Heritage of Osu, Ghana. Past and Present

Bachelor Thesis, 2014

68 Pages









1.1 Background to the Study
1.2 Study Area
1.3 Research Problem
1.4 Research Aim
1.5 Research Objectives
1.6 Limitations of the Research
1.7 Importance of the Research
1.8 Research Methods
1.8. a Primary Sources
1.8. b Secondary Sources
1.9 Research Questions
1.11 Organisation of Study

2.1 Chapter Overview
2.2 Settlement History
2.3.1 Christianborg Castle
2.3.2 Richter Fort
2.3.3 Nii - Okantey Shikatse
2.3.4 Osu Salem School
2.3.5 Frederichs Minde

3.1 Chapter Overview
3.2 Governance
3.2.1 Traditional System
3.2.2 Sub-Metro
3.3 Economic Activities
3.4 Condition of Heritage Sites Under Study
3.4.1 Christianborg Castle
3.4.2 Richter Fort
3.4.3 Nii-Okantey Shikatse We
3.4.4 Osu Salem School
3.4.5 Frederichs Minde
3.5.1 Danquah Circle
3.5.2 Osu Ebenezer Presby Church
3.5.3 Osu Cemetery
3.5.4 State House
3.6 Other Developments

4.1 Chapter Overview
4.2 Future Impact on Heritage Sites
4.2.1 Negative Impact
4.2.2 Positive Impact
4.3 Personal Opinion

5.1 General Overview
5.2 Summary
5.3 Conclusion
5.4 Recommendation




The town of Osu, being a Danish colonial town in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana, has a rich cultural heritage. The heritage of Osu can be traced from its contact with the Danes which led to the adoption of the name, Danish Osu or Danish Accra. Their heritage has however grown from being a colonial town into a contemporary urban settlement which is noted as one of the most vibrant places in Accra with its night life and massive inflow of tourists. This apparent rich history of Osu has called for the study into the heritage of Osu, as heritage is believed to be all aspects of culture that are part of a society.

The study sought to establish among others what tangible sites have existed in the past and what have propelled their existence presently. Particular reference was made to the Christianborg Castle, Richter Fort, Nii-Okantey Shikatse We, Osu Salem School and Frederichs Minde which were all developed in the Danish era. The study also covered other heritage sites such as the Danquah Circle in Osu, the Osu Ebenezer Presbyterian Church, Osu Cemetery and the State House.

The study furthermore brought into light the distinction of the economics, governance system and education in Osu in terms of how these features were in the past and how they are presently. At the end of the study, findings (primary and secondary sources) established that the heritage of Osu have been propelled by culture contact and globalization and with the implementation of sustainable development the heritage of Osu will be properly protected for an increasing tourists’ consumption.

Recommendations were made for further research into the intangible heritage of Osu as well as establish the divergent cultural traits between those living around the “Oxford Street” and those in the traditional quarters.


This work is dedicated to my family and to the people of Osu whose history can never be forgotten.


This literary work will not have been possible if not for the help and support of certain persons. The first gratitude goes to God who encouraged and strengthened me during times of despair. Thanks also go to my parents; Mr. and Mrs. Ankoma for their immense support whilst working on this essay and for their care for me through my entire life. I wish also to thank my supervisor, Prof. Dr. Ing H. Nii-Adziri Wellington whom through his patience, I was guided and aided in the completion of this literary work.

I wish to thank Mr. Akwasi Abrampah who helped me to realize the nature and importance of my topic. I extend another gratitude to Mr. Ekow Anorchie of GMMB Ussher Fort for aiding me in my tour of the Osu community.

Thanks also goes to Mr. Leslie Wulff Cochrane of Frederichs Minde, Rev. Brown of Osu Salem School, Mr. Clark of Osu Ebenezer Presbyterian Church and Mr. Ernest Boye of Nii-Okantey Shikatse We for their patience and audience they granted me during the conduct of my research.


2.1 An archival drawing of the Danish colonial fort, Fort Christianborg, now Osu Castle

2.2 Axonometric reconstruction of Richter Fort

2.3 Photograph of Wulff Joseph Wulff (1809-1842)

3.1 Modern-day Christianborg

3.2 Entrance to the Richter Fort

3.3 a) depicting the frontal of Nii Okantey Shikatse We and b) revealing the foundation stones used in its construction

3.4 Current state of Osu Salem School

3.5 Side view of Osu Salem School

3.6 Inscription on top of the building at Frederichs Minde

3.7 Danquah Circle

3.8 The Osu Eben-Ezer Presbyterian Church

3.9 Burials at Osu Cemetery

3.10 Oxford Street Mall, Osu

3.11 New Apartment Heights at Kuku Hill, Osu

4.1 Renovation of “Betty Memorial 1940” to serve other purpose

4.2 A threatened house by investors


1.1 General map of Osu with inset being the map of Ghana indicating Osu

2.1 Map of Osu indicating the traditional quarters



1.1 Background to the Study

Osu, in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana, is one of the oldest towns in Ghana. It was possibly established as a settlement around the Danish fort of Christianborg in the 17th Century. However, before the arrival of the Danes, there was a community already in existence. It has survived in the span of four centuries now. Osu can boast of numerous historical sites which have emerged as a result of cultural contact between the Danes and the indigenous Osu people. The people of Osu are part of the Ga ethnic group which predominantly resides in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana. Through the years, Osu has developed from a fishing and colonial town which dealt in trade to a community which is involved predominantly in commerce. It has a blend of traditional and modern cultures. It has become a hub for tourists as its main road, the Cantonments Road, is popularly known as “Oxford Street”, depicting the high profile nature of the commercial activities found in this space. The motive for treating this topic is influenced by a book written by Prof. Dr. Ing. H. Nii-Adziri Wellington titled “Stones Tell Stories At Osu: Memories of a Host Community of the Danish Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.”. In this book he narrates the life of the Osu people and their history. Through this narration he reveals certain historical or archaeological/ cultural heritage sites which are of importance to the people of Osu and some which have a shared history with the Danish colonialists. Such sites include the Christianborg Castle, the Richter Fort and the Osu Salem Road. The book’s emphasis is placed on presenting the historical Osu and its traditional quarters with little emphasis on the current state of Osu or the present Osu. Based on this premise the study touches not only on the past of Osu but also on the present Osu and even speculates the nature of Osu in the next ten to thirty years.

This Long Essay seeks to reveal some historical sites and values that existed during the Danish colonial period and how their presence is still felt within the community. Emphasis will also be placed on understanding the condition and relevance of these features at present and the factors that have influenced their present condition.

1.2 Study Area

Osu is a pre- and post-colonial town lying peacefully and still near the Gulf of Guinea of Ghana. Osu, geographically, co-ordinated at latitude 5º33′14″N and longitude 0º10′30″W is located about 3 kilometers (1.9miles) East of the Central Business District (Accra Central). Osu is a community bounded to the south by the Gulf of Guinea, to the west by the Independence Avenue. The Ring Road separates Osu from the northern district of Labone (another neighbouring town) and south-western is the Castle Road or Sir Charles Quist Street.

The people of Osu are associated with the Ga ethnic group. This group traditionally owns the land in the capital city of Accra and some parts of the Greater Accra Region. They live in coastal settlements such as Jamestown (Ngleshie), Usher Town (Kinka), Chorkor, Korle Gonno, Akoto Lantey, Labadi, Teshie, Nungua and the town of Osu (Ga Dangme Secretariat, 2002). The Adangme live mostly in the Eastern Region of Ghana in towns such as Ada, Odumasi and Somanya (Yeboah, 2008).

Map 1.1 General map of Osu with inset being the map of Ghana indicating Osu.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Source: Produced by researcher with images from Google map images (2014).

Osu forms part of the Osu Klottey sub-district which is one of the eleven sub-districts in the Region of Greater Accra. The town of Osu consists of smaller neighbourhoods and traditional quarters such as the Ringway Estates, Kuku Hill, Osu-Ako Adjei, Osu Alata, Osu Ashinte, Osu RE and Osu Kinkawe. Osu is a very old town just like the other Ga communities which in the past thrived or subsisted on fishing, farming, hunting and salt making (Odotei, 1995; 60). It, however, went into trade with the Europeans during their expansion in the Gulf of Guinea and as a result, led to the Danish establishment of the Christianborg Castle, formerly called Fort Christianborg, at Osu. Before that period, the foundation was a lodge which is not functional and was built by the Portuguese in the year 1550. After the colonial regime, the Castle was used as the seat of Government of Ghana till the year 2013 (Dantzig and Priddy; 1971). Currently, the populace of Osu is engaged in varied jobs ranging from craft production and selling, entrepreneurship, retailing, commercial operation and civil service The contact between the people of Osu and the Europeans in the past led to the expansion in trade and also changes in the culture of the people of Osu. This can be attested to architecturally. European surnames such as Richter, Hansen, Swanikier, Reimer and Engmann (Wellington; 2013) among others are surnames that indicate the bond with the Europeans.

However, it could be seen that the interaction between the people of Osu and even expatriates has not dwindled a bit but has rather heightened over the years. Osu’s popular street, The Osu Oxford Street, legitimately Cantonments Road, is believed to have been named after the London Oxford Street due to its night life and splendid array of different people from different parts of the world. It is inter-mingled with a stretch of buildings, which houses crafts, small and medium scale enterprises and buoyant world-known corporations like KFC which has 15,000 outlets in 105 countries and being the world’s most popular chicken restaurant chain (KFC, 2014).

1.3 Research Problem

My focus for this research is to reveal how the past culture of the people of Osu has evolved: from a fishing community, through trading with the Europeans and its bustling in-flow of tourists of today in order to understand how the past Osu has influenced the present Osu.

1.4 Research Aim

In order to understand how Osu has been impacted by the past till today, I will align my scope in determining the heritage factors that have affected the general life of Osu in terms of economic, traditional governance system and education. Primary emphasis will be placed on understanding how heritage has manifested in certain heritage sites which existed during the Danish colonial period and their existence now.

1.5 Research Objectives

It is my desire that in raising the issues concerning how the past Osu has impacted the present Osu and the factors responsible for that, my research will;

- give a scope of how Osu was in the past especially, from the colonial period to independence and its characteristics.
- seek to establish the culture of Osu at present and understand the factors that have played a role from the past in shaping the present Osu.
- lastly, centre on prospecting the future of Osu in the near future by juxtaposing the transformation in Osu from the past to the present.

1.6 Limitations of the Research

Documentary sources, especially written materials concerning the study area, were very limited as I had to base much of my literature on one book. Also due to academic pressures and transportation cost I could not conduct substantial interview for my work. However, I overcame these challenges by using online sourced literature and I interviewed key persons who were most relevant to my subject areas.

1.7 Importance of the Research

Much emphasis of the Osu community has been placed on the contact of the Osu with the Danes or Danish culture and how that contact had contributed to the heritage of the people. This research is focused not just only on the heritage resources of Osu but how the heritage can be sustained for posterity irrespective of developments that will take place as the years go by.

1.8 Research Methods

Primary and Secondary sources were employed in the data used for the study.

a. Primary Sources

The data was collated through a series of field trips to the area and sites under study. The data was collated by means of semi-formal and informal interviewing techniques as they made my interviewees “to feel at home” when questioning them. Help was also sought from local informants to the sites under study. I additionally made use of my observation techniques by critically observing and analyzing certain data which were of relevance to my work. This data gathering demanded digital cameras to capture still pictures and sound recorders for recording interviews.

b. Secondary Sources

Secondary data was however derived from literature survey and review. These literatures were either in print or electronic. They were arrived at by visiting the library and searching through online libraries and databases. These documents held credible information in respect of referencing. This source of data gathering made use of the computer, scanner and notebooks.

1.9 Research Questions

In the cause of gathering data for the research, a sample of the set of questions I was seeking answers to consisted of:

- What is the meaning of the name, Osu?
- Who were the original people?
- What is the lifestyle or culture of the Osu people?
- What cultural changes has Osu gone through till now?
- What were the factors causing these changes?
- Were the Osu people happy with recent developments?
- How were they prospecting the future of Osu to be?


The underpinning factor behind this topic is Heritage. Heritage is defined as what elements of the past a society wishes to keep (Graham et al, 2000). Hardy (1988) also made mention that heritage represents some sort of inheritance to be passed down to current and future generations. This reinforces the fact that every aspect of a society which has been retained from the past till today is heritage. There is however an ambiguity in relation to heritage as some scholars believe that if heritage is the acknowledgement of the past in the present, then there is not any distinction between heritage and history. Cassia (1999: 247) explained the differences well by stating that “History, as a scholarly activity, is a means of producing knowledge about the past, and heritage is a means of consumption of that knowledge”. This means that, we might have knowledge of the past but until we make use of the knowledge of the past in our present time, it does not become heritage.

Heritage can therefore be classified into both tangible and intangible. The tangible heritage is sub-divided into Movable and Immovable. The movable ones consist of objects in for example, museums and documents in archives. On the other hand tangible immovable heritage comprises mostly of buildings, sites of meaning, rivers and natural areas. Regarding the intangible heritage, it consists of values, customs, lifestyles and ceremonies such as festivals, arts and cultural events (Timothy and Boyd, 2003:3).

In order to broaden the scope of the various heritage classifications, Hall and McArthur (1993) identified four interrelated areas of significance in heritage. As such we have economic, social, political, scientific and cultural significance of heritage. In terms of economic significance, heritage is preserved because of the value it offers in terms of expenditure incurred by visitors to sites (Zeppel and Hall, 1992). Thus, they serve as tourist destinations which as a result help in generation of revenue. The social significance of heritage refers to the personal and collective identity that people and society have with their heritage. Thus, due to the attachment a society has with a heritage material the people will tend to preserve them. The political significance of heritage may serve political ends as sometimes private owners of heritage may come into conflict with public or government interests. Lastly, the scientific significance of heritage normally refers to national parks and protected areas. Such heritage areas serve as research centres and in addition provide information about the living history and culture. That notwithstanding, there is also the cultural significance of heritage as all heritage resources embody cultural attributes which are also spiritual in nature.

With all these classifications, heritage does not exist in one scale. This means that it is heterogeneous and as a result exists on different scales in terms of world heritage, national heritage, local heritage and personal heritage (Graham et al. 2000, Timothy 1997). World heritage according to Timothy (1997) are heritage materials noted at the world- scale and attracts large masses of tourists from many countries. They are mostly governed by agencies such as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), World Heritage Committee (WHC), The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). A national heritage, according to Lowenthal (1975) is a heritage feature which comes to symbolize a society’s shared recollections while a local heritage are certain familiar landmarks that remain in touch with a society’s collective past. Lastly, personal heritage which is the least (not necessary but the most protected) of the heritage and less known are heritage attractions which draw people who possess emotional connection to a place. These include religious societies and ethnic groups and families.

1.11 Organisation Of Study

The whole research is categorised into five chapters. The Chapter one focuses on the introduction of the work. It captures the Study Area, Research Problem and Research Objectives. Chapter two, on the other hand, focuses on understanding some tangible heritage sites which had a rich history or connection with the Danes. In Chapter three, emphasis is placed on understanding the lifestyle of the people of Osu today and also to establish the conditions in which those heritage sites discussed in Chapter two are at present. Chapter four took a different turn in projecting the future of Osu based on current developments happening there and Chapter five being the last Chapter sought to conclude and make a general statement on what the whole research is about.



2.1 Chapter Overview

This Chapter of the work focuses on some heritage sites of Old Colonial Osu. Emphasis on the work is limited to some tangible heritage sites which were influenced by the Danes to better understand how Danish Osu was in order to relate it to the present which will be touched on in the next chapter.

2.2 Settlement History

The contemporary Osu town is different from the traditional Osu area / settlement. This can be understood in the sense that present day Osu is very limited in terms of space. However, the Traditional Council of Osu includes the present day Osu and the other neighbouring communities. In Osu Stool (2014a), traditionally, the area of Osu is a 55 square mile stretch of land in the Central Accra in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana. These lands of the traditional area of Osu begin from the beaches of modern day Osu through the Ring Road to the Independence Square and extend all the way to the hills of Aburi and towns like Cantonments, Ridge, Kanda, Nima and Dzorwulu.

Osu, during the colonial times, underwent serious transformations in its contact with the Danes. This led to the description of Osu as Danish Osu or Danish Accra. Danish Osu, like the other seaside colonial towns, was bounded to the south by the Atlantic Ocean, and defined by the western divide of old Dutch Accra and English Accra with its eastern expanse of the Klottey Lagoon and the Accra Plains (Yankholmes and Akyeampong, 2010). Danish Osu (Wellington, 2011) consisted of four quarters namely; Kinkawe, Ashinte Blohum, Alata and Anohor. This division of Danish Osu according to Parker was to fashion the community to mirror their origins.

Map 2.1 Map of Osu indicating the traditional quarters

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Source: Adapted from Wellington (2007).

Trade in Danish Osu was heightened in the eighteenth century. It was witnessed by vigorous trade in gold and later slaves which also led to the attraction of various European powers which resulted in commercial rivalry and made Osu an important town on the slave route in the country’s south (Quaye, 1972; van Dantzig, 1982; Perbi, 2004). However, with the eventual monopoly of the eastern trade (area between Accra and the Volta River), exercised by the Denmark–Norway dominion, Danish-Osu became the Danish headquarters on the eastern stretch of the Guinea Coast lasting nearly two centuries. This transformation occurred when the capital of the then Gold Coast (now Ghana) was moved from Cape Coast to Accra in 1877 (Wellington, 2011). The contact with the Danes led to the emergence of certain structures which have a history with the Danes and has been part of the heritage of Osu.


The sites of interest to the researcher which had its place in the lives of the Osu community were the Christianborg Castle which is also called the Osu Castle, Richter Fort, Nii-Okantey Shikatse We, Osu Salem School and Frederichs Minde.

2.3.1 Christianborg Castle

The Christianborg Castle, popularly known as The Osu Castle, is a castle constructed by the Danes in Osu. The Castle is noted as one of the numerous forts and castles with a colourful history which span from the year 1661 when the Danish Guinea Company received permission from the local Chief to construct a fort at Osu, Accra (Essah, 2001).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Fig 2.1 An archival drawing of the Danish colonial fort, Fort Christianborg, now Osu Castle

Ownership of the castle went through various political hands. After the Danes had built the fort, they named it Christianborg Castle in remembrance of their monarch, Christian IV. However, the Danes did not have lasting control as one of their employees named Pieter Bolt who was a Greek led a rebellion against the local Danish administration in 1679 and sold the castle to the former Portuguese governor of São Tomé Island.

After the Portuguese had taken over in 1679, they changed the name of the castle from Christianborg Castle to St. Francis Xavier and constructed a Catholic chapel within its premises. In 1683, the Portuguese sold it back to the Danes who also changed the name of the fort from St. Francis Xavier to its original name, Christianborg.

The Danes also used the Castle as the headquarters of the Danish Trading Company. Ten years later, in 1693, the Danes lost the Castle to the Akwamu led by Asameni who posed as traders at the entry gates at the Castle thus, defeating the Danes unexpectedly and conducted their trade in the Castle for a year. The Akwamu however, sold the Castle back to the Danes in 1694 for fifty marks of gold. Akwamu, however, kept the bunch of keys to the castle, and to this day displays it as a state trophy (Anquandah, 1999: 24-29; Norregard, 1966: 42-45, 55-62; Odotei, 2008).

In the aftermath of the abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, (van Dantzig, 1980: 72) Danish attempts to find a profitable slice in the market for ‘‘legitimate trade’’ proved unsuccessful, and thus in 1850, they sold Christianborg Castle and four other forts in the Gold Coast to the British for the sum of £10,000.

The English acquisition of Christianborg Castle occurred at the very time that European Imperialism in Africa was on the rise. The ‘‘Castle’’ played a key role, serving as headquarters for the British colonial government in the Gold Coast from 1876-1890. In 1902, following extensive rebuilding and remodeling, the British colonial office resumed using the castle as the seat of government (Anquandah, 1999: 24-29; Boahen, 1975: 59; Carmichael, 1993: 87). The castle has since been remodeled several times and has housed the heads of State of Ghana from President Kwame Nkrumah in1957 to Gen. Joseph Ankrah to Gen. Akwesi Afrifa to Dr. Kofi Busia to Edward Akuffo-Addo, to Gen. Kutu Acheampong to Gen. F.W.K Akuffo to Flt. Lt. Jerry Rawlings to John Agyekum Kufuor then to John Evans Atta Mills and other visiting heads of state and dignitaries till the year 2013 (Akorsah-Sarpong; 2004).

2.3.2 Richter Fort

The Richter Fort, built by Johan Emmanuel Richter, is a 19th century slave trading residential facility. Johan was a Danish merchant in slaves and served as Commandant of Fort Fredensborg at Ningo between the years 1804-1816. He also served the position of Governor for a brief period, from December 1816 to July 1817 (Justesen, 2003: 97-98). He also traded in palm oil and gold (Nuno-Armartefio; 2010). Before his death he was able to put up the palatial residence which came to be known as the Richter Fort. According to Wellington (2011; 207- 215), this building was initially named “Barbara House”. “Barbara” used on the house was the name of his official spouse; Anna Barbara. He was noted to have had numerous children with other women. The building was then later reverted to Richter Fort. This Fort was large, a distinguished residence surrounded by storehouses, bastions and connecting walls (Justesen 2003: 127).


Excerpt out of 68 pages


Heritage of Osu, Ghana. Past and Present
University of Ghana, Legon
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
Heritage, Osu, Archaeology, Heritage Studies, Past, Present, Ghana, Christianborg Castle, Richter Fort, Nii- Okantey Shikatse We, Osu Salem School, Frederichs Minde, Osu Castle, Wulff Joseph Wulff, Danquah Circle, Osu Eben-Ezer Presbyterian Church, Oxford Street Mall, Fort Christianborg, Betty Memorial, Map of Osu
Quote paper
Kwabena Ankoma (Author), 2014, Heritage of Osu, Ghana. Past and Present, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/889371


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