In a Kusasi house in Holland
Cool but persistent winds blow as my friend, who has a wealth of knowledge of Africa, eases the small Toyota car out of a driveway in the Dutch town of Tilburg.
As we hit the highway, vast rows of unending farmlands and artificial forests literally follow each other – I wonder when Ghana would have such a capacity in agriculture to feed its millions and the ability to replace its lost foliage.
We move east towards the city of health, business and knowledge -Nijmegen. I am anxious of what to expect as we get close to our destination – the Afrika Museum, located in-between the famous seven hills of Berg en Dal.
At the entrance, a giant poster attracts my attention. As I get close I notice a photograph of a traditional Kusasi building. Anxiety quickly turns to curiosity as my long fascination with Kusasi architecture is rekindled.
I make a decision to move to the Ghanaian village section of the outdoor museum where I encounter a Kusasi house constructed through a hands-on collaboration between its kinsmen and Dutch architects.
Largely found in the savannah highlands of Northern Ghana, Kusasi architecture is a tranquil collection of conical and quadrangular huts with open courtyards and straw roofs joined together in a loop with rooms for diverse purposes.
It is complete with metal/clay pots, grinding stones, mortars, pestles, furniture, firewood, clothes, shovels, pick axes, hoes, colorfully decorated metal basins and other household items.
Although familiar with Kusasi houses, I must confess it is the first time I have the opportunity to take a detailed look. I take a calculated walk from room to room while observing its intricately positioned windows, doors and thatched roof.
Apart from the weather (21 degrees), I am encircled by an unruffled feeling of being in Northern Ghana as I wonder why there is no museum of architecture in Ghana – a question that I guess will still be relevant throughout my life.
It is a challenge to the Ghana Institute of Architects and other related bodies to help create models of Ghanaian traditional, colonial and post-colonial architecture which are fast disappearing owing to regular demolitions for ‘modern’ buildings.
Suddenly, I hear sweet rhythms from a kora player. As I move in the direction of the sound, yet another interesting site confronts me – an African chop bar and a Malian kora master Zoumana Diarra who gracefully honoured me with a few highlife tunes from a box guitar. Sadly, I did not find tuo zafi, fufu and pito.
Founded in 1954, the museum also boasts of models of architecture from Lesotho, Benin, Cameroon and the Dogon of Mali nestled in between vegetables gardens, wells, colourful wooden kiosks, traditional silos and playgrounds.
The indoor museum is, without doubt, one of the few with a specific focus of collecting and showing modern art from Africa. It features semi- permanent exhibitions, with themes such as religion and society.
As I leave the museum, I take a final glance at the Kusasi house not sure whether my feelings are of jealousy, elation or both. My only consolation, however, is a dream – perhaps a fantasy to see some transformation at the vast grounds of the National Museum in Accra.
By John Owoo / Daily Graphic / Ghana
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