Tema Life: Beind the scenes of shooting the documentary

For the Ghana Studies Association conference with the theme “Ghana as Center”, I decided to make a dream come true and make a documentary about my hometown for 12 years – the city of Tema.

The film “Tema Life: City of the Future” will be presented in a panel about Tema – the city that geographically is the center of the world.

The panel is in Room 1 at 2.30-4pm on Friday 12 July, 2019.

Here is my writeup about the documentary:

The city of Tema was planned and constructed in the late 1950s and early 1960s as a central part of Ghana’s modernization project. Buildings and areas were purposely designed for industrial, residential or business purposes according to the modern planning ideas of the time as well as socialist ideology. Original inhabitants were moved. The industrial model town was populated by foreign and local workers. By 1960 the city and surrounding areas had 25 000 inhabitants and ten years later just shy of 100 000. The industrial model town had various industries: textiles, radios, soap, motor vehicles, food stuffs, cigarettes and so on and was populated by foreign and local workers. The city was constructed “to be the city of the future” (Ahlman, 2017).

Tema was politically and economically central – in addition to purposely geographically constructed in the Greenwich meridian before it hits the ocean. Later political and economic pressures, including geopolitical changes and the growth of Ghana’s nearby capital Accra and its industrial areas and Tema became peripheral.

This project seeks to collect narratives from the first dwellers in Tema in a documentary film. Young laborers in 1960 would today be in their 80s and hence the time is running out to capture their oral histories about Tema then and now. The narratives will focus on what work, leisure, shopping was like during the early days of Tema and offer Tema’s first inhabitants a space to reflect on how it has changed. Building on the Nana Project by Kirstie Kwarteng that seeks to collect oral histories in Ghana, the conversations will be professionally filmed and the output will be a short documentary and a journal article analyzing their oral histories about the center of the world, Tema.

The team behind the film is scholar Kajsa Hallberg Adu, PhD and filmmaker Mantse Aryeequaye who bring together knowledge of Tema and of documentary film in Ghana. Mantse is a cultural producer and filmmaker perhaps best known for his championing of the street art festival Chale Wote in Accra. He is however also a longtime music and film producer who has worked all over the continent with companies such as MTV, Studio 53, Moonlight Films in Capetown, The Africa Channel, and currently serves as director of Reddkat Pictures and as the co-director of AccraDotAlt.

 Ahlman, J. S. (2017). Living with Nkrumahism: Nation, State, and Pan-Africanism in Ghana . Athens, OH, US: Ohio University Press.

Third Time A Charm? Reporting from a #DayatDVLA

This year, my driver’s licence expired and needed to be renewed. I made my first visit to DVLA in April, payed the dues for the renewal, but did not get to complete the process. I left with a scribble on my application and used it until July when the scribble expired and the “capture machine” was restored. In July, I completed the application process and left with a temporary license. This week the temporary license expired, so I got on the dirt road to DVLA (see photo below) again. Here is my story.

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When I entered, I was shown to room 7 by a man in a yellow very saying “Lion Security” (more on that later). The room has a number of desks and about half of them are covered with boxes with licenses marked with “February 2015, March 2015” and so on. I would guess there were a couple of thousand licenses there waiting for their owners. I asked if I could take a photo for the blog, but was asked not to. I was immediately told, “Oh, your license is not ready”. I was asked to sit down while my temporary license was extended.

Instead I walked past crowds of waiting people to the head of DVLA Tema, Mr. Osei-Bio’s office (see photo below) to get an update on the issues we discussed in July. The same issues I had filed complaints about to his predecessor in April. Mr. Osei-Bio looked tired and did not recognise me until I sat down and introduced myself. He then smiled and answered all my questions with patience. These were my issues:

– Card printing delays

-Lack of information, possible solutions I listed in my first complaint were:

  • a central reception
  • signs and step-by-step instructions
  • personel wore uniforms or at least name tags
  • fees were clearly pasted on the wall (online onlyvehicle licensing fees are available, not drivers’ licensing fees).

– Security personnel instead of information staff.

 

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I was told all the printing is being done in Accra and is dealing with a two year backlog. This was confirmed when I later when to pick up my extended licence and was asked “When did you first apply? 2014?”. My friend Jacob that was mentioned in the April post also had had his temporary licence renewed since 2014. I again explained what a hassle that is to us drivers: having to spend several working days just to check on a license that we have all payed for, not having a valid ID (banks do not accept the Temporary license). I was told now the extension is not three months, but until the end of the year. By then, they believe the printing of the backlog of card will have been done. My extension reads 30/12/2016. However, why can the printing of licenses not be done in Tema ( and all the other DVLA districts) so the day that you come to renew your licence, you also leave with your new license? The cost for manpower involved in extending licenses for years and handling licenses must well exceed a few card printing machines? Add to that cost the productivity loss for all of us “coming and going” and being robbed of our legal identification.
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The lack of information was even greater this time. The electronic signboards were not working (see black screens on the building in the last photo). The audio message was off. No central reception had been created. Rather the “Customer Service Centre” at the gate was closed and replaced by two aggressive security men. No visual step-by-step instructions exist anywhere. However, I saw prices for services being posted on the wall, and I thought to myself: now that is an improvement from July. Exactly what I asked for!

[Prices]

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But it was not so. The prices on the wall is for a new initiative of “Premium service” where you supposedly get served quicker by DVLA. As the regular prices are not displayed anywhere, I can’t tell if it is a good deal though. (Also what is versions 1, 2, 3 for replacement of license?) Why create a premier service if you cannot perform the basic service?

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I told Mr. Osei-Bio that when DVLA does not paste information anywhere, see defunct electronic screens on the admin block on the photo above, they play us customers in the hands of connection men or the security guard I met when walking in. The security guards have been there for about a year and serve both as information givers and security. However, the onsite bank is guarded by a policeman with a weapon. I questioned why DVLA Tema need 6 security men on post? Mr. Osei-Bio said this is normal, all establishments need security. Perhaps, yes. But even more, do we not need information? To me, it seems that when drivers in and around Tema come back for the second-third-fourth-fifth time to get something they have payed for, they have every right to be angry and demand change. Is that why the security is really needed?

When I was leaving I wanted to record the speaker to prove there was no customer service announcement and also take a photo of the closed customer service unit. I had asked for permission to take photos by Mr. Osei-Bio when I was in his office and while he denied my request to take photos indoors, he said I could take photos “outside, on the premises”. My mistake was not asking security at the gate. Quickly they came up to my car and escalated the situation from me taking a photo and asking about the customer service announcement that was no more, to them screaming “Do you know there is security here” and “Who asked you, WHO ASKED YOU TO TAKE PHOTOS?” Their aggressiveness was uncomfortable and unnecessary and was not appeased by me saying I had a meeting with Mr Osei-Bio (“Mr. Osei-WHO?”) and had his approval. They forced me to park my car and walk back to the building and what for Mr. Osei-Bio to come. To me this buttresses my point above on an organization that cares more about protecting itself than being of assistance to its customers.


The only thing that keep see hopeful at this time is how well I was received by Mr. Osei-Bio (“You  help me to do my job better”, he said) and how much people around me at DVLA agree when I speak up and say: THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE. I urge every one of you who read this to “adopt” a government agency, liaise with its leaders, and demand better service.

The Junction Mall in Nungua, Ghana

We have heard about the “mallification” of Ghana! Now the turn to get a big shopping center or a mall has come to the seashore community of Nungua, in between Accra and Tema. In Theory, the Junction Mall looks like this….but what did it look like yesterday? And how was traffic? The food? The service? Here is my review!

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Design from builders RMB.

The space
The space is big 11 500 m2, beautiful, lots of parking and I was happy to see trees planted. The mall is a U shape with double rows of shops and the “middle” only covered with roof. It was nice in the evening, maybe hot daytime? There was also a nice playground for kids.

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The shops
I saw the usual shops we are now used to Mr Price clothing, Shoprite ( food/department store), Telefonica, Nallem clothing, Bata shoes. New additions were South African low cost chain JET, a Techno phones, Lego ( Danish toy for kids), some other clothing shops. Really, only about half the shops have yet opened.

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The traffic
When a mall is named “The Junction Mall”, one has to be worried about traffic! Why is it even allowed to build a mall in a junction. On a Tuesday evening around 6 pm it was fine, however, but there is just one entry/exit point so I worry…

The food court
Not everything is opened yet, but there is a cosy Barcelos (see photo below) and a Chicken inn/Pizza Inn/Icecream Inn. I also saw an Italian pizza place that looked promising! but no stylish restaurant or bar? No cafe? I must say I was a bit disappointed by the eating options!

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The service
It is difficult to know what are permanent issues and what are just we-are-so-new-and-stressed issues, but parking guards made an initial weak (immovable?) impression, and in none of the shops any shop attendant spoke to me. However, at the food court, staff was alert! But then the women’s bathroom had no water nor could I lock the booth…

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To conclude, it is a promising space, much will be determined by who comes to open shop there. The design seems to be climate appropriate and the detail of living trees I know I will appreciate when they will shade my car as I shop!

Read also my review of Marina Mall.

Road Tolls and Accountability: The Hole(!) in the Accra-Tema Motorway

I probably should not write this as my parents will be worried when they read it, but the Accra-Tema motorway (or Tema-Accra motorway as we who live in Tema call it) is falling apart.

When I drove to work on Tuesday, I was halted by some serious traffic after just a kilometer or so. I assumed it was one of the common accidents, but was surprised to find the traffic was caused by a hole in one of the bridges on the motorway. The water below could be seen through the hole…

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I subsequently tweeted a warning:

All traveling from Tema to Accra, be careful as one of the bridges, right lane, has a big, gaping hole! @Citi973 @BloggingGhana

— Kajsa Hallberg Adu (@kajsaha) March 11, 2014

As I returned home in the evening around 8PM, the traffic now stretched from the hole all the way to Tema. I tweeted that too:

This evening the #motorway hole caused major traffic…what is being done? @YoungSirGh @BloggingGhana @police_gov_gh @Citi973

— Kajsa Hallberg Adu (@kajsaha) March 11, 2014

This morning, I set my alarm to 5.30 AM to “dodge” the traffic, but was still caught for 30 min by it and tweeted that too (that is what I do when stuck!)

Today’s “hole traffic” already winding on the Tema side of the #motorway @RichardDelaSky @BloggingGhana @InformGhana pic.twitter.com/D2jQUqVHLk

— Kajsa Hallberg Adu (@kajsaha) March 12, 2014

I was happy to just minutes later hear the CitiFM Morningshow crew bringing the issue up and even calling the Minister for Roads and Highways for an explanation. Driving on the Accra-Tema motorway is not free, I pay toll every time I enter, so does everyone else. Finding that the road is not well maintained, that street lights and railings which get hit never are replaced and  holes in the bridges (not the first time) makes me angry! Where is that money?

They are now going to do repairs, but morning show host Bernard Avle asked an important question:

“What is the status of other bridges on the motorway?”- @benkoku @Citi973

— Kajsa Hallberg Adu (@kajsaha) March 12, 2014

As I drive on the motorway everyday, I would like to know. I think my parents would like to know too.

Earlier posts on the motorway: New Ghana Road Tolls Today, One Year of Road Toll in Ghana: My Experience and Kwame Nkrumah: The city of Tema (part 2).

 

 

Ghana Housing Market: My Housing Career

As announced in an earlier post, I want to write on housing in Ghana. I believe it is important to my family, and likely to many more Ghanaians. And what better place to start than my own experiences.

Here is my housing career in Ghana:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2007

I move to Ghana in April and into my mother-in-laws small house in Tema. Except for my husband (-to-be at the time) and myself, five other adults and three children and some chickens also shared a house of four small bedrooms, one toilet, one shower and kitchen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2008

We rent our own place, with the savings I brought from Sweden and a loan from my husbands employer, we can afford a four bedroom house (in anticipation of our wedding and the Swedish guests) that even has a small indoor pool! Without a filter, the pool is merely a big bathtub, we discover. We also discover we have a slightly different taste in home decor. In Ghana, the normal procedure is to pay a two or three year advance. We pay for two years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2010

The two years is up and our landlord want to switch from charging us in Ghana Cedis to US Dollars. In reality, that is a 50% increase in rent and we decide to move. I look at what feels like 100 houses with numerable agents and finally find a house after 3-4 months of looking constantly. I drive a hard bargain and get a three bedroom (minus “pool” plus bats) to a 20% increase from two years earlier. We pay for two years in Ghana Cedis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2012

After two years, the rent is up again. We have done some saving, checked up on mortgages and with two salaries we qualify for a loan to 13,5% (!) interest rate. We ask the landlady if the house we live in is for sale. It is not. Later, the Tema Development Cooperation values the house (in US Dollars) and it goes on the market for about twice our budget. Time to move again. This time every house both for rent and sale is on the market in US Dollars and we realize that with the budget that we have we cannot afford to stay in our neighborhood. As of now, I estimate that housing prices is up by 100% from my house searching in 2009/10.

What do we do? Where do we move? Should we continue renting or is it time to buy?

In the next parts of this blogging series I will touch on the different options for housing and their pros and cons.

Please add you comments below or on Twitter under the hashtag #GHhousing .

Dust Magazine Does it Again!

Contributors page including Kajsa HA

A new issue of the Dust Magazine is out! (you might remember I hailed the Dust Magazine last time it came out) And this time, yours truly is a contributor!

Other GhanaBlogging

A blog post of mine on page nine in DUST magazine

members contributing to this issue are Esi Cleland/What your momma never told you about business, Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah /Adventures from the bedrooms of African women and of course Kobby Graham is the editor of Dust Magazine.

The issue also has a beautiful cover photo of Ghanaian musician Ebo Taylor by Tobias Freytag/FAD and several amazing photo collages by facebook celeb Adisa Abeba (a Tema resident like myself!) – all in all, both pictures and texts well worth your time.

Of course, this time around I am slightly biased…

This Friday: Tema Bless the Mic Club Night

Godfried Donkor, Financial Times, boxerMost events in Ghana happen in Ghana’s capital Accra. However, Bless the Mic every now and then takes their show to Tema.

On Friday, 28th May 2010, starting at 8pm, they do it again! The place is Barcadi Nite Club, Community 4, Tema.

It will be a night of  freestyle battles between some of the most exciting MCs from Tema and Accra including Macho Rapper, Yaa Pono, El, Ronny O, Pope Skinny, Scizo and the All Star cast from Tema. In attendance will be international guest DJ Floro (Spain) and DJ Champagne (Y Fm). Apart from music, there will also be graffiti art.

I called up the man behind BTM, Papa Yaw to find out why he is taking his show on the road:

– Because Tema is very vibrant in the music business right now and we want to promote the Tema music community, thats the reason…

As I am a proper “Tema girl”, I must say I appreciate BTM coming to Tema.

Come around 8pm  on Friday and pose for pics to be posted in this space!

Battle illustration by Ghanaian artist Godfried Donkor.

Two Years on…

Two years since the emotional, fun and crowded day in Tema – our wedding!

I dedicate this slide show to our families and friends!


Photo: Kerstin Alm
Song: Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off with Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong.

>New Ghana Road Tolls Today

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The increase in road tolls in Ghana takes effect today.

A regular car that used to pay 5 pesewas is now paying 50 p, a heavier car like a pick-up or trotro which used to pay 8p now pay 1 GHC (or about 70 US cents). That is an increase of 900% and 1150%!

Since I moved to Ghana three years ago, there has not been any increase in tolls, so I guess it was long overdue. The amount can of course be discussed. At present, maintenance is minimal on motorways and highways. This means street lights rarely work, potholes sometimes resemble craters and abandoned broken-down vehicles can be found anywhere, yes even on the fast lane of the motorway! It seems clear money is needed to make roads in Ghana safer.

However, as the toll increase was published in the newspapers last week, no reason was given for it, no promises were made, no connections were made with above stated problems. We were just informed through newspaper ads that “The Ghana Road Fund under the auspices of Ministry of Roads and Highways…solicits the cooperation of Motorists to comply with payment of the new tolls at the various toll collection facilities”. Information was published in newspapers, but for a 1000% increase, is that enough? I was surprised that there was little discussion about it.

Because even though, something clearly needs to be done about Ghana’s roads, the effects of this increase in tolls become almost like a tax on commuting. With a congested capitol, maybe that is not the best measure… For me who commute to Accra using the Tema motorway my monthly costs is up by 18 GHC or a little less in USD. That’s in a country where average monthly salary is about 160 GHC per month (1326 USD per year in 2007 according to Gapminder).

Just now, Joy FM is reporting that some people are refusing to pay and there is chaos at the toll booths at Tema motorway.

Hence, short term, this toll has made it more difficult to get to work. Still, I’m cautiously hopeful about the long-term improvements.

Pic: A trotro pays its tolls at the Ashaiman/Tema toll station last week, most likely happily unaware of the changes of today.

>Kwame Nkrumah: The City of Tema (Part 2)

>Landmarks in concrete.

The Cocoa Silos

The Kwame Nkrumah Motorway

One of these monolithic structures were never used. The other is the backbone of the Greater Accra economy.

I amuse myself with thinking about if the two had been used – and developed – since the 1960s.

What do you think, does it matter?

>Kwame Nkrumah: The City of Tema (Part 1)

> Over this week, we have a Kwame Nkrumah theme at Ghanablogging.

I thought I’d write about an important aspect of Nkrumah’s legacy. The industrial harbor town of Tema. My new hometown. (I know its beside the point, but also there is almost nothing about Tema, GH, online!)

Let’s start my exposé on Tema with Nkrumah’s own words. We go back to February 10th, 1962 and the Official Opening of the Tema Harbor. Kwame Nkrumah walks up to a podium and gives his speech.

“By taking advantage of the river systems of West Africa, it should be possible – again, by concerted action – to connect the hinterland, far outside the boarders of Ghana, with this great port of Tema. Thus, in this harbour of Tema, we see a unifying force and an essential requirement in the progress towards African Unity”

Hence, Tema was just one part of the grandiose plan of Africa rising. Tema should be a harbor not just for Ghana, but for Africa. Still today, Burkina Faso, Mali and other landlocked countries are highly dependent on the Tema harbor. What whould they be today without this sea port?

Nkrumah continued his speech with comparing the existing Takoradi harbor “designed by the colonialists to facilitate the exportation of the wealth of the country” to this new sea port. He said:

“Tema is the sign post of the future. It represents the purposeful beginning of the industrialisation of Ghana. It is the signal for industrial expansion, a challenge to our industry and intelligence and a hope for the future.”

Tema and its connection to a bright Pan-African future will be my starting point for future deliberations on Tema.

Pic: My first view of the Tema harbor, Xmas 2004.