A group of friends and I had heard that the Ghana government voted recently to sell a large portion of beach front property in Jamestown to Chinese investment firm that had plans to make a resort. The land, however, had been inhabited for over 30 years and now supported over 4000 people. In the government’s eyes, the people living on beach were swatters, avoiding paying rent and harboring disease and crime. Upon hearing the news, my friends and I decided to see the site first hand.
What we saw at the beach was a completely different story. People told us they were born there, or lived there for over 25 years. They told us the government gave them 3 days to leave their homes and find somewhere else to live. I heard stories of how the bulldozers came in early in the morning and leveled homes regardless of what or who was in them. I met an 11 year old boy name Simon. He showed me a patch of blue paint on a wall and explained to me that was once his bedroom. Since the bulldozing he had become separated from his parents and was now living behind a urinal house with his friends and 500 other people.
I met a teenager named Tiofloss, one of 3 sons of a single mother. He explained that he was able to go to school thanks to his mother selling oranges. Now that his home has been demolished he doesn’t know when he’ll be able to return to school or even where he is going to get his next meal.
I talked to a father and shop owner named Bismark. Who told me they destroyed his shop and with it all of his merchandise. He now is in more debt and has no idea how he is going to feed his 3 kids. I asked him the last time he ate and he told me he couldn’t remember.
These are just some of the stories I heard at Jamestown. Seeing the beach and all the people just standing there not knowing what to do was heart breaking. However, how much these people welcomed us into the community was heart warming. I've been here in Ghana for 3 months now and it's been a real struggle from a photographers point of view. People here just don't like their photo taken. I've had numerous occasions where my camera has almost been knocked out of my hand by an angry Ghanian. I learned that the image of a white man with a camera has so many preconceived judgements attached to it. Many Ghanians feel that that i'm going to sell their photo or put it up some blog and explain that this is the real Africa. The sad thing is that its true. Alot of the photos we see about Africa in the west are slanted, they dont tell the whole story and they portray Africa as a hopeless place plagued by disease. But how does this mini rant of mine relate to Jamestown?
Well this was the first time here in Ghana people have wanted to take pictures. While I was at the beach no one was knocking my camera down or yelling profanity in another language. Infact they showed me around, introduced me to those effected and wanted me raise awareness of what was going on. So that why made this post today. I don't have any of the answers to these complex problems, but I hope this post can start a discussion about the enormous wealth gap between east and west and what can be done prevent something like this in the future.