Afternoon at Jamestown Pier

Jamestown, one of Accra’s oldest districts and the indigenous home to the Ga people, is one of the city’s most densely culturally and historically rich areas. Traditionally a fishing community, this economic activity continues to play a central role in the livelihood of many of the community. A Saturday excursion to the Jamestown pier, from which the community’s fisherman go out to sea and catch their lots, provided an interesting glimpse into the community.

Shot from the pier, overlooking the coast and where there rest dozens of fisherman’s boats.

Despite the area’s rich cultural heritage and historic importance, one of the unfortunate first impressions of the area is the dilapidated state of much of the area’s buildings. From the Ussher Fort (where the country’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah, was held as a prisoner during the pre-independence revolutionary period) to the Jamestown Lighthouse to the Kingsway Building, there are clear opportunities for historic and cultural preservation.

That said, interestingly, despite changes in government and the proximity urban development, the community has steadfastly held to its traditions. Primary among these has been the fishing culture. When I arrived Sunday afternoon, the fisherman has already finished their days work and left their nets strewn in piles along the pier for usage the following day.

Fishing nets line the pier at Jamestown.

The remains of a catch.

Particularly interesting is how the pier’s physical space is used throughout the day — and how these  uses change to correspond with community and group activities. In the early morning, one can imagine it serving its original (intended) purpose as a loading and unloading dock for fishermen and their long, wooden boats. In fact, the pier still bears the marks from the railroad lines that used to be there when Jamestown served as a major port for the colonial administration up until the 1960s (see lower lefthand corner of the photo above).

But as the day continues, the pier becomes a different space — a youth hangout and strolling area, a scenic spot for older men to converse, all with the sounds of the waves in the background. Too commonly, space even serves as a public toilet (unfortunately).

Living in Accra, it’s amazing how easy it can be to forget one lives just miles away from the ocean. The ocean breeze, the gray sky and the slight smell of fish were a welcome escape from the more hectic realities of the city.