You are warmly welcome to Assin-Praso and Assin-Manso for this year’s Emancipation Day celebrations.
Be at ease to enjoy our famed hospitality and take advantage of the congenital investment climate to drive tourism development in the area, Ms Felicia Ntrakwa, the District Chief Executive (DCE) for Assin South has appealed.
Slated for Wednesday, July 19 to Tuesday, August 1, the celebration is on the theme: “Re-Claiming the African Family: Confronting the Past to Face the Challenges of the 21st Century.”
It is being arranged by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, together with the Ghana Tourism Authority.
Emancipation Day Celebration is an annual event observed to commemorate the resistance and liberation of African people in the Diaspora against enslavement and violation of their human rights.
The climax of the celebrations is held on August 1, each year, with a grand durbar of the Chiefs and people of Assin-Manso.
Ms Ntrakwa said the twin historical communities are home to bright sunshine that enriches the quality of the skin; where music, dance, and culture not only create fun but excite the body, soul, and mind.
Yet, until recently, the attention of many Ghanaians was focused on the European trading fortresses dotted along the coastline of Ghana in terms of tourism and Emancipation Day celebration.
Narrating the historical relevance of the community in the Trans-Atlantic, slave trade, Nana Awodo Aseku X, the Chief of Assin-Praso, the community marked the end of the British protectorate in the Gold Coast during the colonial era.
It played a strategic transit role in the transportation of slaves from the northern part of the country through the Ashanti Region to Cape Coast and Elmina Castles.
Captured African slaves were forced to trek barefooted, through the harsh bush and over rough terrain for sometimes hundreds of miles headed to the Gold Coast and Elmina Castle Dungeons.
They suffered abuses, were starved and were beaten into compliance by the hired drivers of the slave merchants.
They were often attacked by wild animals, but unable to fight back or run because they remained shackled and chained.
The community also hosts the remains of the British castle where soldiers and their armoury were stationed.
The British encamped in the community to fight against the Ashanti Kingdom in the Anglo-Ashanti war.
The two were separated by the Pra River, where many battles were fought.
It was the bank of the river Pra, where Osei Tutu I, King of the Ashanti Kingdom, was shot whilst crossing the river in one of his many military escapades.
British Camp commandments
The British Camp commandants, families, British soldiers, and captured slaves who died in Assin-Praso during the Anglo-Ashanti battles were buried at the Heritage Village cemetery in the community.
Major Victor Ferguson (2nd Lifeguards), who died in 1896 whilst serving as camp commandments and his wife Sophia were among those buried there.
One will also find mass graves of both British and African Soldiers and enslaved Africans.
Assin-Praso has relics of their armoury, castles, a mass graveyard for blacks and a white cemetery, a historic bamboo plantation and the resting place of the famous Yaa Asantewa before she was sent to the Elmina Castle.
It was also the resting and meeting place, where the whites met before transiting to or from the northern or southern part of Ghana. People from Mali, Sierra Leone, Burkina, and Nigeria were brought here for war during the Anglo-Ashanti wars.
Historic mango tree of “life and death”
The infamous “historic mango tree of life and death’’, the oldest and the most extended mango tree in Ghana and West Africa, can be found there.
Giving oral tradition on the tree, Nana Aseku, described the historic mango tree as a “gateway.”
From the Tree, one may travel to places undreamed of. It may appear different, yet it is the same Tree, with its roots connected to all the realms of life.
Many others who were starved for days had to depend on the bountiful mango fruits for survival, hence, its name the “mango tree of life and death.” Interestingly, the giant tree can be found at the same place which became a battleground.
The Tree is outstanding in the semi-deciduous forest, interspersed with a thick canopy of bamboo and climbing palm. It has a thick trunk and about 100 feet (30.48 m) into the skies with a wide canopy extending to about 35 feet (10.67 m) due to the richness of the soil.
Relatedly, Assin-Manso is another historical town in the Assin South District of the Central Region. It is 40 kilometres (about 24.85 mi) from Cape Coast.
It had one of the largest slave markets for gathering people to sell into slavery during the infamous trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Near the journey’s end in Ghana, the captives were given a last, ritual bath in a river before being sold.
Today, the Assin Manso site is a sacred place of remembrance in mangrove swamps, an image of slaves chained by the feet promises, “Never again.”
Narrating the historical relevance of the community, Prof. Nana Ayensu Gyiabour I, the Chief of Assin-Akrofuom said the history of the town makes it a prelude to viewing the Cape Coast and Elmina slave castles.
Memorial Wall of Return
Assin-Manso hosts the Memorial Wall of Return – where most Africans sign their names on the wall indicating they have their roots there.
There is an epitaph which pays tribute to some prominent people involved in slavery.
It hosts the remains of two diasporans (Lady Crystal from Jamaica and Carson from New York) who were re-buried.
The last bath
On the way to the coastal dungeon, the slave merchants stopped at the Nnko Nsuo,” the slave river,” in Assin-Manso where captured Africans were allowed to have their last bath in the waters of their native land and recuperate.
The merchants knew they could guarantee higher prices if they appeared healthy and robust.
After they bathed in the river, the captives were then taken on the final leg of their journey to the Cape Coast or Elmina Castles to be transported to the Americas and the Caribbean to never see their homeland again.
The Portuguese began the inhuman practice of branding, using a red, hot branding iron to burn an identifying mark onto the skin of captives.
The burn mark would leave a scar on the shoulder, the breast, or the upper arm to show ownership.
Other times, branding was used to show that proper duty had been paid.
When it was time to leave, they were sorted, leaving the weak ones behind chained trees, where the unthinkable happened.
The stronger captives continued walking for approximately 40 miles (64.37 km) to Cape Coast Castle, still shacked and chained.
It was a great relief for Africans when chattel slavery was finally abolished spanning some two centuries, on August 01, 1834.