The Ghanaian market is an experience similar to China Town, NYC only it is much, much bigger. People on the street are trying to sell you everything from prepaid cell phone minutes to purses to fabric to cured fish carried on plates on their heads. For many students, Monday was the first venture out into the market. We went as a group in a bus with several of the community workers to guide and interpret. Without a Ghanaian with you who knows normal pricing, some market traders will inflate pricing.
The street was as crowded as the streets of Accra; pedestrians weaving in and out of traffic toting their wares and hollering their prices. Goats are everywhere here, roaming the streets and I’ve been told that no matter how far they roam, they always return to their owners at night. Taxis and busses beep incessantly. They honk for a variety of reasons; to acknowledge other drivers, warn other vehicles from cutting them off, and warning pedestrians not to step out in front of them.
Our first venture into the market was in search of fabric. We have met a wonderful friend. Magdalena, a local seamstress, will create anything we wish if we provide the fabric, a description or a drawing. She took all of our measurements the first evening to make traditional clothing for us as a Thank-You from the church community. We will wear our new Ghanaian clothing to the church service this Sunday. She has come every night this week, bringing a few completed items each night.
The market itself is enormous. There are several main streets surrounding it with shops selling purses, watches, scarves, etc. Between the stalls about every 500 yards are alleyways that lead deeper into the market. Shops selling similar wares are gathered in the same areas; we walked through the fish and beading booths to reach the fabric booths. Ghana has undergone many changes in the last twenty years opening their fashion to more intricate, less traditional fabric. Traditional fabrics are geometric designs using mainly yellow/gold, black, red, and green. These traditional fabrics are now mixed in with newer patterns incorporating blues, purples, silver and pinks. Batiks, Tye Dyes and Kente designs represent the variety available here in Ghana.
Standing at the entrance to a shop can be an overwhelming experience; traditional white and black patterns as worn to the funerals in one area, traditional geometric patterns in another area, batiks covering a whole wall, and other colorful designs with gold or silver markings making the patterns even more intricate filling the rest of the shop. Some of the shops are only 2ft x 10ft, making group shopping very difficult, where others may be 5ft x 15 ft. The lighting is poor in many shops making selection of fabric a challenge. Regardless of how cramped we may be shopping, the fabrics are so beautiful and so inexpensive that we cannot resist. Fabric is sold by the yard as in the USA, but I am amazed that many of the fabrics sell for only two or three cedis per yard. With the current exchange rate, a yard of fabric at 2 cedis per yard equals about $1.37/yd USD.
We also went to a craft fair with only a few booths but much different merchandise than we found in the market. Wood carvings, paintings, drums, masks and jewelry are a sampling of what they had for sale. Although they are beautiful, we are cautioned by our leaders that the market we go to in Accra on our last day has a greater selection and more detailed work but the prices are a little higher. A store down the street called the wood carvers shop also sells clothing, purses, masks, paintings, drums, and much more.