This December break, I had the pleasure of visiting Nzulezo, a town on stilts, located in the Western Region of Ghana. Nzulezo directly translates to ‘on the water’ in Nzema, one of the major languages in Ghana. To get to this town you need to take an hour’s ride on a canoe, through a river that leads to the settlement: a town of about 1500 -2000 people living on water, with the closest land 15-20 kilometres away.
“According to local legend, the village was built by a group of people from Oulata, a city of the ancient Ghana Empire and in present-day Mauritania, which came about from following a snail.” (Wikipedia, 2016) . The story was further verified by our tour guide and one of the local elders who met us and greeted us with their local drink, palm wine. He told of a time when his ancesntors had to migrate from their ancestral home in the great old Mali/Ghana empire located in the regions of current Mali/Gambia Senegal region. They were conquered by the Senegalese nation and thus chased away for fear of their return. They were led by a snail god, who advised them to make rafts and go into the river until they reached a place where he would advise them how to build.
What really got to me about this place was the ambience of happiness the villagers exuded. Walking in we were met by singing and warm welcomes as the people, who normally see foreigners come in, take pictures and enjoy the experience, were shocked to see other Ghanaians coming in to appreciate their way of life.
It gave me a breath of fresh air as I realized how distant we sometimes are from our own cultures, taking vacations and safaris to other parts of the world and not critically exploring our own surroundings. Thus, I took a keen interest in the history behind this bewildering site and listened keenly to the local elders who shared in the history.
The people there have been there since the beginning of the 14th century. They have all social amenities including a clinic, a kindergarten and primary school, night clubs, a church, chop bars (local restaurants), a community centre and even guesthouses for visitors who want to spend the night. The people seemed very friendly and were insistent on taking photos with us and welcoming us to see their residences. They spoke at length on the medicinal herbs found around and the longevity they enjoy living off land, with most people living beyond the century mark.
I brought back some souvenirs from the site, which the United Nations has dubbed a World Heritage Site. The people have also been given some land close to the settlement by the government so they can farm. Some interesting images of baby canoes which the young ones who choose to go to the local school on land use, as well as the architectural plan they use to build on the river. All in all this was an amazing experience, seeing the different local wonders of the world which are not characteristically shown on mass media. If you get the chance to visit Nzulezo, don’t pass up on it!