"I have just recently bought one of your baskets from a local produce farmer. I think they are beautiful and hope to buy more in the near future. I collect baskets. They are made very well and I am pleased with my purchase."— Karla
Santa Fe, New Mexico
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T he Republic of Ghana is a thriving African country of almost 23 million people (2007 est.) and is geographically about the size of Oregon. Ghana borders Cote d'Ivore to the west, Burkina Faso to the north, Togo to the east, and the Gulf of Guinea to the south. While English is still the official language in Ghana, there are seventy-nine spoken languages in the country. The largest ethnic groups include the Akan, Moshi-Dagomba, Ewe, and Ga.
Ghana's pre-colonial history is often confused with that of the ancient Ghana Empire of the 7th through 11th century. The Ghana Empire actually encompassed a region far to the Northwest of the current Republic of Ghana, including parts of present day Mauritania and Mali and its Soninke rulers had no relation to the major ethnic groups in present day Ghana. The Republic of Ghana was named, however, after the ancient Ghana empire when it became an independent country in 1957. The pre-colonial history of the current Ghana region that is known dates back to the Akan Empire of the 13th century. Later, the famous Ashanti empire flourished during the 18th and 19th centuries.
Europeans, led by the Portuguese, began invading the region as early as the mid-1400's and named the area the "Gold Coast." The British, after fierce fighting with the Ashanti, eventually established the Gold Coast as a "Crown Colony" in 1820. In 1957, Ghana became the first sub-Saharan country in colonial Africa to gain its independence.
Flag of the Republic of Ghana
Nkrumah, who was born in Ghana and attended Lincoln University in the U.S., became a leader in the Pan-African Movement around the world. He aligned himself strongly with Marxist economic principles and attempted to make Ghana an industrial self-sustaining country. Nkrumah's government was overthrown by a CIA backed coup in 1966 and spent the remaining years of his life in exile in Conakry, Guinea as the guest of Sekou Touré and "honorary co-president". Kwame Nkrumah is still one of the most respected leaders in African history. He received the Lenin Peace Prize from the former Soviet Union and was voted, "Africa's Man of the Millennium" by listeners to the BBC World Service.
Ghana spiraled into political and economic chaos during a series of presidential coups until 1981 when Jerry Rawlings took power. In 1992 a new constitution was approved and Rawlings was elected in free elections. John Kufuor, Ghana's current president, was elected in 2000 and re-elected in 2004.
Ghana has an abundance of natural resources, including gold, timber and cocoa, which are major sources of foreign exchange. Ghana's economy still relies on subsistence agriculture and is heavily dependent on foreign aid. However, compared to its neighbors, Ghana remains one of the most economically sound countries in West Africa and boasts an outstanding educational system.
The Village of Bolgatanga
The village of Bolgatanga is the capital of the upper east region of Ghana and sits between Burkina Faso (about 28 miles to the north) and Togo (about 19 miles to the east. Historically, this village of about 50,000 (2000 est.) is very close in proximity to where the ancient Trans-Saharan trade route converged with the Sahelian route from Mali via Burkina Faso. This route has long been known for outstanding handicrafts - especially straw baskets, hats and fans, as well as leather goods and metal jewelery.
Bolgatanga is the major city of the Gurene people (also called Gurunsi), although several different ethnic groups including the Grusi, Namnam, Kusasi, and Builsa inhabit the area. Today, Bolgatanga, known as the crafts center of Northern Ghana, with its surrounding villages comprise the largest producers of leather works and straw baskets in the country.