisons in their operational days reflected how much Ghanaians were oppressed on their own land by their colonial masters. On the same compound as the prisons, there was also the seat of power for whichever European authority was in control at the time, detailing the tale of two contrasting worlds in one space.
James town Beach
Descending onto the beach, you will be enveloped by the core of James town. A true communalistic society, largely by obligation. Humans en-masse congregated on the seashore, on the ‘boardwalk’ because that is all they know. James town has always been a fishing community. You will be forgiven if you are caught staring in awe at the multitude of events taking place in one space. From swimming, canoeing, fishing, marketing the catches and ready-made food, preservation of fish to sports on the beach, you will have a lot to take in from the minute you descend the stairs onto the beach.
Another constant on the streets of James town is food at all times of the day. Inhabitants of James town will engage in just about any craft to make a living. Some house fronts feature a small setup that offers kelewele, local chips, soda, water, and other snacks. Hidden in the labyrinth corners though, the more established food joints will be found, where fufu, banku, and other local delicacies are served.
Ngleshie Alata Mantse Palace
Living James town is incomplete without doing due diligence to the seat of authority in the town. The chief of James town’s palace is a sight to behold. Although renovations have taken place over the years, the building still has the ‘British’ tag boldly painted over it probably for historical or sentimental value. Visitors are welcome to take a tour of the premises and pose questions about artefacts to the tour guides and elders, all at a fee. The liberal energy throughout the town can also be felt through the little league football matches that take place right in front of the palace.
For the last decade and some, there has been a continuous process by individuals and bodies who truly care about the state of the community to give James town a facelift. These days, some of the walls which hitherto had half-scraped paint now bear the art of both burgeoning and established artists from across the world, primarily thanks to the good guys at Accra [dot] Alt and the Chalewote street art festival. The new lease of life gives the town folk fresh reason to believe and make something of themselves. The youth learn to embrace and appreciate art through this medium and Accra [dot] Alt, through their activities in Jamestown, tend to offer some form of employment to the natives. Win-win for everyone.
This is something like a christening in the James town community. James town indeed has produced some of Ghana’s finest boxers. On the beach as well as street corners, you may be lucky to find a crowd huddled up watching two male figures go at it. Age is no barrier. Kids tend to look forward to boxing training more than they do to their time in school. It is great to see the determination on the faces of all the ‘want-to-be-boxers’ who view the sport as their ticket out of the slums.