GHANA MUSEUMS AND MONUMENTS BOARD

Christiansborg Castle, Accra (1661)

Christiansborg Castle is located just off the shores of the vibrant township of Osu, in Ghana’s capital Accra. In 1661, Jost Cramer, the Danish governor of the Cape Coast fort, Fort Fredericksborg, obtained the site for 3,200 gold florins, from Paramount Chief Okaikoi of the Ga ethnic group.

At this site, the Danes built a stone fort in 1659, to replace the earthen lodge that had been erected by the Swedish African Company in the 17th century. They named it Christiansborg, meaning ‘Christian’s Fortress’, after the King of Denmark, Christian IV, who passed away in 1648.

A mutiny in 1679 resulted in the assassination of the fort’s Danish commander. The new leader, a Greek named Bolten, later sold the fort to the former Portuguese governor of Sao Tome. The Portuguese christened it ‘St. Francis Xavier’, added on a Roman Catholic chapel, and further fortified its bastions. A lack of trade success caused the Portuguese to resell the fort to the Danes in 1683, after a four-year occupancy.

Danish rule was once again challenged and deposed ten years later by the powerful trader and chief Assameni, and his men, from the inland state of Akwamu. Assameni had previously infiltrated the Danish household by working as a cook. He retained control of the fort, trading successfully with all nations, for almost a year. In 1694, he resold the fort to the Danes for the substantial sum of 50 marks of gold. He, however, did not return the keys of the castle. The castle keys have since been a part of the stool property of Akwamu.

Escalating Danish trade, initially in gold, then in slaves, necessitated further expansions of the castle such that finally the castle almost quadrupled its original size. The abolition of the slave trade by Denmark in1803 resulted in a severe trade slump. The castle was sold to the British in 1850.

After 1876, British colonial governors ruled from the castle. They abandoned it from 1890 to 1901, when it was used as a constabulary mess, and later as a psychiatric asylum. In 1902, Christiansburg Castle once again became the seat of government, and today, the elegant edifice houses the offices of the President of Ghana.

Ghana@60: Osu Castle to house Heads of State museum

February 28, 2017

When President Nana Akufo-Addo unveiled the logo for Ghana’s 60th-anniversary celebration, he noted that the National Planning Committee of Ghana: 60 Years On celebration, would be tasked to come up with plans for national monuments as part of the celebration.

One of these monuments will be a Heads of State Museum which the committee has said will be located at the former seat of the Presidency, the Osu Castle, also known as the Christianborg Castle.

Speaking on Eyewitness News, the Spokesperson of the National Planning Committee of Ghana: 60 Years On, Jefferson Sackey, explained that the Osu Castle will be a centralized place for the curation of mementoes of past Ghana Heads of States.

 

Jefferson Sackey

“You are not now going to look at building something fresh. You are looking at a place where the location or the vicinity is part of history and so the choice is, for example, the Christiansborg or Osu Castle because at the end of the day you know that is where almost all our heads of state lived.”

Mr. Sackey however downplayed concerns arising from the ties of the Osu castle, built by Denish-Norwegians in the 1660s, to slavery, saying it remained “part of history” and that “it is historically a very key place for us to have a museum like that.”

As far as the cost is concerned, Mr. Sackey said the amount was still be worked out, though he assured that there were significant pledges made that gives the committee little cause for worry.

“We had a substantial amount of money being pledged when the logo was unveiled. Now it is up to the subcommittee responsible for sponsorship to follow up.”

The 60th-anniversary celebration will cost an estimated GHc 20 million, and Mr. Sackey said all the major initiatives, from the innovation challenge to the plan to building 60 libraries in 60 deprived communities, have been factored in the estimated cost.

“In this instance, the calculation of the GHc 20 million includes everything. It includes the building of the Heads of State Museum. It includes the march past that we are having not just in Accra but across the length and breadth of our country.”

 

Osu Castle converted into Museum of Heads of State

 The Osu Castle will be re-innovated into a Heads of State Museum

Ghana will now have a state of the art Museum for past Heads of State who have contributed immensely to the growth and development of the nation with the transformation of the Osu Castle; the former seat of government into a Heads of State Museum.

The Museum projected to be re-innovated within a period of 18 months, will serve as an exhibition hall where presidential artifacts, presidential papers, waxed works of past presidents will be housed. Personal possessions of past Heads of State including books, artworks and items of clothing will also be displayed in the museum.

Speaking at the commissioning ceremony of the museum, President Akufo-Addo indicated that the project to be spearheaded by Minster of Tourism, culture and Creative Arts, Catherine Afeku, will well ensure that persons like Joseph Ephraim, Casely Hayford, Kwabena Sakyi, Paa Grant and the ‘Big six’ who played various vital roles as Statesmen will leave behind for generations after, a legacy as well as boost the tourism sector in Ghana.

Also he said, the project when completed will offer an avenue by which Ghanaians can appropriately honor members of the African diaspora, persons like Maya Angelou, Pan-Africanist W.E.B Dubois, Muhammad Ali and Pele whose contributions towards development in Africa should duly be recognized.

The chamber which housed British Queen Elizabeth II during her state visit to Ghana in 1960 will also be exhibited as part of history. There will also be bookshops, research rooms and well-manicured gardens as well as sculptures and artworks crafted by some of Ghana’s finest artists and craftsmen.

President Akufo-Addo also stated Mrs. Afeku’s role in the creation of an investment and culture forum to draw the necessary investment required for the restoration of old forts and castles in the country. The forum will also provide access to the country’s creative communities and ensure a vibrant cultural content for both domestic and international tourism.

The Commissioning of the Heads of State Museum forms part of activities ahead of Ghana’s 60th independence celebrations.

 

Osu Castle

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This article is about a castle in Ghana formerly known as Christiansborg. For the Dano-Norwegian castle in Denmark, see Christiansborg Castle.

Osu Castle
Part of Danish Gold Coast
Osu Castle
Osu Castle
Site history
Built 1661
Garrison information
Occupants Denmark-Norway (1660)

A view of the Osu Castle from the lighthouse in Jamestown, Accra

Osu Castle, also known as Fort Christiansborg or simply the Castle, is a castle located in Osu, Accra, Ghana on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean’s Gulf of Guinea. The first substantial fort was built by Denmark-Norway in the 1660s, though the castle has changed hands between Denmark-Norway, Portugal, the Akwamu, Britain, and finally post-Independence Ghana, and was rebuilt numerous times. For most of the castle’s history, it has been the seat of government in Ghana with some interruptions, the latest when the John Kufuor administration moved the seat of government to Golden Jubilee House after 6 January 2009,[1]which was quickly reversed by the incoming John Atta Mills administration. It also serves as the place where the late president of Ghana John Atta Mills is buried; in a bird sanctuary, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

Contents

  • 1History
  • 2Features
  • 3References and sources
  • 4External links

History

A contemporary drawing of the Dano-Norwegian fort, Fort Christiansborg, now Osu Castle. The outpost to the right is Fort Prøvestenen.

The area was first occupied in 1550 by the Portuguese, though in the 17th-century Portuguese influence diminished. The area came under the control of Sweden in the 1650s, led by the Dutch trader Henry Caerlof. In 1652, he was given permission to build a small fortified lodge by the King of Accra, with whom he had previously done business. In 1660, control passed to the Netherlands but it was soon lost to Denmark-Norway. In 1657, Caerlof had again traveled to Africa, this time representing Denmark-Norway. He aimed to conquer the forts he had previously established, which he found easy at Osu.[2] In its early life, the castle was primarily used in the gold and ivory trade, but under Dano-Norwegian control it increasingly dealt with slaves.[1]

Entrance to Fort Christiansborg after it was opened to the public in 2017.

Osu Castle was located close to two other forts. Fort Crèvecoeur was controlled by the Dutch and Fort James by the British. The settlement at Osu was too small to store sufficient goods to compete with the others. Consequently, Denmark-Norway purchased adjoining land and expanded the building, naming it Fort Christiansborg after the reigning King Christian V of Denmark-Norway.The main royal palace (or castle) in Copenhagen also bears the name Christiansborg. [1] Denmark-Norway would occupy the fort for most of the next 200 years, with some interruptions, and for much of that time it served as the capital of the Gold Coast of Denmark-Norway.[3]

In 1679 or 1680, the fort’s Greek assistant commander incited a mutiny to murder the commander. Shortly after that, a Portuguese ship commanded by Julião de Campos Barreto visited the fort and agreed to purchase it. The fort was named Fort São Francisco Xavier after the Catholic missionary Francis Xavier. The Portuguese built a chapel and raised the bastions by three feet. The fort was abandoned on 29 August 1682 after the garrison mutinied and it became clear that Portuguese traders could not compete with the other Gold Coast powers. Danish forces returned in February 1683 after purchasing the fort back from the Portuguese. In 1685, Fort Christiansborg became the capital of the Gold Coast of Denmark-Norway, taking over from Fort Frederiksborg.[4]

The Akwamu ethnic group occupied the fort in 1693 after overpowering the occupants (who were reduced by death and disease) while disguised as merchants. Asamani, the Akwamu leader, occupied the fort for a year, trading with merchants from many nations. In 1694, Assameni sold the fort back to Denmark-Norway for 50 marks of gold (400 troy ounces, worth £200,000 to £250,000 in 2008) but retained the keys, which are still in the ethnic group’s possession to this day.[1][4] The early 18th century was not kind to the fort, and in 1722 the English reported it to be in disrepair. Extensions were made later that century, however, and structural improvements were made in 1824. The additional store rooms, garrison quarters, platforms, bastions and houses resulted in the castle being four times the size of the original fort.[1][5] In the 1770s, the Danes at Osu became involved in a conflict with Dutch-controlled Accra.[6]

In 1850, the British bought all of Denmark’s Gold Coast possessions for £10,000 (between £850,000 and £1.5m in 2007), including Fort Christiansborg. Denmark had been considering selling these outposts for some time. After the slave trade had been abolished they were expensive to run and brought little benefit. Britain experienced the same problems, but was keen to prevent illegal slave trading and to prevent France or Belgium strengthening in the area.[7] An 1862, earthquake destroyed most of the upper floors, which were rebuilt in wood. Later that century, the castle became the seat of the colonial government. In 1950, the wooden upper floors were rebuilt according to the original Danish plans.[1] In 1957, when Ghana became independent, with Queen Elizabeth II as head of state, the fort became Government House, the residence of the Governor-General. When Ghana became a republic in 1960, it became the residence of Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah.[8]

In 2005, there was debate over whether Osu Castle should be replaced as the seat of government. President John Kufuorargued that his government should not sit at the castle due to its previous association with slavery and also because its facilities were inadequate. National Democratic Congress MPs, however, argued that the $50 m that a new presidential palace would cost would be better spent elsewhere.[9]

Features

A 1948 stamp of The Gold Coast (modern Ghana) showing the castle under its former name.

Osu Castle remains the seat of government in Ghana, employing 2,100 workers. The most important functions are carried out in the castle itself, but other buildings are also used. Many international dignitaries have visited the castle while in the region, including U.S. Presidents Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. Additional rooms were built in order to accommodate Queen Elizabeth II’s visit in 1961, one year after Ghana became a republic.[1]

The present castle is made up of various extensions to the original and is thus in an unorthodox shape. It has many facilities for the use of employees, including a clinic, café, shopping centre and a post office. It also still accommodates a permanent garrison. The extensive gardens feature a wide variety of plants, both local and imported, and employ 30 people. They are used for the president’s outdoor receptions and parties.[1] Osu Castle is not open to the public, and photography of it is restricted. In 2007, the opposition Ministers of Parliament (MPs) in Ghana (the National Democratic Congress, NDC stormed out of a parliamentary debate on whether to take out a $50m loan to build a new presidential palace. MPs from President John Agyekum Kufuor’s New Patriotic Party voted unanimously in favour of taking the loan from India. They argued that the president should not be based in Osu Castle, where slaves used to be kept. The opposition National Democratic Congress said the money would be better spent such as improving the economy and helping promote the Better Ghana Agenda. This led to the then general secretary to the opposition NDC to describe the new Flagstaff House as a “hen coop only fit for rearing chicken”. The old Flagstaff House used by Ghana’s first president as his residence is being renovated into a museum, with the grounds on which it stands being built up as an ultra-modern office complex and residence for the president and vice-president of Ghana as well as their staff.

References and sources