HISTORY OF ACCRA’S ARCHITECTURE (A BRIEF SURVEY) Arc. Nat Nuno-Amarteifio(Historian and former Mayor of Accra)

Archeologists have established that Accra has been settled since the 14th Century. There is however lit – tle physical evidence of the indigenous architecture of that era. This is due to the degradable materials used in construction. The earliest descriptions of indigenous architecture are found in the writings of travellers like Jean Barbot, a French merchant who visited the region at the end of the 17th century. We can extrapolate from these writings as well as photographs taken in the 19th century what these buildings look like.

Ga hutsThe earliest buildings were constructed of mud walls and roofed with grass thatch. Generally they were round. Windows were small and raised high under the roof.Doors were low and close to the ground. A separate building was used for sanitary ablutions. Families lived in compounds or ‘we’. In these compounds the huts were built close to each other for security and connected through a maze of corridors and narrow passageways. A high hedge to prevent easy visual access enclosed compounds.

The compound was divided into two. The founder or head of the family lived with his grownup sons in the male section. The females of the households lived in the women’s wing with their children and prepubescent boys. Food was cooked in the open courtyard in the women’s wing and carried over to husbands and older brothers. Life was lived communally in the courtyards. The rooms served for storage or shelter during inclement weather. The family gods were kept in the male wing and women were not allowed there during their menses. Pigs and other household animals rooted in the courtyards and scavenged for food in the garbage that was routinely thrown out into the passageways betweencompounds. Eachcompoundwasbuiltby its residents according to their changing needs. Fires were frequent because of the grass thatch.

Brief History on these places: