Thursday, 14 July 2016

Preparations for a special field trip

Presto returns to Ghana

Between 9 and 20 August, Annemieke van der Vegt and I will undertake a field trip to Ghana to investigate the early life of the African boy Presto, or Christiaan van der Vegt. For the backgrounds of this visit see the Introduction page.

The trip includes visits to and research in Accra, the current capital of Ghana, the town of Elmina, from 1637 to 1872 the Dutch headquarters in Ghana, the important urban centre Axim in the Western Region, the stilt-village Nzelezu, the Ankobra River, and several other places, which (may) have played a part in Presto's life.

Watch this space for regular updates on the trip and results of our research. When in Ghana I will try to add posts on a daily basis, internet availability permitting.

Background picture

The background picture of this blog is a lithograph of the town of Elmina. It was taken from the north wall of the castle of St. George d'Elmina around 1870, at the end of the Dutch presence. The Dutch flag can be seen flying from the tower of Fort Coenraadsburg on St. Jago Hill. Some 135 years earlier Presto was in Elmina and could have stood on this spot. His view would have been different. The houses were not there yet. Most of these date from the 1840s. In Presto's time this was a sandy area with a footpath running through it, some small huts, a wide beach on the right, and scrubs and trees on the hill-side to the left. Fort Coenraadsburg was there, however, and a landmark Presto may have kept in his mind for some time, also because this fort, together with Elmina castle, is the last he would have seen of the his mother country when he departed from Elmina on his voyage to Europe.

View of Elmina from St. George d'Elmina castle, c. 1870

By the 1980s, the big corner-house in the middle of the picture had fallen in disuse and was a total ruin. The house is called Bridge House as it stands next to the bridge crossing the Benya Lagoon (not in view). In the late 1990s, Elmina businessman Paa Kwesi Nduom, whose wife's family owned the house, had it demolished and replaced by a new building which is in use as a hotel: Coconut Grove Bridge House. The terrace of the hotel will be a vantage point for Annemieke and I to discuss the history of the town and to view the fishing activities.

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