June 6, 2012

Continental drift

The beach in front of Elmina Castle has been taken over by gold seekers. Young men looking for a quick buck build gold sluices in the shadow of West Africa’s most famous slave fort. They pile the sluices high with beach sand, then drown the sand with buckets of seawater laced with mercury.

We arrived in Ghana four days ago, but we can’t shake the feeling that we’re still in Suriname. The streets are full of faces that wouldn’t be out of place in the gold camps of Brokopondo. Even the language triggers a sense of deja vu—Akan, a local tongue spoken in Ghana, somehow became “Aukan” on its way across the Atlantic, and is still the lingua franca of Suriname’s Ndyuka Maroons.

But the countries share more than a common ethnic heritage. 225 million years ago, during the time of the Pangea megacontinent, there was no division between West Africa and the Guyanas. The soil here is the same as the soil in Suriname. It nurtures similar crops, and holds similar treasures.

But we’re not here to look for gold. We’re here to look for people in power. 

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