National Museum of Ghana

I had visited Accra in passing some years ago but never got around to seeing the sights of the city. At the top of my “to do” list was the National Museum of Ghana and the Kwame Nkrumah Park and Mausoleum. I admit I had not seen any images or heard very much about the museum, but I tend to treat Africa as an adventure and find that on-line likes and grading are more telling about the attitude of the authors than about the venues. In the case of Africa, I also find that most of the on-line info and much of what is written in books is by non-Africans, who have a different point of reference. 

To my surprise the National Museum of Ghana was an updated 1950’s building in a lovely garden setting. Furthermore, it was one of the busiest museums in West Africa with as many foreign tourists as locals, including families and school children. These are indications of a good museum and a thriving cultural scene.

When you enter the museum you are faced with smiling faces at the reception. Guided tours in English are available. The circular hall has a black star on the floor, the black star on the Ghanian flag. Suspended above it is a big black spider. What? Yes, a spider, this is Ananse (or Anansi), a character in the traditional folklore of the Akan peoples. Anansi is best known as a trickster, but he is also associated with knowledge and wisdom. Anansi stories drew the listener to moral issues where he can be either the antagonist or the protagonist within the story. These stories were carried by enslaved people to the Caribbean, Europe and back to Africa where they are found in Sierra Leone.

In the museum Ananse sits at the centre suspended by his web that reaches out to the galleries that chronicle the history of modern Ghana. Starting with Olduwan and Acheulian tools from the prehistoric past, through the influence of the Sudanic empires, including ancient Ghana and Songhay to the arrival of the Akan-speaking peoples into the boundaries of modern Ghana (and the Côte d’Ivoire). The movements of the other ethnic groups such as the Ewe and Ga-Dangme are also illustrated. The collection is established chronologically in an anticlockwise direction and contains stone, ceramics, shells, metalwork in iron, brass and gold, bark-cloth, textiles, and wood. The function and importance of royalty is explained through beautiful iconic items of the Ashanti court.

A collection of Ghanian clan staffs
PHOTOGRAPH BY Clifford Pereira

The museum also has a small contemporary art gallery and a temporary exhibition space, which on my visit featured the story of bible translation and spread of Latin scripts for indigenous languages in Ghana.

National Museum Gallery
PHOTOGRAPH BY Clifford Pereira

The European contact with the southern coast of Ghana is of course part of the national narrative. But is best understood at the many forts and castles that were established and, or inhabited by the Portuguese, Dutch, French, British, Swedes, Danes and Germans. These places are testimony to the greed for gold and enslaved Africans. The Ghana Museums & Monuments Board manages four forts; Cape Coast Castle, Elmina, Apollonia Fort and Ussher Fort. Since these sights of memory are open to the public the National Museum has no need to go into great detail on this short but very significant part of Ghanian, African and world history. It is important to recognise that slavery and European colonialism is not the only history of Africa and this museum makes that point, while not detracting from the horrors of the slave trade. The museum is not large, but it is packed with content.

Museum Information: Tel +233 3022 21633.

Location: 2 Barnes Road, Adabraka, Accra, Ghana.


Foreign rates are USD7:00 /GCH80:00 adult, USD2:00/GHC20:00 children and USD5:00/GHC30:00 Student (with ID), Tertiary students & volunteers GHC60:00 (with ID)

Local rates are GHC20:00 adult, Lower & Primary School Students GCH5:00, Tertiary students & volunteers GHC10:00 (with ID), Students GHC6:00.

Opening Hours: 09:00-16:00 Daily.

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Clifford Pereira FRGS

Hailing from Mombasa, Kenya. Cliff's research interests began in 1982 when he first travelled Asia following the routes of the epic voyages of the Fifteenth century Chinese admiral Zheng He. He later graduated with a BA(Hons) in Geography with Asian Studies (Ulster University). After a career in tourism Cliff became a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG). He returned to historical research in 2001 on a variety of themes leading to an exhibition at the Royal Geographical Society on the Bombay Africans (2007) and is regarded as the world specialist on the subject. Cliff was Honorary Research Assistant to Royal Holloway's Geography Department (2011-2014) and Visiting Research Assistant to Dalian Maritime University, China (2011-2015). Cliff was researcher-curator on the Bait-Jelmood Museum, Qatar (2013-2016) and research-curator for the National Museum of Qatar, specialising in the Portuguese presence in the Indian Ocean (2016-2018). Cliff was Visiting Research Assistant at the University of Hong Kong (2016-2023). He completed a MA(Res) on the History of Africa and the African Diaspora (University of Chichester) with distinction in 2021. He is presently distance-working on the African collection of the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) at UBC Vancouver, Canada and continues to research and consult for a number of UK heritage institutions. He describes himself as a historical geographer and has been a speaker on various subjects in China, Malaysia, Canada, USA, South Africa, Italy, the UK and on the cruise liners Silversea and Swan Hellenic. He has numerous papers and chapters in publications around the world.