In almost a hundred years since the banished King Prempeh I of the Ashanti returned to Ghana from exile in the Seychelles archipelago, connections between the two African nations seem to have remained strong through the late King’s descendants.
The great grand-daughter of King Prempeh, Princess Molly Germaine Prempeh, has embarked on a journey to reconnect with members of her family, more than 60 years after she left the island of her birth to return to her ancestral homeland.
King Prempeh was exiled in the year 1900 by the colonial British together with his family, several of his chiefs and members of his entourage to the Indian Ocean archipelago of 115 islands, which at the time had a population of only 19,000.
After 24 years, the King was finally allowed to go back to Ghana, but by then many of the Ashanti people had already become settled in the Seychelles and on September 13, 1924, when it was time to leave, some chose to remain behind.
These included two former chieftains as well as three of his sons, all of whom had married Seychellois women. One of the King’s sons, James Boachie Prempeh, had five children, including his granddaughter Hugette, who was just five years old when her grandfather left Seychelles.
More than twenty years later, in the late 1940’s, Hugette finally decided to leave Seychelles to join her family in Ghana. Accompanying her on the long and arduous journey to the other side of the African continent, were her two children, seven-year-old Louis and a very young Princess Molly, only four years old at the time.
Holding on to the motherland
According to archive documents stored at the Seychelles National Library, after hearing news that he would be repatriated to his native Ghana in 1924, King Prempeh I wrote a farewell letter to the people of Seychelles.
“Although I will be far from you, I shall never forget the infinite courtesy and respect shown to me by all classes of the population and the beautiful sights of the Seychelles,” he wrote.
The promise, it seems, has been passed on from generation to generation.
In an interview with SNA, the King’s great-granddaughter, Molly Germaine Prempeh, revealed that she was taught never to forget where she came from.
“When I went back to Ghana, my mother told me not to forget my native language. So I spoke Creole to my brothers and sisters, to my own children and grandchildren,” said Molly in an interview with SNA in which she spoke in a heavily accented but fluent Creole, the native language of the Seychellois people.
“At the Seychelles airport, when I arrived from Ethiopia, they looked at me because I speak Creole and they started to ask among themselves, who is that who speaks Creole like that?” said Molly.
“For those who were courageous enough to ask me, I answered that I am Seychellois and that this is the language of the country of my birth.”
Now aged 72 years old, Molly Prempeh (second from right) finally arrived in Seychelles last week after nearly 68 years in Ghana to meet with her cousins and other relatives. (Romano Laurence) Photo License: CC-BY
For Molly, the journey to Seychelles to meet her cousins and other relatives has been an exciting one, and she recounted the first time she saw her aunt’s daughter, Marie-Rose Mahoune, on the archipelago’s second most populated island of Praslin.
“I took the boat, and upon arrival I saw a paper with Princess Prempeh written on it. I called out ‘la mwan la‘ – (here I am). I was overjoyed and embraced her…I am so happy!”
In her first visit here, after almost 68 years of living in the city of Kumasi in the South of Ghana, Molly was keen to visit the burial ground of her ancestors back on the Seychelles most populated island of Mahe, in the capital city’s main cemetery, Mont Fleuri.
“I was very emotional, especially when I visited my mother’s grave. She came back to Seychelles in the late 1960’s and I never saw my mother again. Only now, I see her tomb and I prayed and cried,” she said.
“I have met many relatives and I am family to them. They love me as if I never left. After all these years that I have left, I thought I would never come back, but God is good.”
She also visited the two-storey villa at Le Rocher, not far from the capital of Victoria, which was called the “Ashanti camp” back in the days when King Prempeh lived in Seychelles. The property of almost 17 acres of land was leased from the Adam family and today the house has been turned into a national monument.
“I was too small to remember, but my mother often took us to this place after our grandfather was repatriated,” she said. “There were lots of coconut trees and fruits and she told us about all the chiefs and other important people who lived in the different huts. Our grandfather met with these council members of the tribe to discuss many things especially the future of his descendants.”
The children of the Prempeh king also went to school, and Molly remembers that several of her older uncles and aunts were educated when they left Seychelles.
A memorable homecoming
Dressed in her traditional Ghanaian dress, Molly was keen to inform SNA of her wish to stay and retire in Seychelles.
Molly says she is proud that Seychelles still remembers the enduring legacy of the Ashanti people, adding that the relationship between Seychelles and Ghana has remained cordial.
“About six years ago, the Seychelles Vice President was in Ghana and I was invited with my brother Louis to go to the king’s palace to meet him and the ambassador. We were very happy and a very big banquet was organized in his honour,” she said happily.
Upon arrival on Praslin, the second most populated island of Seychelles, Molly (left) met for the first time her cousin, Marie-Rose Mahoune (left), the daughter of her late aunt Sylvia Prempeh. When her grandfather left Seychelles in 1924, on board the SS Karoa for Bombay, India, 49 other Ashantis left with him out of which only 13 were part of the original deportees. Others, who had already settled in Seychelles, stayed behind with their children. Today the Prempeh descendants are spread out across the archipelago. (Marie-Rose Mahoune) Photo License: CC-BY
The brown-skinned 72-year-old princess and her beaming smile could easily be mistaken for a local in the streets of Victoria. She bashfully admits that in Ghana, now a democratic country, her family is still considered as a “special people” with a very “solid history”.
“I was grown and bred in Ghana, I know a lot about Ghana…I know everywhere and everything so I am used to Ghana but now I know Seychelles, ‘Sesel’,” she laughed.
Mother of six children and grandmother to fourteen grandchildren, Molly is the only daughter of princess Hugette who passed away in Seychelles in March 2005.
Her brother Louis now 75 years old could not make a final visit to Seychelles.
King Prempeh I died in 1931, some seven years after he was allowed to go back to Ghana.
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