Kejetia market just hits you.
This colourful chaos of packed-in people, barely roadworthy vehicles and sprawling stalls feels like a city in its own right, an enclave of its own within the cultural centre of Kumasi. To the untrained eye this place seems entirely void of order or reason – an unnavigable mess. Yet, take some time and your perception may change.
Kejetia market is the largest in West Africa. Here, you can find anything – shea butter, headphones, beads, cow hooves. Notorious for overwhelming the unprepared visitor, my first visit to Kejetia echoes some of my first experiences in Ghana itself. Wandering to the market alongside the rest of my team of volunteers, the unwavering wall of heat teased a salty trickle down my forehead just as it had done when I stepped off the plane in Accra a month previously. I was disoriented, confused like when I arrived in the small rural home village of Akim Swedru after a long drive on a dusty dirt road. I was thoroughly conspicuous, a sweaty obruni in zip-off trousers and ugly sandals as vendors constantly shouted and grabbed for attention… Just as conspicuous as I was to the children on the project site at the local school, who screamed and jumped excitedly at my team.
An alien environment. Uncomfortable?
After the overwhelming initial experience, I spent a further few hours in Kejetia alone and found something special – a slice of everything I had actually come to love about Ghana. Everything seems utterly hectic, but the market actually makes a lot of sense. One segment focuses on beads, another on meat, some on clothing… I even wandered past stalls selling old playstations and a fairly exhaustive library of used games. It reminded me that even though certain things in Ghana may initially seem strange, ultimately there are very solid reasons for it.
Female sellers seemed rather concerned I was exploring the market alone, asking where my friends were or whether I knew my way. This demonstrated the friendly nature of Ghanaians, who were consistently welcoming and happy to ‘talk small-small.’
The diverse nature of the market mirrored my time in Ghana spectacularly – it has so much to offer. The stunning yet startling nature of the historic Cape Coast slave castle was absolutely fascinating, situated in a beautiful old seaside town with vibrant locals, excellent food and an emerging backpacker scene. However, there was also the peaceful beaches at Beyin that seemed to stretch endlessly, the pink haze of the setting sun framing the local fisherman hoisting in their heavy nets at the evenings. I experienced the intensity of tracking a young elephant herd at Mole national park, and the banality of a twelve hour trotro journey from Tamale to Kumasi. I saw the humble beauty of Larabanga – a mud mosque, Ghana’s oldest building – and the bustling modern metropolis of Accra, filled with fancy western restaurants and shopping opportunities.
Kejetia represented my two month experience – crazy, authentic, chaotic, friendly and diverse.
Ghana, meda ase.