A photography collection by alexxa walker documenting her journey with self-exploration and independence throughout her travels in Ghana.
Being the first country in Africa to gain independence, there is a unique sense of freedom and pride that fills the air in Ghana. You can feel it in the way that Ghanaians can both comfort you and hustle you at the same time, and in the way that they wear their prints like velvet. You can see it in the way that they carry unbelievable weight on their heads – masters of the art of balance – and in the way that they dance like everyday is Independence Day.
It has been beautiful to be surrounded by such incredible energy. In many ways, this energy has fueled the experiences I have had and the work that I have been able to do here thus far. Although I am not from Ghana, I felt a deep connection to this place and its people and I wonder if part of my ancestry traces back to this land.
In Finding Freedom Vol. I: Mako, you will find photos that marked different parts of my journey and travels around the country. Mako – meaning peppers – is inspired by the proverb, “All peppers on the same plant don’t ripen at the same time”. For me, these words speak to the idea of uneven development in someone’s course in life and the need to carve out your path. Through these travels I learnt how to move through life with intention.
Each photo is accompanied by a story that intersects a reflection of this moment with an Adinkra symbol and its meaning. Adinkra symbols are non-linguistic representations of universal human philosophies, values and proverbs created centuries ago by the Akan people of Ghana. In coupling the photos to the symbols, I share lessons that I learned and truths that I discovered along my journey through Ghana, with the hope that in experiencing this work you too will rediscover or connect with your own truths.
All information related to the adinkra symbols have been retrieved from The Adinkra Symbols Project. You can check out their website for more information.
Lake Bosomtwe was created by a meteoroid that hit Ghana’s Ashanti Region approximately one million years ago – making it the only natural lake in Ghana and one of few meteoritic lakes in the world. It is an extremely peaceful place surrounded by dirt roads, small villages and mountainous terrains.
After lockdown measures relaxed in Ghana, my partner and I started exploring the magic that Ghana has to offer. We were often the only ‘tourists’ that people had seen in over six months since the borders had been closed due to Covid. It gave us the chance to see Ghana in ways that many travelers have never seen – beaches bare, hotels empty, and with people making unlikely connections.
As I journeyed from place to place, I became acquainted with feeling both a sense of separateness and belonging – feeling connected to the plains of the motherland yet removed because my roots retrace to other lands. These movements pushed me to ask myself where truly is my place as a woman from the diaspora as well as what legacy I want to leave behind.
Agriculture is an integral part of Ghanaian life. Throughout this time in Ghana, I began to reconnect with some of the farm-to-table processes that we often overlook back home. You can learn so much from the land here in Ghana, this is true wealth.
We took some time to explore the surroundings, venturing to the rim of Lake Bosomtwe’s crater. The hike took us through cocoa plantations – making it my first time seeing and tasting the fruit in its full, unprocessed form.
Cocoa plays an important role in Ghana’s culture and economy. After Ivory Coast, Ghana is the second largest cocoa exporter in the world – with cocoa being her main cash crop and agricultural export. However, the farmers and people behind the crop are not seeing the yields reflected in their pockets – in large part due to a broken system that pays out global confectioneries and leaves the people with close to nothing.
I often ask myself what it would take for the people in Ghana to realize the financial freedom that they deserve.
Kakum National Park is one of Ghana’s most popular reserves. It is said to be one of three canopy walks on the entire African continent and is home to many species of flora and fauna, including monkeys, duikers and elephants – although the latter may only be found on excursions deep into the forest.
One of the things I love about travel is that no matter how many times you visit a place, no one visit is the same as another. Not only do the places change but more importantly, you change. And therefore the way that you see, touch and feel – the way you experience a place – is never the same as before.
I had been to Kakum a year earlier but many things had changed due to the pandemic. Sites such as Kakum that were previously buzzing with people became deserted. This desertedness allowed nature to flourish.
We had the luxury of sleeping out in the park’s net tents overnight. I remember looking up at the sky, seeing the stars ever so clearly while listening to the hymns of the forest. It was incredible to be fully immersed in nature again, to reconnect and feel in tune with her. I loved this feeling, this feeling of clarity, of revivement, of peace.
Mole National Park is Ghana’s largest nature reserve – with over 4500 km2 of protected savannah located in the Northern Region. It is home to a range of flora and wildlife, but mostly recognized for the elephants that roam the area.
A great perk about visiting Mole is that you can do both a walking and driving safari, which is unheard of in many larger national parks because of the risk of crossing more dangerous predators. The elephants get to move around freely amongst visitors – making for priceless photobombs.
I remember being fascinated by this tree more so than the elephants, seeing how green and vibrant her leaves were despite it being so dry in the North this time of year; we had not seen rain in three months.
I came to the North to work on a project – this was my first year living as a full time artist. I was grateful to be working on ideas that I nursed and could now bring to life. However, it did come with its challenges. I spent months away from home, loved ones and friends oftentimes feeling isolated and alone. I had to learn how to lead a team yet at the same time learn how to feel comfortable with giving up control. I think that’s what being in unfamiliar places does to you – you have to learn how to get comfortable with the uncomfortable, let go of ego and expectations, and adapt to what life brings your way.
In looking at this tree, perhaps I saw that she held a part of my story – standing seemingly out of place yet rooted firmly, with branches full and broad, and red dust powdered on her leaves, asking the wind to come out to play.
Northern Ghana is an incredible blend of tradition and modernity. In the city, you’ll find structures built similarly to what you’d imagine in any metropolitan. But just beyond those city streets are homes and villages not so different from what people lived in hundreds of years ago. It is beautiful to see these worlds coexist with such fluidity.
The conditions in the North are not always as forgiving as those in the South. With temperatures rising to over 40 degrees celsius during peak periods of heat, months without rainfall, and dust clouds that engulf the sky, the North is not for the faint of heart.
But within these arid lands are scenes like this, intersected by dirt roads covered in red clay, lined by baobab trees impermeable to drought, and the occasional tricycle driving by to bring passengers on their way.
Being based in the North was a humbling experience. I was forced to live minimally and make the most of what I had. When I completed the Northern phase of my project, I took some time to decompress, breathe and stand still, which led me to Tongo.
It was necessary for me to take a step back and gain new perspective. So much had happened within these 6 months, from coming down with typhoid and malaria, to losing a friend of the project. There were many days where I was not sure if I could keep going, or why I even wanted to. Taking this time to reflect gave me space to center myself, reconnect with my purpose and remind myself why I was here.
I remember looking out into the distance as the night overtook the sky, seeing lightning sparks beyond the hills, and feeling the touch of a cool gust of wind roll off my face.
A moment later, the first drops of rain hit the earth. I stood there, letting the water run down my face – absorbing all of the elements. Sometimes you need to be away from rain to appreciate what she feels like.
Memories are perilous in nature – they can trap you into living a life that is not yours. However, they are also necessary to finding meaning in life.
We remember in order for us to understand, to make sense of, to uncover and to absorb. I think about my time in Ghana, how much I learnt while I was there – about the country and people – but mostly about myself.
During my first trip to Bosomtwe, I remember becoming fixated on this stump. How she stood there – bare, decayed – barely above water. Yet in her death, she brang through new life. Providing the new with asylum – and hopefully the space to blossom.
On my search for freedom,
I found myself learning how to unlearn the structures and systems that were not for me, that made me forget where I came from, that buried my power.
I found myself learning how to observe again, becoming a student of the world and the pull-and-tugs of life.
I found myself learning how to feel again, coming to terms with the past in order to make way for the future.
I found myself learning how to release – creating space to love and to be loved.
I found myself in all of this
On my search for freedom.