"Market scene in Kumase."
Berger (Mr)
date early : 1896-01-01.0., date late : 1917-12-31.0.

"Woman pounding fufu in a courtyard in Aburi."
Fisch, Rudolf (Mr)
date early : 1885-01-01.0., date late : 1908-12-31.0.

"Market in Kumase." [Caption on mount]. - " ... [illegible] market ... [illegible]." [Caption on image].
date early : 1925-01-01.0., date late : 1931-12-31.0.
unknown studio

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Markets and Economic Life

Markets are the center of West African economic life. There are several types of markets: small local daily markets, large regional markets that meet on specified days in the week. The first deal mostly in perishable foodstuffs, and the latter comprise a wider range of goods including European and northern imports such as textiles, leatherwork, metal implements, European liquor, and so on. Several markets in West Africa became very famous during the colonial period, and those in Keta (Anlo) and Kumase were significant for attracting patrons from the West African sub-region. Markets were gendered in important ways. In Kumase the market was essentially a female space. Men had distinctive roles such as butchers, and the meat trade has traditionally been in the hands of Hausa and men from northern Ghana. Within the market “quarters” were established for various goods and foodstuffs; hence those selling a particular product were all found in one quarter. Though this made the market accessible to patrons, it had important implications for competition among sellers. In D-30.18.054 we see an open market in Kumase with women holding umbrellas over their heads for shade. One clearly sees onions, plaintains and cocoyams. Plantains were introduced into the Gold Coast from Central Africa during the Portuguese era in the Gold Coast. Cassava (manioc) and maize entered West Africa from the New World through the Atlantic trade. Cassava, a hardy drought-resistant crop became an important staple among the Anlo of southeastern Ghana, but was only accepted among the Asante on any significant scale in the twentieth century. Plantains, cocoyam, and cassava can all be used in the Asante staple dish of fufu with soup (D-30.09.054, woman pounding fufu in mortar with a pestle).
In D-30.18.058, palm-wine sellers gather close to the railway line in Kumase. Palm-wine was so cherished among the Akan that a Twi proverb stated that: wunni ntrama na wose nsa nye de (“When you don’t have cowry shells [money], then you say wine is not sweet”). D-30.63.020 shows a Hausa market in Kumase, a smaller market probably close to the quarter where Hausa troops were housed. Onions are prominent among the items displayed in this photo, and this could be a Hausa market that specialized in the sale of northern produce. The indoor market shown in D-30.01.032 (Salaga market, Accra) may have been built to reflect colonial concerns about hygiene and safe food. Food and sanitary inspectors monitored markets and kept an eye on the conditions under which food was sold. An indoor market was a radical re-definition of the West African concept of the marketplace. In E-30.33.036 we see a market scene in Bamum with men selling shellfish. In Ghana, fish-sellers were strictly female, though men were the fishermen. As the fish was transferred from the canoes to the women (“fishwives”), it entered a distinctly feminine sphere. Men and women sell wood in Bamum market (E-30.33.038). In Bamum, as on the Gold Coast, butchers were often Hausa men (E-30.33.044).