On November 2, 2015, Ghanaians witnessed the destruction of one of the nation’s most iconic buildings – the World’s famous Sea View Hotel – which has overlooked Jamestown Harbour and sheltered guests and new arrivals to Ghana for over 250 years.
This national treasure situated opposite Jamestown Lighthouse and Jamestown Castle has witnessed history from the early Ashanti Wars through WWI and WWII and was known to generations of Ghana’s Armed Forces, United Services and the Police. This is the hotel from which the sounds of Highlife inspired Kwame Nkrumah to write his Independence speeches whilst in Jamestown Jail in the old Castle opposite. Our first President, Osagyefo, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, won his famous first election victory with a political campaign masterminded from his cell – hence the honorary title of ‘prison graduates’ coined by Komla Gbedemah – for the early Independence leaders as the ‘Black Stars’.
This is where Accra Highlife was born with generations of home-grown musicians mixing with African American Jazz musicians during the Second World War. This is where the Police Bag Pipe band would play and where Fela played his JuJu music whilst in Exile living in Accra. This is where Henry Stanley, the famous American reporter stayed during the Ashanti Wars before he met David Livingstone. It is also the famous location used by Tom Cruise during the shoot for Mission Impossible III. Now it is no more and Ghana has lost another Landmark building.
In one swoop, the look of historic Jamestown which we all grew up with has been spoiled forever. We talk about Tourism and all of the history and beauty of Ghana – whilst we watch it being destroyed before our eyes in a building boom without care or concern for our national Heritage or culture. Will this be the fate of Cape Coast, Elmina, Sekondi Old European Town – to see the stock of historic buildings gutted and bull-dozed whilst we sleepwalk into a cultural desert of phoney mansion-building. What has happened to our planning laws and the protection of historic buildings? Do we not have a Museum’s and Monument’s Board – the most neglected of all our Ministries? Is there no National Trust to preserve and maintain buildings of national importance for future generations?
What will our children say when they learn how our generation has vandalised their ancestral Heritage? What would our ancestors have said at this lack of respect for Mother Ghana and the inheritance left by former generations?
Mr Agyeman, the father of our former First Lady, Nana Agyeman Rawlings, had a dream for a National Trust to conserve historic buildings. Surely, it is time to make his dream a reality, give teeth to the Museums and Monuments Board and empower the Ministry of Culture!
The Ghana UK Based Achievement (GUBA) Awards in collaboration with British High Commissioner, Jon Benjamin, and the British community will be working on a programme to help conserve the historic Jamestown.
GUBA will be embarking on establishing a Trust and Development Corporation with the Jamestown Mantse, the AMA and the people of Jamestown, to save the Harbour before the historic Breakwater is breached and the livelihood of ‘fisherfolk’ destroyed.
GUBA is calling on all Ghanaians to awaken to our cultural heritage before it is too late.