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Imagining Architecture: The Structure of Nationalism in Accra, Ghana

Author(s): Janet Berry Hess

Source: Africa Today, Vol. 47, No. 2 (Spring, 2000), pp. 35-58
Published by: Indiana University Press
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Accessed: 04-03-2018 18:23 UTC

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Imagining Architecture:The Structure
of Nationalism in Accra, Ghana
Janet Berry Hess

The architecture of the capital city of Ghana in the inde-

pendence era suggests an identification between architec-
ture and a consciously managed national ideal. This article
examines the history of architecture and spatial organiza-
tion in Accra, focusing upon the symbiosis between British
administrative and local commercial interests and on Brit-
ish colonial efforts to segregate and regulate architectural
space. It also explores the Nkrumah administration's recon-
figuration of colonial architectural objectives and argues
that the administration advanced-in its embrace of archi-
tectural modernity and reconceptualization of the urban en-
vironment-a distinctive notion of the "nation."


In 1956, a monumental bronze statue of Nkrumah was erected in the capi-

tal city of Accra, Ghana. The statue, commissioned from Italian artist, Ni-
cola Cataudella, state artist for the nation of Liberia, and architect, Sergio
Barbeski, depicts Nkrumah stepping forward with one arm raised in salute
and greeting. The tentative contraposto of the statue, so evocative of the
heroicized posture of architectural monuments in Greece, represents a dra-
matic departure from precolonial representations of political and spiritual
authority.' On the base of the Cataudella monument, located in an open
plaza in front of the Ghanaian Parliament, were inscribed three phrases
attributed to Nkrumah: "We prefer self-government with danger to ser-
vitude in tranquility," "Seek ye first the political kingdom and all other
things shall be added unto it," and "To me the liberation of Ghana will be
meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of Africa."
According to the Ghanaian Minister of Works, as related by the Eve-
ning News of 12 February 1964, the Cataudella monument "serve[d] as a
beacon of hope for the oppressed peoples of Africa and ... symbolized their
faith in the ultimate achievement of their dreams." The architecture of
independence-era Accra in fact suggests an identification of such architec-
tural monuments with a consciously managed national ideal. The iden-
tification of constructed image and national ideal may be understood as

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'jig Bronze monument to Ghanaian
President Kwame Nkruma
Nicola Cataudella, installe
National Museum, Accra,
(photograph by Janet Hes


characteristic of the postcolonial era: "imaginings" of the community, to
employ the terminology of Benedict Anderson (1991), have depended up-
0 on the employment of abstracted and idealized culture in the advance-
ment of national identity. The architectural construction of identity in
independence-era Ghana, however, was particularly complex and multi-
faceted. This article will examine the history of architecture and spatial
organization in Accra, focusing upon the symbiosis between British ad-
z ministrative and local commercial interests and on British colonial efforts
to segregate and regulate architectural space. It will then explore the Nkru-
mah administration's reconfiguration of colonial architectural objectives,
and argue that the administration constructed-through architecture and
spatial organization-a distinctive notion of the "nation."

Architectural History: Preindependence Accra

The capital city of Accra emerged as an important coastal settlement to-

ward the end of the sixteenth century. Its establishment as a commercial

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Map of Accra, 1826 (Acquah 1972: Figure 1).



and governing center for the Ga was the consequence of the protection
from raiding incursions which the Dutch Fort Crevecoeur (Ussher Fort)
and the British Fort James afforded (Amoah 1964: 12-18).2 The presence of
these forts, and of Christiansborg Castle (controlled by Swedish, Danish,
Portuguese, Akwamu, and British forces in succession), enhanced trade
opportunities for outlying kingdoms, and reinforced the primacy of the Ga
Mantse, "King of Great and small Accra, Osu, Labadi, and other villages
and districts belonging under this Royal Government."3
The expansion of the city of Accra under colonial administration
was shaped by the existing pattern of coastal settlement. Colonial mer-
chants and administrators established permanent residences and commer-
cial institutions among existing residences to facilitate trade in gold and
the export of enslaved human beings. During a visit to Accra in 1873, Hen-
ry Stanley noted the presence of "many pretentious houses, whitewashed,
attracting attention from their prominence above the clay-brown huts
among them" (Amoah 1964: 54). Between the house of the British com-
mandant and the Basel Mission, "the body of the town of native and Euro-
pean buildings jammed itself" along with the port and lighthouse of Accra.
Among the European institutions which were located in James Town dur-
ing this period were the Post and Telegraph Offices, the Queen's Ware-
house, the Public Works Yard, the Treasury Building, and the Customs
House offices (Brand 1972: 39).
By the turn of the century, the British colonial headquarters had been
transferred from Cape Coast to Accra. Governmental operations had shift-
ed to Accra in 1852, but the transfer was not made official due to "the
storm of opposition raised by the Chiefs and people of Cape Coast" (Brand
1972: 18). Among the residences which lined High Street in Accra, British
commercial trading houses were established. The impressive balustraded
structures of these institutions, many presently in ruins, facilitated the

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~~~~ ~~British commercial
structure in James Town,
Accra, Ghana (photograph
m by Janet Hess).



activities of Yates Brothers, F. & A. Swanzy's, and Alexander Miller & Co.,
z as well as Basel Mission, the Anglican Church, and the British West Bank
of Africa.4
Accra's establishment as a capital city was thus the consequence of a
Cl symbiosis of British administrative and local commercial activities. Colo-
nial rule, however, was from its inception characterized by an effort to
regulate the structure and organization of the city. Measures were intro-
duced to regulate sanitation and delimit the boundaries of certain sectors
of the city, and local councils were established that were "responsible for
the collection of the poll tax, the provision of minimum sanitary services
and general town improvement." In 1878, the Gold Coast Towns Police
and Health Ordinance was enacted, an ordinance which empowered the
Governor to approve new construction, to "compel the cleaning and re-
pairing of all dilapidated or unsanitary buildings, to fine those responsible
for unsanitary conditions, and to detain offenders without a warrant until
brought before a district commissioneris court" (Brand 1972: 34). Tremen-
dous resistance was mounted on the part of the people of the Gold Coast to

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Map of Accra, 1903 (Acquah 1972: Figure 2).

the Town Council Ordinance of 1894, which imposed taxes on the resi-
dents and vested authority in a Town Council, the election provisions of
which effectively disenfranchised the townspeople and "institutionalized
an expatriate majority" (Brand 1972: 64). The personal correspondence of
the British governor reveals a more or less benevolent paternalism on the
part of the government: as the Colonial Governor stated in 1858, "the ob-
ject of this Government was not to clean out dirty towns but to direct the
people to that and other objects by controlling and modifying their own
Government" (Acquah 1972: 22).
The British resolve to define the terms of the organization of the city
was manifested in regulations related to settlement boundaries and speci-
fically segregation of local populations (Amoah 1964: 59-66; Berkoh 1974:
64-5; Brand 1972: 49-50). A racially segregated "European Quarter," for
example, was established in the region of Victoriaborg. The British advo-
cacy of racial segregation in Africa was officially abandoned after the pub-
lication of the Devonshire White Paper of 1923, which maintained:

It is now the view of the competent medical authorities that,

as a sanitation measure, segregation of Europeans and Asi-
atics is not absolutely essential for the preservation of the

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health of the community ... to effect such separation by leg-
islative enactment except on the strongest sanitary grounds
would not, in the opinion of His Majesty's Government, be
justifiable. (Brand 1972: 44)

A segregated residential pattern persisted, however, into the twentieth cen-

tury. Other ordinances were adopted which proscribed existing architec-
tural patterns: regulations prohibited the construction of residential struc-
tures between commercial buildings along High Street, required that new
buildings be constructed of stone or concrete, and encouraged the resettle-
ment of sectors of James Town to Korle Gonno, and the "model resettle-

0 ment villages" of Riponsville and Adabraka.

Although the ostensible purpose of these measures was improved
sanitation and enhanced living conditions, improvement in the living en-
vironment of local residents was impeded by the reluctance of the govern-
ment to commit funds for maintenance, public works, or relocation. The
concern expressed in governmental reports over the "dreaded afflictions"
of bubonic plague and yellow fever, and the attention extended to the clear-
z ance of High Street for commercial use, suggest that the government's pri-
mary concern was the good health and prosperity of the European popula-
tion. Under the colonial administration of Governor Gordon Guggisberg,

priority was given to urban improvements which benefited government
c administrators and merchants:

The sum of ?62,000 was spent on the British Empire Exhi-

bition, for example, while only i1,400 went to anti-plague
0 measures in the rat-infested areas of the crowded coastal

towns . . . after a precipitous drop the construction of Gov-
H ernment buildings, on the Governor's quarters and on hous-
ing for expatriates in the civil service remained unaltered.
(Brand 1972: 129)

During the years of the Depression even fewer funds were marked for
the improvement of inner-city needs. Migration to squatter settlements in
James Town and Ussher Town increased, and only moderate relief for over-
z crowding was provided in the form of resettlement to outlying communi-
ties in Korle Gonno, Christiansborg, South Labadi and Kaneshie (Acquah
1972: 28).
During the Second World War, the Gold Coast was selected as the
base of Allied military operations. Outlying residential areas-already
developed under the administration of Guggisberg-were consequently
expanded, and British architect, Maxwell Fry, was employed to create an
overall development plan for the city (Amoah 1964: 78; Brand 1972: 170-
9). In the years following the war, the increased number of European mer-
chants and administrators in Accra and the emergence of a residential
middle class led to a further expansion of the city's governmental and com-

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Judicial m


mercial sectors. A vast judicial/administrative complex was established

[Insert Image 3 here], administrative structures on High Street were ex-
panded, and multistoried commercial buildings-previously confined to
the coast-were introduced in the central business district.
By the time of Ghanaian independence, the sixteenth-century pat-
tern of colonial fortifications and trading settlements which had charac-
terized Accra had been transformed into the structure of a commercial and
administrative center. At the conclusion of the Second World War, Accra
represented a curious amalgamation of established residential patterns and
British administrative and commercial initiatives. This amalgamation, in-
herited from the British, would be radically reconfigured in the indepen-
dence era to conform to the Nkrumah administration's notion of the "na-
tion. "

Architecture in Independence-Era Accra

In Architecture, Power and National Identity (1992) Lawrence Vail argues

that postcolonial architecture is characterized by allusion to an imagined
and idealized culture, a construct capable of subsuming divergent interests
and alliances within a homogeneous modernity. According to Vail,

the pursuit of national identity by the leadership involves

not some neutral revival of the past but its careful recasting

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Aerial vie


m to serve political ends . . . while modern nations generally
claim to be "rooted in the remotest antiquity" and be "hu-
man communities so 'natural' as to require no justification

m other than self-assertion," in reality they are both "novel"

and "constructed," forged through what he terms "the in-
vention of tradition." (Vail 1992: 54)

H The advancement of a constructed community serves to submerge diver-
z gent cultures within a facade of homogeneity and to "advance the power
and independence of government as an institution" (Vail 1992: 51). But the
construct of a unitary culture also serves a socially useful function: it sym-
bolizes and manifests an emerging nation's claim to legitimacy and self-

. . . a. . . . . . . .
C' determination.
In the Nkrumah administration's approach to urban development,
both the wish to enhance the stature of the administration and the desire
to promote a sense of national identity are evident. The Nkrumah gov-
ernment's response to the configuration of urban development and politi-
cal infrastructure inherited from the British was the importation of archi-
tectural modernity and the reconceptualization of plans for urban renewal.
The embrace of modernity and the reconfiguration of plans developed un-
der the British colonial administration in turn advanced the notion of the
"constructed" community.
Perhaps the most obvious manifestation in the urban context of the
objectives of the Nkrumah administration was the promotion of archi-

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Map of Accra, 1954 (Acquah 1972: Figure 3).

tectural modernity. Although the colonial administration had commis-

sioned a plan for the urban development of the capital and had encouraged
the construction of "European style" residences and commercial establish-
ments, the promotion of modernism was chiefly attributable to the Nkru-
mah administration. In part the preference for the International Style may
be viewed as the consequence of British commercial influence: the Direc-
tory of the Republic of Ghana for 1961, the official guide to Ghanaian at-
tractions and commercial establishments, is dominated by advertisements
and images of "BEAUTIFUL CITIES . . . Harbours for world shipping ...
dams, pipelines, office blocks, factories ... roads as far as the eye can see."

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Interior of National Museum of Ghana, Accra, Ghana (photograph by Janet Hess).


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Diorama of asantehene's residence in National Museum of Ghana, Accra, Ghana (photograph

by Janet Hess).

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The Directory evidences the pervasiveness of commercial rhetoric extol-
ling the fact that "[o]n land, on sea and in the air, man is perpetually build-
ing. Building anew for high standards . . . of living . .. of comfort . . . of
industrial efficiency."5 The manner in which this vision of "industrial ef-
ficiency" was interpreted and implemented, however, was attributable to
the priorities of the Nkrumah administration, which advanced modernity
as a sign of national and political achievement.
As the construction projects commissioned from British and Am-
erican architectural firms attest, a modified version of the International
Style-the architectural aesthetic advanced and implemented by Mies van -I

der Rohe, Walter Gropius and Le Corbusier, among others-was employed p;

by the Nkrumah government as a means of managing a heterogeneous
cultural environment. The design of Maxwell Fry for the National Muse- I-i

um in Accra, for example, which employs a prefabricated aluminum dome

to span the museum's eclectic collection, constitutes a powerful metaphor
for the use of architectural modernity to impose a unifying order upon
heterogeneous cultural elements.6 The inclusion of scale models of colo-
nial and mosque architecture in the museum's permanent collection, and A.^

the construction of a diorama of royal architecture near the museum-the

"traditional" residence of the Asante king (asantehene)-only accentuate
Fry's modernist vision.
The work of J. Cubitt, who designed the Accra Technical Institute,
and of Kenneth Scott, who designed a number of office buildings in Accra,
is similarly characterized by an uncompromising modernity, occasionally
relieved by references to a "tropical" milieu.7 The building erected for the
United States Embassy in Accra, by the American architect Harry Weese,
is typical of this rationalization of modernity through allusion to a vague
notion of indigenous culture: as an article in New Ghana, 19 August 1959,
related, the architect maintained that the building was inspired by the ar-
chitectural format of the palace of the northern chief of Wa Na in northern
Ghana. In fact, the building constitutes an aggressive articulation of the
International Style.
In a number of other structures, the Nkrumah administration em-
ployed modernism as a means of underscoring the central role of the gov-
ernment in its constructed "homogeneous" community. The State House,
Nkrumah Ideological Institute, and commercial structures such as the
Ghana Bank, Ambassador Hotel, and Kingsway Department Store, for ex-
ample, evidence the emphasis upon volume, the preference for surface
regularity as opposed to "axial symmetry," and the avoidance of orna-
ment characteristic of the International Style.8 The government's sponsor-
ship of a "model village," erected at Nhyohene near Tamale and intended
to demonstrate to visiting dignitaries dwelling houses "traditional" among
the Dagomba, Kassena-Nankanni, Dagarti, and Lobi, suggests the manner
in which the not-modern was rendered subordinate to a vision of superced-
ing modernity.
The desire to advance the power of government as an institution and

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Bank designed by Kenneth Scott, Accra, Ghana. (image rendered from Scott's design)





Design for United States Embassy in Accra after palace of the Wa-Na, design by American
architect Harry Weese (New Ghana 1959:7).

particularly to enhance the power of Nkrumah and the Convention Peo-

ple's Party (CPP) is also discernible in the rhetoric which accompanied
urban construction and development. In a photo essay published in the
Evening News of 10 June 1963, photographs of new construction in Accra
were accompanied by the headline, "This is the New Ghana Kwame Nkru-

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Ambassador Hotel, Accra, Ghana (photograph by Janet Hess).

mah is building/Ghana, land of Freedom and justice where progress and

development never cease;" one caption urged readers to consider whether
they were "not proud of what our dear Leader is doing for Ghana.... This
spot, as well as other development projects[] make us really proud of Osa-
gyefo (Nkrumah], the far-seeing man of Africa." The association between
development and Nkrumah's aspirations was also expressed in the state-
ments of government officials: in an address before the Ministry of Works
and Housing and representatives of the Accra Municipal Council, reported
by New Ghana on 10 May 1961, the Special Development Commissioner
for the city of Accra' maintained that "every hour of the day must bring
additional progress that would 'promote the realization of the President's
hopes and dreams." The association between progress and the vision of
Nkrumah was extended more broadly to the achievements of the party: an
article published in the Evening News of 17 April 1963 argued that:

Everywhere there are signs of construction. Everywhere the

spirit of the Work and Happiness Programme has caught on.
Cranes and caterpillars bull-doze their way to the glorious
socialist future for Ghanaians who must themselves fully ap-
preciate the value and extent of the work the Party is doing
for them. And everybody must help. Remember! It is WORK

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Perhaps the most striking example of the association between Nkru-
mah's achievements and architectural monuments was the bronze statue
of Nkrumah erected at the heart of the government sector in Accra. The
statue, commissioned from Cataudella, was unveiled by the Chief Justice
of Ghana in 1956. Ceremonies associating the monument with the ad-
vancement of self-government were orchestrated by the CPP: a procession
by the CPP women's organization, Emasi Non, and described in the Eve-
ning News on 9 March 1962, was intended to "mark Osagyefo's gallantry
in leading the country to independence" and culminated in the placement
of a garland of roses around the statue's neck. Photographs of the monu-
ment, ceremonially dressed in a white garment, were featured in the Eve-

0 ning News of 12 February 1964 alongside a poem entitled, "Laurels to you

-Osagyefo;" the poem praised Nkrumah as the "Dream-Keeper," "Path-
finder," and "Messianic Kwame, Sage of Destiny."
00 The partisan nature of such rhetoric, however, does not contradict
the intention of the administration to employ architectural monuments
to advance a sense of national and Pan-African identity. The construction
of the community center in Accra, site of the All-African Peoples' Confer-
z ence of 1958, and the construction of a massive complex for the meeting
of the Organization of African Unity illustrate the administration's desire
to employ architecture in the service of a national and Pan-African com-
munity. The difficulties inherent in this goal are illustrated by the con-
c troversy, related by an article in the Daily Graphic of 26 February 1957
and which erupted over the government-sponsored Ambassador Hotel:
although the project was heralded as an emblem of national unity and
. .

prosperity, officials of the Anglican, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches
H threatened a boycott over the Accra Municipal Council's plans to pour li-

bation at the dedication ceremony. The controversy was resolved after it
0 was determined that both Christian and "traditional" rites would be per-
formed at the dedication, but the cultural differences underlying the archi-
tectural "facade" of national unity are evident.
:> The construction projects that the government commissioned can
thus be understood as representations of the administration and the newly
z unified nation. The complex of architectural monuments, commissioned
:) by the government in commemoration of national independence and erect-
ed in the vicinity of Black Star Square, illustrates this conceptual duality.
I Black Star Square, erected on the coast halfway between James Town and
Christiansborg Castle, consists of an assembly ground surrounded by four
seating structures and dominated by the enormous arch of the Presidential
seating stand. Directly opposite the Presidential Stand, in the vicinity of
the Christiansborg Crossroads, looms Independence Arch, an immense edi-
fice commemorating the liberation of Ghana. Inscribed in large letters on
the arch are the words, "A.D. 1957/Freedom and Justice;" a bronze plaque
on the arch bears the inscription, "Ghana's Independence. A.D. 1957. Let
this monument hold sacred in your memory, the liberty and freedom of
Ghana. The liberation and freedom, which by our struggle and sacrifice,

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Black Star Square, Accra, Ghana (photograph by Janet Hess).

...~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~.... ...... .i

Independence Arch, Accra, Ghana (photograph byJanet Hess).

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the people of Ghana have this day regained. May this independence be pre-
served and held sacred for all time."
In the structure of the major commemorative site in Nkrumah-
era Accra, two opposing principles or constructs of value are evident. The
Presidential Stand constituted a literal, psychological, and symbolic eleva-
tion of the figure of Nkrumah; Independence Arch symbolized the sacri-
fices made on behalf of independence, and a sense of pride in the achieve-
ment of self-determination. The coexistence of these systems of value may
be discerned in the architectural monument later added to the Square near
Independence Arch, the "Flame of Liberty," or "African Perpetual Flame":
although Nkrumah declared, according to the Ghanaian Times of 2 July
0 1963 that the Flame "enshrine[d] the spirit of the Republic of Ghana," the
image fixed in the minds of the public was that of Nkrumah, dressed in
white and announcing in ringing tones that he lit the Flame "in sacred
duty to the millions of Africans . . . to whom we are bound by common

The duality manifested in the juxtaposed structures of Black Star
Square was reinforced by representations of architectural monuments cir-
z culated in Ghana and abroad. Stamps, currency, and illustrations in the
mass media bore representations of architectural monuments and of Nkru-
I mah, a merging of icons which underscored the achievements of the na-
tion and allied the figure of Nkrumah with the goals of prosperity and
c progress. The architecture which foreign dignitaries observed and experi-
enced also underscored an image of philosophical duality: while the stark
m modernity of the newly erected State House reinforced a vision of prosper-
ity and modernity, Nkrumah's residence-relocated at Nkrumah's request
to Christiansborg Castle-directed the attention of visitors to the continu-
ity between Nkrumah's authority and a legacy of centralized power. The

architecture with which official visitors were confronted hence reinforced
the diverse motivations underlying the capital's topography: visitors wit-
0 nessed an architecture which manifested the desire for national unity and
prosperity, but they also experienced a symbolic manifestation of colonial

C)z The architecture associated with the Nkrumah administration and
:) the representations of architecture which the administration disseminated
may be seen as advancing a particular worldview. In the buildings and ar-
I chitectural monuments which it commissioned, the government under-
took a radical restructuration of the environment formerly controlled by
the colonial administration. The reconceptualization of Accra, however,
was not restricted to the erection of specific architectural monuments. The
construction of a nationalist vision is evident in the reconfiguration of the
town plan commissioned by the British government and in the pattern of
urban and suburban growth in Nkrumah-era Accra.
The town plan, prepared by Maxwell Fry in 1944 and revised in 1958
by B.A.W. Trevallion and Alan Flood, reveals the priority placed by the
British administration on the reorganization of the central business dis-

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Redevelopment plan for the coastline, High Street, Accra, Ghana (Image rendered from Accra:
A Plan For the Town, Diagram 27).

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trict in Accra and the development of the coastal region of the city (Berkoh
1974: 167-8). The attention given to the redirection of roads, concerns ex-
pressed over population density and commercial congestion, and detailed
plans for the refurbishment of the "central area," all evidence the impor-
tance of order and preeminence within the region extending from James
Town to Christiansborg Castle. The map of Accra Central Area Develop-
ment which accompanied the report illustrates this vision of order and
hierarchy: a tightly organized grid has been superimposed on the region
north of Ussher Fort, and, to the east of the fort, a broad expanse was re-
p; served for a restaurant, country club, and fields for polo and cricket.
In the development of the central business area under the Nkrumah
0 administration, quite different priorities and political exigencies are evi-
0 dent. The administration repeatedly instigated "slum clearance" in James
Town and Ussher Town, but relocation and demolition efforts, according
to an article published in the Daily Graphic, 16 May 1957, were consis-

tently resisted by Ga leaders and members of the opposition. The land-
scaped parks and plazas envisioned by Fry and Trevallion were subsumed
during Nkrumah's administration by a continued compression of immi-
z grants and commercial establishments in the business sector, particularly
along Liberia Road and Liberation Avenue. Expenditures envisioned in the
C) Fry and Trevallion plan for "public squares, fountains, ornamental pools
and statues," and for a vast Parliament complex were directed by the Nkru-
mah government to the Organization of African Unity building, the refur-
bishment of Christiansborg Castle and the construction of the State House,
and the establishment of the Ambassador Hotel (Ministry of Public Hous-
ing 1958: 88).
The most striking distinction between the Fry/Trevallion plan for
D Accra and urban renewal under the Nkrumah government is the concep-
tualization of coastal development. The plan commissioned by the British
I administration envisioned the region as an extension of the Victoriaborg
I enclave, a region of recreational privilege and relief from the density of the
government sector. In the vision of the capital developed by Nkrumah,
both the plans for Parliament-occupying, in the British plan, a significant
portion of northern Victoriaborg-and the notion of the coast as a recre-
ational haven were subordinated to a grand vision of national unity. From
Ussher Town to Christiansborg, the coast was left undeveloped, lending
visual weight and symbolic significance to the Community Center and to
the expanse of Black Star Square.
In the suburban areas which developed outside of the central busi-
ness sector, the distinction between British plans for urban renewal and
the realities of growth in an expanding urban center are also evident. The
new suburb of Kokomlemle, for example, adhered to the British ideal of
storied residences and spacious boulevards, but the relative priorities of
and pressures on the Nkrumah administration swiftly rendered these amen-
ities irrelevant.9 The architectural plan of one residence in Kokomlemle
demonstrates the colonial residential ideal of commodious living quarters;

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ing and deianc of lan us oriane tyia of suura Acr The

crush o relatves-< teat an busnese whc came.. to vrhl ei

decs in Koolel wa als catersi ofAabaa,Nw on vs

Nma esanvth emps upon
othe21r urba can
onstructio ad a cntsemp or
a S reas.. m

ansi dvlopet h Nkua adinisti > ; :rat- ion threfr implemeted a:..
dis ||*?$tinctive,5,,2,, wordve. In pat thi perspetv wa cosstn wit colo- I

the history of its use, howevere reveals the pattern of massive overcrowd-
ing and defiance of land use ordinances typical of suburban Accra. The
crush of relatives, tenants, and businesses which came to overwhelm resi-
dences in Kokomlemle was also characteristic of Adabraka, New Town,
Nima, and other urban and suburban areas.
In its preference for modernism and its reconceptualization of urb-
an development, the Nkrumah administration therefore implemented a
distinctive worldview. In part, this perspective was consistent with colo-
nial priorities: the emphasis upon new construction and a contemporary
architectural style, the association between Christiansborg Castle and cen-
tralized administration, and the implementation of a suburban ideal were
all influenced by a colonial worldview. But the Nkrumah government's
response to the colonial regulation of architectural space also reflected a
distinctive "imagining" of modernism, a vision which allied the heroi-
cized vision of Nkrumah with a culturally homogeneous notion of the "na-

Postlude: Postindependence Architecture and Nkrumah

On 24 February 1966 the Ghanaian Armed Forces instigated a coup that

successfully transferred governmental authority to the National Libera-
tion Council of J. A. Ankrah. Immediately after Nkrumah's overthrow,
thousands of demonstrators in Accra marched in the streets, carrying signs
and banners denouncing the former President. The Evening News reported,

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on 2 March 1966, that a sheep was slaughtered" and libation poured for the
successful overthrow of the wicked regime of Nkrumah;" the monumen-
tal statue of Nkrumah-which had been damaged in an explosion attrib-
uted to the actions of "saboteurs and anti-Socialists" in 1961-was toppled
and beheaded.
In the years immediately following the coup, restrictions were placed
on the erection of architectural monuments. Within seventeen hours of
Nkrumah's overthrow, the National Liberation Council enacted legisla-
tion which rendered the display of Nkrumah's "effigy" an offense (Kabral
p; Blay-Amihere 1992: 23). The architectural structures which dominated the
coast-the Accra Community Center, which had housed the administra-
0 tive offices for the ideological/educational institution known as the "Young
Pioneers," the "Flame of Liberty," and Black Star Square-fell into disuse
and were eventually abandoned.
After the overthrow of the second President of Ghana, the attitude
toward Nkrumah and architectural monuments associated with his rule
underwent a transformation. When Nkrumah died in exile in 1972, Presi-
dent Acheampong ordered the return of his body to Ghana, and Nkrumah
z was granted a state funeral in Accra. A number of development projects in
. .

the central business district of Accra, including the Conference Center for
I the Organization of African Unity, were constructed in memory of Presi-
dent Nkrumah. In 1975, the Cataudella monument, which had borne so

much of the symbolic weight of the administration, was reerected in front

of the Ghanaian National Museum (Arhin 1990: 41; Shillington 1992: 19-
m 20).
Under the current administration of President Jerry James Rawlings,
c Nkrumah's image has been invoked as a symbol of anticolonialism and
Pan-Africanism. At a 1985 conference sponsored by Rawlings' PNDC (Pro-

visional National Defense Council), Rawlings' Secretary for Foreign Af-

fairs stated that it was "necessary to keep alive Nkrumah's gift of vision

and [the] inspiration of his leadership" (Dadson 1985: 30-1). In the same
year, the W. E. B. DuBois Memorial Center for African Culture was dedi-
cated. The DuBois Center-which encompasses the former home and
z mausoleum of the Pan-Africanist and African American activist DuBois
-expresses in its modern architectural form, its dedication text, and its
installations lauding the achievements of both DuBois and Nkrumah a
I merging of idealism and architectural modernity.
z In 1992, in a year of both presidential and legislative elections, Rawl-
ings dedicated a memorial complex to Nkrumah situated on the site of
the British colonial polo grounds in Accra. At the dedication of the com-
plex-attended by Namibian President Sam Nujoma, Oliver Tambo (the
Chairman of the African National Congress), the African American Mus-
lim leader Louis Farrakhan, Patricia Barnes, and the widow of Malcolm X,
among others-Rawlings presided over the reinterment of the mortal re-
mains of Nkrumah, emphasizing in his dedication address the themes of
nationalism and self-determination (Ziorklui 1993: 625-6).

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~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~. . . . . . . . . . . .
3 L.........i. ... ...I... ...



.. .... ...w .. ..r

. .. . ........ ;.


Statue in Kwame Nkrumah

Memorial Park, Accra, Ghana

(photograph by Janet Hess).

N_ . .. ........ ....iE..



Mausoleum in Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park, Accra, Ghana (photograph by Janet Hess).

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[Nkrumahl rose to the pinnacle of his political authority ...
with the support of his own people and race. He was too
proud to do otherwise. In short, he understood the value and
dignity of the black African. In the name of the people of
Ghana, of Africa and the diaspora, and in the name of all
those who truly seek freedom and justice, we dedicate this
park to the memory of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. (Ziorklui 1993:

-k Although Black Star Square stands empty and disintegrating, the Rawl-
ings administration welcomes visitors to the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial
0 Complex. Attendants sell tickets to tourists entering the vast space of the
memorial plaza; postcards and ephemera bearing images of the architec-
tural spaces of the plaza are everywhere available. While the museum dedi-
cated to the history of Nkrumah is virtually empty, the marble mauso-

leum of Nkrumah is well maintained, and an immense bronze statue of

Nkrumah strides forward from the mausoleum like a prophet risen from
the grave. The mournful hush that falls over the interior of Nkrumah's
z mausoleum and the triumphant forward motion of the Nkrumah monu-
ment would appear curiously juxtaposed. This juxtaposition may in fact be
viewed as a metaphor for the supercession of specific histories and cul-
m tures in architectural space-and as a metaphor for the advancement of an

c imagined and triumphal notion of the "nation."

. .



I would like to thank Barry Matsumoto for his steadfast belief in me and in my work, and

Suzanne Blier, the shining support and inspiration for my scholarship. William Dewey and
z Christopher Roy also offered me their kindness and selfless support. I thank Caroline Dean for

the generous gift of her friendship, and Donna Hunter for providing her peers with a model
of compassion and professionalism.Valentine Hemingway shared her funny stories with me;
Heather Ricks and Allan Langdale extended to me their friendship and understanding; Na-

tasha Gray made me laugh through many adventures in Accra; and John Hanson and Akare

G) John Aden, as well as my anonymous readers at Africa Today, gave me invaluable editorial
advice. Asa Hess-Matsumoto, James Norris, Amy Petersen, Jill Hagenkord, and Devin Hawker

will always be close to my heart.This article is dedicated to Emily Asiedu.


1 I thank Professors Suzanne Blier and Allan Langdale for their observation of parallels be-
tween the Cataudella monument and 'classical" Greek art. Professor Blier has also sug-

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gested provocative visual parallels between the monument and both Soviet Realist and

Dahomean nationalist art.

2 See Reindorff 1895: 24, in Amoah 1964: 12-18; Abloh 1967: 13; Acquah 1972: 16; Erlich

1967:47-50; Wilks 1957.

3 Letter from Cornelisen to Okai Koi (October 1680), Archives of Danish West Indian and

Guinea Company, 1670-1754 (Copenhagen), in Wilks 1957: 108. For a discussion of the

origins of the Ga and the sociopolitical formation of Accra in the precolonial era, see Par-
ker 1972.

4 Abloh 1967: 56; Acquah 1972: 23; Brand 1972: 32, 36. For a discussion of the history of
Christiansborg, see Richter 1972.
5 Directory of the Republic of Ghana, 1961/62: 37, 59. Other advertisements extended this

image of ceaseless construction and modernity: an ad for the British firm of D. R. Illumina- 0

tions Limited,for example, featured photographs of structures illuminated for the celebra-

tion of independence, and stated,"Entertainments, gardens, civic and state illuminations,

street decorations, building projects, mines, ships etc. all feature [festoon lighting] as con-

stant users, and you will be well advised to specify D. R. Festoon Lighting for your projects." U,

An ad for Austin of England carried the headline,"Ghana Builds a New Coast/and Austins
help to build a new nation." (21; WestAfrican Review 1961: inside cover)

6 A similar metaphor was employed by Nkrumah in his dedication of a steel bridge erected

at Pwalugu in southern Mamprusi; as the Daily Graphic reported on 11 October 1956, Lt

Nkrumah maintained that the bridge was a "fitting symbol" of his policy of"weld[ing] the

north and south ever more firmly together so that the unity of the Northern Territories,

Togoland, Ashanti, and the South would be the foundation upon which the superstruc-

ture of a free, sovereign and independent state of Ghana under a unitary form of govern-
ment would be built."

7 The designation of Ghanaian architecture as'tropical" is suggested by the title of the text

prepared by Fry and Drew (1956), TropicalArchitecture in the Humid Zone.

8 For an overview of the characteristics of the International Style, see Hitchcock and John-
son 1995.

9 For a discussion of the effects of Nkrumah's policies on housing conditions, see Mawuen-
yegah 1980.


Abloh, Frederick. 1967. Growth of Towns in Ghana: A Study of the Social and Physical Growth of

Selected Towns in Ghana. Ph.D. diss., University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana.
Acquah, lone. 1972. Accra Survey. Accra, Ghana: Ghana Universities Press.

Amoah, Frank. 1964. Accra: A Study. Ph.D. diss., University of Legon, Accra, Ghana.
Anderson, Benedict. 1991. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of National-
ism. London: Verso.

Arhin, Kwame. 1990. A View of Kwame Nkrumah: 1909-1972. Accra, Ghana: Sedco Publishing.
Berkoh, Daniel. 1974. Urban Primacy in a Developing Country: A Case Study of Accra-Tema Area.
Ph.D. diss., Columbia University, New York.

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Blay-Amihere, Kabral. 1992. Nkrumah of Ghana. Africa Forum 2(2): 22-3.

Brand, Richard. 1972. A Geographical Interpretation of the European Influence on Accra, Ghana

Since 1877. Ph.D. diss., Columbia University, New York.

Dadson, Nanabanyin. 1985. Nkrumah Remembered.Africa 167:30-1.

Erlich, Heidi. 1967. Accra, Ghana: Politics in an African City. Ph.D. diss., Northwestern University,

Evanston, Illinois.

Fry, Maxwell, and Jane Drew. 1956. TropicalArchitecture in the Humid Zone. London: Batsford Ltd.

Ghana. Ministry of Public Housing. 1 958.Accra:A Plan for the Town. Accra, Ghana: Government Print-


Hitchcock, Henry Russell, and Philip Johnson.1 995.The Intemational Style. New York: W. W. Norton

and Company.

Kwaku, Ken. 1977. The Ghana Housing Corporation and the Politics of Housing, 1956-72. Ghana

Social Science Journal 1 (1).

-I Mawuenyegah,Vincentia. 1980.The State Housing Corporation of Ghana and Housing the Low In-

come Group in the Ghana Municipality, 1955-1977. Ph.D. diss., University of Science and

Technology, Kumasi, Ghana.

Parker, John. 1995. Ga State and Society in Early Colonial Accra, 1860s-1 920s. Ph.D. diss., School of

Oriental and African Studies, London.

z Richter, Julius Robert. 1972. Christiansborg Area Study. Ph.D. diss., University of Science and Tech-

nology, Kumasi, Ghana.

Second Development Plan, 1959-1964. 1959. Accra, Ghana: Government Printer.
H Shillington, Kevin. 1992. Ghana and the Rawlings Factor. London: Macmillan Press Ltd.

Vail, Lawrence. 1992. Architecture, Power, and National Identity. New Haven, Connecticut:Yale Univer-

sity Press.
m Wilks, Ivor. 1957.The Rise of the Akwamu Empire. Transactions of the Historical Society of Ghana 3(2).

Ziorklui, Emmanuel. 1993. Ghana: Nkrumah to Rawlings. Accra: Em-Zed Books Centre.




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