Status and Mimicry: African Colonial Period Architecture in Coastal Ghana looks at Anomabo, a historically significant port, as a case study to examine hybrid African colonial period architecture in coastal Ghana, formerly known as the Gold Coast Colony. Between the 1870s and 1920s, numerous residences with façades inspired by British styles were built for and by Africans in Anomabo. Courtnay Micots examines these houses as reflections of a deliberately constructed hybrid style of architecture with exteriors appropriated from the Italianate and Queen Anne styles of nineteenth-century England and interior plans utilizing borrowed and local elements. This hybrid architecture in colonial Ghana reflects status, modernity, and resistance to British hegemony. Through close analysis of five residences and the potential motivations of their patrons, Micots shows these houses to be markers of selfhood and cultural belonging, local forms that were refashioned to counter the growing authority of the British administration.

In coastal Ghana, West Africa, two-story buildings constructed in brick and stone, such as the Russell House, appear to be British colonial homes or African imitations of British architecture (Figure 1). While their façades were inspired by British styles, these early colonial period residences were built for and by Africans between the 1870s and 1920s.1 In fact, these Ghanaian homes manifest a deliberately constructed hybrid style of architecture combining local elements— asymmetry, courtyard plans, and two-story compact massing—with British and Afro-Portuguese architectural styles. I argue that the motivations for such cultural appropriations are complex and require a deep understanding of the social, political, and economic contexts in which the houses were built. Hybrid architecture in colonial Ghana, formerly known as the Gold Coast Colony, reflects status, modernity, and resistance to British colonization. At the same time that modern artists in Europe appropriated African forms to create new and dynamic hybrid art forms, patrons and builders in Ghana likewise appropriated from Western culture in order to create modern, innovative hybrids. Adoption of Western styles into local aesthetics changed the practice of building in Ghana, and such hybridization continues today.

Figure 1

Russell House, the Reverend John Oboboam Hammond, Francis Medanyamease Hammond, Mrs. Charlotte Oyemame Acquaah, 1897–98, stone nog and brick, Anomabo, Ghana, 2008 (author’s photo).

Figure 1

Russell House, the Reverend John Oboboam Hammond, Francis Medanyamease Hammond, Mrs. Charlotte Oyemame Acquaah, 1897–98, stone nog and brick, Anomabo, Ghana, 2008 (author’s photo).

Theorists of cultural exchange during colonization have noted a mutual process of appropriation, not the one-way imposition of Western culture on the colonized that is presumed in conventional histories of the colonial era. These histories are based in concepts of primitivism, or European’s perceived privilege over so-called tribal societies that seemingly lacked a history or civilized culture, including an absence of architectural history. Art historian Salah Hassan challenges the one-way model of “influence” from Europe to Africa: “It is important to emphasize the reciprocal flow of influences and traffic that has existed between Africa and the West. This would make it possible to reverse the erroneous perception of unilateral influence in which Africa and African art serve as recipients of Western culture and artistic influence, a narrative in which African artists have been projected as passive, silent, and invisible.”2Cultural anthropologists Christian Huck and Stefan Bauernschmidt argue that appropriation is “always about cultural relations in the context of an unequal distribution of power.”3 Indeed, Denise Cuthbert has stated that “the history of European colonization of the Americas, Africa, Asia and the Pacific is also a history of wholesale appropriation.”4 African homes on the Gold Coast evince this history of appropriation. Surviving structures in Anomabo demonstrate how coastal Africans appropriated and transformed plans, motifs, and building technologies to communicate their status and identity through display. Wealthy family members who achieved success were expected to extend the family residence or build anew, thereby visually reflecting the stature of the individual and his family in the community.

The following analysis of five Anomabo residences and their patrons will reveal these homes as markers of status and modernity, refashioned through appropriation to visually counter the growing authority of the British administration. Although many of the patrons of these homes were Fante, the dominant Akan-related group in this area of the coast, Africans from other regions merged with them to create a specific identity as an elite subgroup. In the colonial period, those members of the elite with the greatest income and political involvement seem to have made conscious choices of appropriation as a form of expressing their separate identity and status, while other patrons probably copied these hybrid homes to achieve the appearance of similar success. Therefore, reasons for appropriation within the elite class were as varied as the individuals themselves. Adopting British power symbols expressed both a connection to the empire’s strength and modernity as well as resistance to its authority.

In my view, architecture was one medium among several through which Fante elites expressed their resistance to British colonization. Robert Young asserts that an “intentional hybrid” can be transformed into “an active moment of challenge and resistance against a dominant colonial power.”5 As art historian Doran Ross has aptly stated, the Fante were “fighting with art.”6 Hybrid British power symbols can be seen in Fante art forms that flourished during the colonial period, such as flags, posuban shrines, and Fancy Dress parades. Flags used by the asafo (Fante paramilitary groups with communal and religious responsibilities) were decorated with appliqué or paint and displayed during important public rituals. The asafo also commissioned posuban, cement-and-brick shrines, in the form of small forts or ships that were covered in paintings and sculptures; the subject matter often referenced aspects of British culture, as can be seen in the posuban depicting a British crown placed on the omanhen’s stool, a local symbol of rule, in relief under the lions (Figure 2). While the forms and imagery of the flags and posuban were inspired by European models, their function was entirely local.7 The asafo incorporated British motifs that could be read by locals as visual proverbs relating to asafo power and by the British as forms of allegiance and passive mimicry. Art historians Herbert Cole and Ross have discussed the verbal-visual nexus as a key feature of Akan arts, for “there are relatively few types of Akan art without proverb associations.”8 Fancy Dress is a carnivalesque masquerade adopted around the turn of the twentieth century. Fancy Dress street parades and competitions are composed of young men and sometimes women between the ages of three and forty-five. Fancy Dress voices public commentary on pop culture; social and cultural mores; and local, national, and international politics. A vital creative expression of the lower classes, it is both comedic entertainment and a necessary regenerative force in Ghanaian culture.9 I believe the public display of these hybrid art forms carrying multiple associations provided a means for expressing resistance to colonial authority.

Figure 2

Posuban for asafo Dontsin No. 3 Company, Kwamina Amoaku, 1948, brick, cement, Anomabo, Ghana, 2007 (author’s photo).

Figure 2

Posuban for asafo Dontsin No. 3 Company, Kwamina Amoaku, 1948, brick, cement, Anomabo, Ghana, 2007 (author’s photo).

These appropriations of British culture combine with local Akan aesthetics that juxtapose asymmetrical elements within a symmetrical form. Art historian Robert Farris Thompson has compared African combinations of symmetry and asymmetry to early American jazz and coined the phrase “offbeat phrasing” to describe this phenomenon, which can be found in Akan drumming, festival parades, textile patterns (kente), and architecture.10 I observed offbeat phrasing in all the rammed earth and stone nog houses I researched in Anomabo.11

History of Trade and Vernacular Architecture in Ghana

For more than 500 years the coast of Ghana has been the site of cultural contact between coastal groups, inland traders, and Westerners who came to trade for gold and slaves. Hybrid art forms born from such cultural contact are especially visible at urban centers on these routes. Anomabo, a historically significant port town founded in the mid-seventeenth century, is strategically located on the terminus of a north–south trade route to Kumasi, the center of the Asante Empire and gold mining, and to important cities along the Niger River in the Western Sudan (Figure 3). Anomabo grew quickly to become the largest coastal city with more than 15,000 inhabitants. Savvy middlemen traders amassed fortunes, and a new class of wealthy merchants prospered.12 On 15 June 1807, the Asante invaded and decimated the city of Anomabo. The defeat by the Asante brought an abrupt end to the loosely formed Fante Coalition designed to protect the trade routes. Powerful and wealthy members of coastal society were “ruined.” After the defeat, Anomabo reverted to a small town and lost its commercial prominence. Anomabo gradually rose to a position of commercial distinction and sociopolitical influence until 1912, when the port was closed.13

Figure 3

Map of southern Ghana (author’s drawing).

Figure 3

Map of southern Ghana (author’s drawing).

At its height in the eighteenth century, Anomabo’s vernacular architecture demonstrated hybridity through the combination of local and imported elements. Two forms of local architecture were prevalent in Anomabo: the courtyard house and the two-story compact house. Both were built using rammed earth construction that involves balls of swish—clay, straw, and other materials—thrown or rammed into place, a process that erects the building one layer at a time.14 The one-story courtyard house utilizes a plan of rooms arranged around a courtyard, which is found throughout coastal West Africa.15 The two-story house, however, is unusual along the Ghanaian coast, and it is found mainly in Anomabo, where the homes are reputed to be roughly 300 years old.16 The two-story house conveys the impact of trade routes and commercial success on Anomabo architecture; the compact house and two-story construction method were likely brought to Anomabo by masons from Islamic Mande areas in the Western Sudan.17 According to one of the earliest available descriptions of these structures from the 1840s, two-story houses served as a status symbol in urban ports, while smaller one-story houses were built on inland farms.18

Stone is widely available in most towns along the Ghanaian coast.19 Although the Fante could have chosen to use stone rather than swish at any time in the past five centuries, they did not do so until the late nineteenth century. Stone nog construction involves packing small stones, shells, corncobs, and other materials with a lime-based mortar into a wood framework to construct walls in layers. Nog houses have stone or brick facing and very thick walls, usually 16 to 18 inches. This technology was transported from Europe to the coast for European structures and is also commonly found in the Caribbean and Brazil.20

Castle Brew

Castle Brew—named after its original Irish inhabitant, Governor Richard Brew—is a prime mid-eighteenth-century example of British architectural style (Palladian) and stone nog construction, both of which were used in European commercial forts and homes in coastal Ghana prior to the colonial period (Figure 4). While he was governor, Brew became close friends with and a relative through marriage of Chief Besi Kurentsi of Anomabo, who established a reputation for hard bargaining with the European merchant companies.21 Kurentsi enlarged the Fante area by creating the first Fante Coalition to protect and dominate trade routes, and became the first omanhen, or ruler, of the Anomabo state.22 Castle Brew was built directly across from the British African Company of Merchants’ Anomabo Fort, later renamed Fort William.23 The two buildings were likely constructed by some of the same European and African craftsmen overseen by Governor Brew. Begun in 1761, the original Castle Brew is a compact, symmetrical, two-story Palladian structure incorporating a single hall and chamber plan. The façade incorporates classical features of a central entrance, arched windows, belt course, two-story pilasters, and elaborate cornice. In Ireland, Palladian country homes positioned stairs to the main entrance on the front façade; Brew chose instead to place stairs on the back of his grand house, making the formal entrance for guests accessible from the courtyard (Figure 5). Approximately eighty years later, Scottish governor Brodie Cruickshank extended Castle Brew with a Palladian south wing and, at the same time, constructed a third story on part of Fort William, using European and African craftsmen on both projects.24 Cruickshank’s addition to Castle Brew is similar in style to the original structure but eliminated the belt course and pilasters.

Figure 4

The Castle Brew compound includes the original Castle Brew, far right; the Cruickshank Addition, middle; and the Blankson Addition, unplastered on left. Original Castle Brew, Richard Brew, Irish, ca. 1761–63; Cruickshank Addition, Brodie G. Cruickshank, Scottish, ca. 1841–44; Blankson Addition, George Kuntu Blankson, Fante, ca. late 1860s–early 1870s. Stone nog, brick (cement plaster and paint, added in the 1960s to the original Castle Brew and Cruickshank Addition), Anomabo, Ghana, 2009 (author’s photo).

Figure 4

The Castle Brew compound includes the original Castle Brew, far right; the Cruickshank Addition, middle; and the Blankson Addition, unplastered on left. Original Castle Brew, Richard Brew, Irish, ca. 1761–63; Cruickshank Addition, Brodie G. Cruickshank, Scottish, ca. 1841–44; Blankson Addition, George Kuntu Blankson, Fante, ca. late 1860s–early 1870s. Stone nog, brick (cement plaster and paint, added in the 1960s to the original Castle Brew and Cruickshank Addition), Anomabo, Ghana, 2009 (author’s photo).

Figure 5

The courtyard façade of Castle Brew with steps leading to an arcade on the second floor. Alternating black and white marble tiles lead visitors up the steps to the double-door entrance, Anomabo, Ghana, 2008 (author’s photo).

Figure 5

The courtyard façade of Castle Brew with steps leading to an arcade on the second floor. Alternating black and white marble tiles lead visitors up the steps to the double-door entrance, Anomabo, Ghana, 2008 (author’s photo).

George Kuntu Blankson and the Fante Confederacy

When he died in 1854, Cruickshank transferred his business and property, including Castle Brew, to George Kuntu Blankson, his right-hand man. The son of a Fante chief, Blankson had received a British education in Anomabo and Cape Coast and was a successful businessman, diplomat, and military leader. In 1834, Governor George McLean of the Cape Coast fort employed Blankson on a mission to the Asante kingdom, where the ruler, Asantehene Osei Yaw Akoto, “detained” Blankson for eighteen months and used his services as a clerk for political correspondence.25 By 1843 Blankson had returned to Anomabo, where he managed the Methodist Mission and eventually worked as a trading agent for Cruickshank. Cruickshank took Blankson to England and introduced him to his partners in the mercantile house of Forster and Smith. Blankson forged a successful business relationship with Forster and Smith and expanded his business across Ghana’s Central Region with stores in Kormantine, Asafa, Arkrah, Apam, Mankwadzi, Winneba, and Otuam. As an elite member of coastal society with links to the Asante Empire, Blankson was embroiled in local and colonial politics. He and other Anomabo leaders were involved in the diplomatic missions of the Fante Confederacy (1868–73). As a member of the confederacy’s leadership, Blankson was specifically employed to handle diplomatic relations with the Asante or, failing that, lead the Anomabo troops into battle against the Asante.26

While Fante chiefs had had the advantage in most trading arrangements during the eighteenth century, continual attacks from the Asante in the nineteenth century shifted power gradually to the British, who mediated between Fante and Asante to keep the trade routes open to the Asante gold mines. The British administration increasingly gained power on the coast by intervening in Fante judicial and land matters.27 Fante leaders grew weary of British impositions and broken promises to end Asante invasions, and thus they created the short-lived Fante Confederacy to regain their former independence and power.28 The confederacy’s direct aims were to provide security and protection for the Fante against the Asante, their main enemy; to establish and maintain self-government; and to achieve modern development. A military force was established to oust or at least diminish Dutch and British power on the coast.29

According to historian David Kimble, however, the inability of the Fante chiefs and elites “to agree even on a leader chosen from among themselves remained one fatal flaw in the whole Fanti Confederation movement … . Lacking a leader, the Fantis lacked discipline and organization to fight their own battles.”30 The demise of the confederacy in 1873 was due to the lack of consensus among Fante leadership, financial hardship caused by the inability to trade during wartime, and British imprisonment of most of the prominent leaders in 1871.31

The Blankson Addition

During the period of his involvement with the Fante Confederacy, Blankson initiated the construction of a second addition to Castle Brew (Figure 6). The Blankson Addition is the earliest surviving example of a Fante patron commissioning a building of stone nog construction and Palladian style in Anomabo or anywhere on the Ghanaian coast.32 Either the two-story addition was not completed, or followers of the hierarchy damaged it after the Fante chiefs accused Blankson of treason in 1873.33 An arcade of four true arches spans the south entrance and suggests a commercial purpose for the ground floor. The addition appropriated classical details from the original Castle Brew, including arched windows, belt course, and a cornice on the one-story balcony. The plan uses a single hall and chamber design similar to the plan of Castle Brew, with an added porch across the front, a corridor along the courtyard side, and an additional room connecting the addition to the Cruickshank wing (Figure 7).

Figure 6

George Kuntu Blankson Addition, South Façade, Castle Brew, ca. late 1860s to early 1870s, stone nog, brick, Anomabo, Ghana, 2009 (author’s photo).

Figure 6

George Kuntu Blankson Addition, South Façade, Castle Brew, ca. late 1860s to early 1870s, stone nog, brick, Anomabo, Ghana, 2009 (author’s photo).

Figure 7

Plan, Castle Brew compound, Anomabo, Ghana (modified by the author based on a drawing by A. D. C. Hyland from Margaret Priestley, West African Trade and Coast Society: A Family Study [London: Oxford UP, 1969]) (by permission of Oxford University Press).

Figure 7

Plan, Castle Brew compound, Anomabo, Ghana (modified by the author based on a drawing by A. D. C. Hyland from Margaret Priestley, West African Trade and Coast Society: A Family Study [London: Oxford UP, 1969]) (by permission of Oxford University Press).

Franklin House (Figure 8) in Accra, which once overlooked the busy nineteenth-century harbor, may have served as another inspiration for the Blankson Addition, as they share a similar Palladian design and construction method.34 Franklin House was built around 1800, probably by a Danish merchant, who used it as a residence and slave-trading fort. Danish contractors taught local craftsmen of the Ga ethnic group how to build this and several other Danish buildings in the area utilizing stone nog.35 By 1850 Danish properties on the coast had been transferred to the British, and thus it was a British property at the time Blankson might have drawn inspiration.

Figure 8

Franklin House, Danish patron(s), ca. 1800, stone nog, brick, Jamestown, Accra, Ghana, 2012 (author’s photo).

Figure 8

Franklin House, Danish patron(s), ca. 1800, stone nog, brick, Jamestown, Accra, Ghana, 2012 (author’s photo).

Blankson made an intriguing choice to build an addition that used a European architectural style. By the 1860s the Ghanaian elites were increasingly appropriating European visual symbols of power, including clothing and furnishings, as a means of exhibiting their modernity.36 I understand this appropriation as a form of what theoretician Homi Bhabha calls “colonial mimicry,” which “is constructed around an ambivalence … the sign of a double articulation; a complex strategy of reform, regulation and discipline, which ‘appropriates’ the Other as it visualizes power.”37 Blankson’s mimicry of European architecture is an obvious symbol of status, for the cost to quarry and build in stone was great. In light of Blankson’s involvement with the Fante Confederacy, it seems disjunctive to interpret his mimicry of a European architectural style as a mere homage to European power. Rather, I propose that Blankson’s choice of European architectural symbols from Castle Brew and Franklin House made a visual connection between his power and that of the Europeans, proving local right to rule through a show of power, wealth, and modernity. While this choice was a seemingly subtle reference to Western eyes, many Fante would have understood it as a visual symbol with multiple meanings. It is not surprising that Blankson, a man involved in the multifaceted social and political situation of the late nineteenth-century coast, deliberately selected European architectural materials, techniques, and a style that would be understood in the local sociopolitical context to communicate resistance to growing European authority.

When the British formed the Gold Coast Colony in 1874, the colonial capital was Cape Coast, a port town only 15 miles west of Anomabo.38 Three years later Britain moved its colonial capital to Accra, 75 miles east of Anomabo, and placed political authority in the hands of traditional rulers whom they thought they could manipulate.39 In doing so, they undermined the economic, social, and political status of members of the long-established African elite class, such as Blankson, and separated them from the ruling hierarchy.40 According to Michael Crowder, the educated elite in Britain’s West African colonies became “disinherited under the new British system of colonial rule in favour of the traditional chiefs, who were not encouraged to speak the language of the colonizer, nor imbibe Western culture. Rather it was hoped they would not be contaminated by it.”41 As Gold Coast elites continued to lose power into the twentieth century, they increasingly proclaimed their rights through visual culture. Though structures similar to the Blankson Addition were built after the 1870s, many of the stone nog structures that survive today date between 1900 and 1920, and are located primarily in Anomabo and Cape Coast.42

Justice Akwa and the Sobrado

One of these houses, built around 1900, was constructed for Justice Akwa or Kofi Amoaku (ca. 1870–1950). Akwa was a Fante agent for Cadbury Bros., English chocolatiers based in Saltpond, an important port town east of Anomabo, and a Methodist.43 For his family house, he used an Afro-Portuguese sobrado plan and British stylistic elements (Figure 9). The Afro-Portuguese sobrado is a house with a second-story timber veranda and multiple interior chambers accessible from a central corridor. These Portuguese-style houses were constructed by Europeans in hot climates all over the world, including, as early as the sixteenth century, port cities in Brazil and along the West African coast.44 It was not until the late nineteenth century that these elements were incorporated into local structures for wealthy Ghanaian patrons who may have desired to connect themselves with other coastal elites and identify themselves as urban dwellers and “civilized” members of coastal society. According to cultural anthropologist Bayo Holsey’s study of Cape Coast, this “imitation” took place because there was an increasing desire on the part of coastal elites to separate themselves physically and conceptually from inland peoples, particularly those from the northern savannas, who in the past were often raided and brought to the coast to be sold as slaves. Europeans on the coast regarded these northern peoples, called nnonkofo or slaves, as uncivilized and worthy of being enslaved, a prejudice that continued into the twentieth century. In contrast, and likely due to the centuries of commercial contact with the Fante and others, the Europeans viewed the coastal people as superior to the nnonkofo. The coastal elites sought to distinguish themselves and impress the resident British with their cultured difference from those who were enslaved. The danger of being recognized as an enslavable person caused coastal residents to highlight their identity as urban, cosmopolitan individuals.45

Figure 9

Justice Akwa family residence, ca. 1900, stone nog with brick facing (cement plaster on the second story added later), Anomabo, Ghana, 2008 (author’s photo).

Figure 9

Justice Akwa family residence, ca. 1900, stone nog with brick facing (cement plaster on the second story added later), Anomabo, Ghana, 2008 (author’s photo).

Houses with the sobrado plan were associated with the urban, cosmopolitan culture of European colonists and the coastal elites. In the mid-nineteenth century, two disparate groups in Ghana employed the sobrado plan: repatriated African slaves from Brazil, called Tabom, and masons trained by European missionaries of the Basel Mission, located in the Akuapem Hills area northeast of Accra.46 In the 1830s, when the Tabom repatriated from Brazil, the Ga people gave them land along Brazil Lane in the Jamestown suburb of Accra. The Tabom constructed a single-story, stone nog structure that is known today as the Brazil House. According to Mae-ling Jovenes Lokko, the Afro-Brazilian Tabom “dressed in top hats, finely tailored coats and [were] fluent in Portuguese … . They were seen as modern men and women.”47The Tabom’s modernity may have become associated with the sobrado plan houses that they built, making this house form more desirable to the coastal elites.48

Masons trained at the Basel Mission in the Akuapem Hills, north of Accra, also disseminated the sobrado plan. Established initially at Christiansborg in 1828, the Basel Mission was furthered by the work of Danish missionary Andreas Riis (1804–54), who transferred the mission to the Akuapem Hills in 1835 and established a training college in Akropong in 1848.49 Local craftsmen trained to become masons for three years, and apprentices received small stipends.50 After their apprenticeship the craftsmen migrated to the coastal areas in search of work; some set up their own workshops.51 This migration led to the dissemination of the sobrado plan along with a wide range of building techniques. By the 1880s all the major coastal towns had sobrado residences. Architect A. D. C. Hyland observed that every Fante town contained at least one substantial Christian mission or church with walls of stone, brick, or mud with a timber veranda, revealing the work of a mission-trained builder.52

The Justice Akwa family residence uses the sobrado plan with a central corridor running east to west (Figure 10), in combination with the Palladian hall and chamber plan. The symmetrical plan with a corridor and six rooms is identical on both floors. Upstairs retains its original flooring of wood planks on timber supports. Centrally located doors on all four sides of the house once led onto a timber veranda (no longer extant), allowing cool breezes to circulate. Small holes visible above the belt course once held iron rods that supported the veranda floor, an advance in technology. Small holes between the windows may indicate that original iron fasteners were used to hold shutters open. Large piers, evidence of which appears on the ground, supported the veranda.53

Figure 10

Plan, Justice Akwa family residence, Anomabo, Ghana (author’s drawing).

Figure 10

Plan, Justice Akwa family residence, Anomabo, Ghana (author’s drawing).

The sobrado plan of the Akwa residence can be compared to an example in Nigeria. Yoruba and Igbo elite architecture in southern Nigeria and the Republic of Benin often reflects Afro-Brazilian styles and plans.54 Art historian John Michael Vlach documented the sobrado plan (Figure 11) and classical decorative elements of Afro-Brazilian houses in southwestern Nigeria. The plan of the Akwa residence (see Figure 10) incorporates a hall and chamber plan with one door on each side of the corridor leading to the halls, whereas in the Nigerian plan all the room doors open directly into the central corridor, indicating potential regional differences. Since Vlach has traced the sobrado plans in Nigeria to precedents in Brazil, this lends further credence to the possibility that Tabom masons may have worked in Anomabo.55

Figure 11

Plan, Afro-Brazilian residence in Ile-Ife, Nigeria (drawing from John Michael Vlach, “Afro-Brazilian [Nigeria, SW],” in Vernacular Architecture of the World, ed. Paul Oliver [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997], 2034).

Figure 11

Plan, Afro-Brazilian residence in Ile-Ife, Nigeria (drawing from John Michael Vlach, “Afro-Brazilian [Nigeria, SW],” in Vernacular Architecture of the World, ed. Paul Oliver [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997], 2034).

Access to British Architectural Styles

Even though much of the embellishment on the Justice Akwa residence has been stripped,56 the exteriors once displayed the refined classical elements of the British Italianate and Queen Anne styles with pilasters, belt course, cornice, sills, and entablatures. Based on my field observations, I believe the Akwa residence once had pilasters flanking the main entrance facing Annobil Street and entablatures over the doors. Each window had a decorative sill and entablature made from local bricks. Sills were composed of two courses of bricks. Three rows of brick fashioned a stepped entablature. Though the exterior displays classical symmetry, the plan is slightly asymmetrical in the placement of the interior walls. The wall separating the chamber in the top right of the plan from the hall emanates from the left, while the other inner walls emanate from the right. I maintain that this subtle difference creates a space relating to Fante culture, manifest in Thompson’s idea of offbeat phrasing.

The Italianate and Queen Anne styles, the two most popular architectural styles in Britain during the latter half of the nineteenth century, may have been known to Justice Akwa or his contractor via direct experience with buildings in Britain, or more likely, pattern books that were distributed across the British Empire. The Italianate, an extension of the classical style, was popular for nearly a century, particularly among the rising middle class.57 The style is identified by brick or stone masonry, a roof with a shallow pitch, classical architectural detail, bracketed eaves, bay and clustered windows, verandas, and a tall square tower.58 The Italianate style in Britain had its peak popularity when Queen Victoria’s Osborne House was completed in 1851. The style was “codified, developed and promoted in the rush of architectural pattern books from the beginning of the nineteenth century which served an eager market.”59 Architectural historian Timothy Fletcher Hubbard notes that these “books provided knowledge in the form of information and advice which empowered their middle class clients.”60

Pattern books also disseminated the Queen Anne style, one of several so-called English styles prominent in London neighborhoods and popular from the 1870s until the early twentieth century.61 According to architectural historian Mark Girouard, “ ‘Queen Anne’ … was a kind of architectural cocktail, with a little genuine Queen Anne in it, a little Dutch, a little Flemish, a squeeze of Robert Adam, a generous dash of Wren, and a touch of François Ier.”62 Architects and academicians considered this hybrid style “a bastard style,” but the growing Victorian English middle class embraced the Queen Anne style.63

These two styles, popular with the rising English middle class, would have been equally suitable for the rising elite classes in port cities of the British Empire. In addition to pattern books, the Gold Coast elites had texts like Samuel Smiles’s 1859 book Self-Help, which “provided a motivational text and a guide for many Gold Coast school children well into the twentieth century, promoting ‘achievement through hard work and through the emulation of great men and women [that] meshed perfectly with conceptions of the self-made individual.’ ”64 Akwa may have thought these British styles appropriate to convey his rising status in the community as an individual not linked to the ruling hierarchy. The Akwa residence can be compared to one built at 170 Queen’s Gate in London completed in 1889 for Frederick Anthony White, a wealthy cement manufacturer (Figure 12). The building depicts the Queen Anne style architect Richard Norman Shaw (1831–1912) made famous and takes the form of a monumental, rectangular residence built from local brick with stone dressings.65 Fanned bricks create the window pediments, while the coursed bricks on those of the Akwa residence make the same “fanned” impression. Both homes practice classical restraint below the roofline and have a more elaborate entrance. Homes in Anomabo have low-pitched roofs, originally covered with imported iron sheeting, whereas Shaw incorporated large cornices, similarly used in the Italianate style, and quoins.66 Due to the type of materials available, it was not possible to incorporate Shaw’s flourishes above the cornice in the Akwa residence. Another key difference between the houses is the incorporation of the veranda on the Akwa residence. Verandas, an element of sobrados, once graced nearly every two-story Anomabo stone or brick residence of the period. Rather than mimicking Western styles directly, this home, like many others on the Gold Coast, reinterpreted them.

Figure 12

Richard Norman Shaw, architect, for Frederick Anthony White, 170 Queen’s Gate, 1889, brick, London, England, 1891 (reproduced by permission of English Heritage).

Figure 12

Richard Norman Shaw, architect, for Frederick Anthony White, 170 Queen’s Gate, 1889, brick, London, England, 1891 (reproduced by permission of English Heritage).

The Russell House

The Russell House (see Figure 1) has been so named for an early twentieth-century tenant, a representative of the English company H. B. W. Russell & Co. Ltd., who ran a store on the ground floor sometime after 1915.67 While it has been considered a British colonial house, the descendants and current owners of the Russell House provided copies of both the land tenure and building permit proving this residence was built for three African siblings in the late nineteenth century.68 On the basis of this evidence and other sources, I have ascertained that one of the siblings, Methodist Reverend John Oboboam Hammond (1860–1918), was the lead family member and patron who selected the plans and details of the house. In 1902, as superintendent of the circuit in Winneba, he received credit in the local newspaper for the Bereku School House: “The building does great credit to Rev. Hammond’s architectural ability; it is simple in construction but grand in appearance.”69 He was also being considered for the position of district superintendent of buildings in Kumasi in 1913.70 In a two-column obituary in the Gold Coast Nation, Hammond, who died from “a protracted kidney disease,” was celebrated as “a builder of churches … the Winnebah, Saltpond, Anamaboe and Elmina Wesleyan Chapels are lasting memorials of his genius as a born architect, although he was only an amateur.”71 At the opening and dedication of the Methodist Chapel in Saltpond, about seven years after his death, Hammond was credited in a local newspaper with the design of that building, for he, “while alive, expressed his genius in brick and mortar.”72

The Russell House is an elegant example of Gold Coast hybrid architecture. At one time, one-story buildings and a wall enclosed the Akan-style courtyard area (Figure 13). Double entranceway stairs at the back of the structure led to a veranda and provided access to the upper story. The interior plan is based on the sobrado, while the exterior incorporates the restrained classical elements of the Italianate style. The façade has seven anse de panier arches, or flat arches, with brick voussoirs (see Figure 1), which provided a convenient way to display and access merchandise. The original arched windows on the second floor have been reframed for rectangular shutters. Upper-story windows on the main façade align with the openings below. Unlike other Anomabo homes, most of the exterior of the Russell House has not been plastered; thus, it is possible to see the construction materials and method. The stone nog walls have been constructed in layered sections with a thin horizontal layer of small dark-gray granite stones to decoratively mark the layers.73 The Italianate style is also present in southern Nigeria. For example, the Adinembo house was constructed in 1926 as a three-story residence with a symmetrical façade, a ground-floor arcade, three-story pilasters, belt courses, and pilastered quoins.74

Figure 13

Le Corbusier, Unité d’Habitation, Marseille, rendering of first plan, Madrague district, autumn 1945 (Fondation Le Corbusier, Paris, FLC 26662; © F.L.C./ADAGP, Paris/Artists Rights Society [ARS], New York 2014).

Figure 13

Le Corbusier, Unité d’Habitation, Marseille, rendering of first plan, Madrague district, autumn 1945 (Fondation Le Corbusier, Paris, FLC 26662; © F.L.C./ADAGP, Paris/Artists Rights Society [ARS], New York 2014).

Like the Akwa house, offbeat phrasing is evident in the plan of the Russell House, in the asymmetrical arrangement of the rooms on either side of the central corridor. On the lower level, the sobrado plan was altered to suit its original function as a corner store facing two main streets. A chamber on the northwestern corner opens to the courtyard. The plan upstairs copies the plan below, except this chamber opens into another chamber. The local elements of a courtyard and asymmetrical plan, combined with the British Italianate style and sobrado plan, are cleverly synthesized to visually communicate a sense of modernity and cosmopolitanism.

Kobena Mefful and Methodism

The Kobena Mefful residence (Figure 14) is a hybrid house that presents another layer of meaning. Kobena James B. Mefful (1853–1943) was a member of the Methodist Church; a captain with the Tuafo No. 1 asafo military company; and tufuhen or commander in chief over the asafo military companies in the area.75 Mefful is an atypical member of elite society, for he apparently was not a Western-educated professional.76 Like many other members of the coastal elites, however, he may have been intimately tied to the Methodist Church. Anomabo was one of the earliest cities to have an established Methodist presence, and the elites were among the first to convert and support the church.77 Michel Doortmont frames the elite “conversion to Christianity and the membership of mission churches in terms of ‘an act of modernity’ set within a sociological and historical-theoretical rather than a theological framework.”78 According to anthropologist Birgit Meyer, while conversion to Christianity implied a connection to a global society, the missions actually emphasized ethnic identity and local tradition as an attempt “to trap Africans in their own culture and nationhood and prevent them from raising their voice.”79 Indeed, Cape Coast Methodist elites, such as John Mensah Sarbah (1864–1910) and Samuel Richard Brew Attoh-Ahuma (1863–1921), promoted a Fante “traditional” lifestyle and attacked elites who adopted other European forms of culture, keeping the elites divided though they had similar goals.80

Figure 14

Kobena Mefful family residence, ca. 1900, stone nog with brick facing (cement plaster and paint added later), Anomabo, Ghana, 2009 (author’s photo).

Figure 14

Kobena Mefful family residence, ca. 1900, stone nog with brick facing (cement plaster and paint added later), Anomabo, Ghana, 2009 (author’s photo).

Mefful built his family residence sometime after April 1898. During my on-site research, I observed that Mefful translated the plan of Anomabo’s Methodist mission, constructed in rammed earth sixty years earlier, into stone nog with brick facing.81 In contrast with the mission, Mefful enclosed the veranda (Figure 15). On the interior, two arcades, one with true arches and the other with mushroom arches (arches with notches), visually divide the ground-floor central hall yet create one large space. Although the plan is similar upstairs, it does not incorporate arches. Several of the surviving houses in Anomabo incorporate exterior and interior arches and arcades. While some of these are true or anse de panier arches, mushroom arches are equally common. The mushroom arch may have been adopted from African Islamic architecture brought by Mande builders or, more likely, from similar arches found in European forts along the Gold Coast. Only one arch in the Anomabo fort resembles a mushroom arch (Figure 16); it is located on the wall facing town and may have inspired the entrance to the Mefful residence. Thus, it can be difficult to determine whether an architectural feature was influenced by an African or European source.

Figure 15

Plan, Kobena Mefful family residence, Anomabo, Ghana (author’s drawing).

Figure 15

Plan, Kobena Mefful family residence, Anomabo, Ghana (author’s drawing).

Figure 16

Fort William, north side, 1760 and 1840s, stone nog (paint added later), Anomabo, Ghana, 2008 (author’s photo).

Figure 16

Fort William, north side, 1760 and 1840s, stone nog (paint added later), Anomabo, Ghana, 2008 (author’s photo).

The exterior boasts a Queen Anne style, with classical details and baroque flourishes uncommon in other Anomabo homes. Classical details include a decorative entrance with attached columns and an arched entablature with relief motifs (Figure 17).82 The building is visually and structurally anchored at all four pilastered quoins, a common architectural practice used in two-story buildings of stone nog (Italianate and Queen Anne) and rammed earth construction. Two additional pilasters are located on each side of the house at the junction of interior walls. The pilasters and windows are regularly spaced, though the remaining two windows on the ground floor do not align with the windows above, creating an asymmetrical element in an otherwise symmetrical façade.83 The exterior aesthetic of restraint with limited decoration in arched windows and pilasters around the entrance, along with the balanced interior plan, exhibits the Italianate style, yet variations, such as the asymmetrical window placement, create offbeat phrasing.

Figure 17

Entrance, Kobena Mefful family residence, Anomabo, Ghana, 2009 (author’s photo).

Figure 17

Entrance, Kobena Mefful family residence, Anomabo, Ghana, 2009 (author’s photo).

Baroque details in the Mefful residence may indicate an allegiance with Methodism or, more likely, the Fante paramouncy based in Mankessim. In the Mefful residence, the veranda is enclosed with decorative half columns to divide the multiple windows (Figure 18). These half columns resemble decorative scrolls on the exterior of Anomabo’s Ebenezer Methodist Church, completed in 1895 (Figure 19), and the Chief’s Palace in Mankessim. I contend that the coastal elites, including Rev. Hammond, who funded and directed much of the construction of the Ebenezer Methodist Church, borrowed these scrolled pilasters from those on the Mankessim palace, as Mefful did, to forge a visual connection to the important Fante center. In addition to being the first Fante settlement after a long migration south, Mankessim is also home to Nananom Mpow, or the “grove of the ancestors.” Although Methodist missionaries had diminished the power of the grove in the mid-nineteenth century, a connection to its power during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries alludes to the height of power for the Fante people and Anomabo.84

Figure 18

Baroque half columns on veranda, Kobena Mefful family residence, Anomabo, Ghana, 2009 (author’s photo).

Figure 18

Baroque half columns on veranda, Kobena Mefful family residence, Anomabo, Ghana, 2009 (author’s photo).

Figure 19

Ebenezer Methodist Church, Revs. James Picot, James Fletcher, and John Oboboam Hammond, 1895, stone nog. Renovation 1966–71, rebuilt main entrance façade, stone nog, cement, and paint. Anomabo, Ghana, 2009 (author’s photo).

Figure 19

Ebenezer Methodist Church, Revs. James Picot, James Fletcher, and John Oboboam Hammond, 1895, stone nog. Renovation 1966–71, rebuilt main entrance façade, stone nog, cement, and paint. Anomabo, Ghana, 2009 (author’s photo).

Mefful may have followed Methodism as a connection to the modern ideas esteemed by the elite class, but he never gave up his allegiance with Fante religious and political affiliations. Fante members of the asafo and Methodism found a way to resolve the theologies even though the asafo were polytheistic and Methodists were monotheistic. Historians Bengt Sundkler and Christopher Steed note the difference between conversion and adhesion, stressing that adhesion, “understanding of the new as a useful supplement to traditional religion,” was more common than conversion in Africa.85 The Mefful house exhibits adhesion rather than conversion because of the many details that mix British and local architectural elements. Thus, in architecture, as in religion, a British exterior might not denote conversion or mere mimicry.

The Amonoo Family Residence

The hybridity of the Amonoo residence also expresses this principle of adhesion and an alliance between the ruling hierarchy and Western-educated elites. After 1900 Ghanaian merchants and businessmen gradually lost their economic power as the British favored local chieftancies and European businesses flourished on the Gold Coast. After the Asante were subdued in 1896, Fante elites felt the need to counteract British officials who wished to maintain their power by preventing the British military from withdrawing from the coast. In order to portray the Fante elite as dishonest and inefficient, British officials wrote to Her Majesty’s service in London that, by leaving the coast, Britain would be handing over power to Africans they described as “a number of mischievous, half-educated mulatto adventurers.”86 According to historian Michel Doortmont, “The hope for a peaceful co-existence and mutual advancement of business between Africans and Europeans … had vaporized by the 1920s.”87 Thus, a power struggle took place between British officials and the local elites.

The massive Amonoo residence (Figure 20) was completed in 1920 for Kwamin Atta Amonoo (d. 1930), or Ata-Amonu, son of Omanhen Amonoo V (d. 1921) and a London-educated attorney. Western-educated Amonoo V was a member of the Legislative Council of the Gold Coast (1916–21).88 Atta Amonoo, elected to the Legislative Council of Nigeria in 1923, traveled repeatedly between Calabar, Nigeria, where he worked, and the coast of Ghana, often traveling with William Ward Brew (1878–1943), with whom he worked in the British West African Conference of 1920. Essentially the conference gathered African delegates, members of the elite class and the hierarchy, from the Gold Coast, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Gambia to discuss many reforms that the Fante Confederacy had placed in their constitution nearly fifty years prior.89 Architectural historian Ikemefuna Stanley Ifejika Okoye has illuminated the connections between the two British colonies (known today as Ghana and Nigeria), noting that exchanges had flowed between both since the 1870s.90 Atta Amonoo would have seen British architecture in Nigeria and along the Ghanaian coast, as well as African elite architecture in Nigeria and Ghana.

Figure 20

Amonoo family residence, west side, Kwamin Atta Amonoo 1920, stone nog, brick, concrete (paint added later), Anomabo, Ghana, 2009 (author’s photo).

Figure 20

Amonoo family residence, west side, Kwamin Atta Amonoo 1920, stone nog, brick, concrete (paint added later), Anomabo, Ghana, 2009 (author’s photo).

The Amonoo residence is sited on a hill that is known locally as ohen kokwaado, or lawyer’s hill, and faces the Omanhen’s Palace, a former Dutch lodge, and Fort William. European forts and residences had been symbols of wealth and power on the Ghanaian coastline for centuries.91 The immense structure was visible to everyone in the town and to passersby on the coastal road. Like the Blankson Addition, the residence stands opposite European structures, allowing the visible urban arena to become a charged space for revaluing power relationships.

The Amonoo residence (Figure 21), constructed primarily in stone nog, exhibits many Italianate features: pilasters, cornice, belt course, a ground-floor arcade, arched windows with spoke-like entablatures, and a symmetrical façade. An arcade on the ground-level façade is composed of true arches framed in brick and divided by two-story pilasters. Five arches span the façade, and another arch at each side creates an open arcade. Only the southwest corner is open today; the rest of the arcade has been enclosed. Each arch springs from a heavy impost block about 2 feet high. Some of these blocks and lower sections of the arches are composed of concrete blocks, used sporadically and intermixed with local brick (possibly an early experimentation with concrete block construction). As in the arches at the Russell House, bricks were placed lengthwise along the form of the arch to create an attractive band of contrasting color and texture to the stone wall. The material differs from the Blankson Addition arcade, where dark-gray granite stones were laid lengthwise, yet exhibits the same aesthetic inclination (see Figure 6). Similar to other structures built around 1900, such as the Russell House, a decorative approach to highlighting the layered stone nog construction is visible on the back side of the Amonoo residence.

Figure 21

Amonoo family residence, front, Anomabo, Ghana, 2009 (author’s photo).

Figure 21

Amonoo family residence, front, Anomabo, Ghana, 2009 (author’s photo).

The plan (Figure 22) consists of two large halls toward the front and a row of chambers on one side of the courtyard. A timber veranda faces the courtyard. The upstairs plan is identical with an enclosed veranda across the front. True arches frame the sides of the arcade, but the arch is not centered evenly between the pilasters. In fact, the arch appears to be cut off by the left pilaster (Figure 23). The true arches across the façade arcade, in contrast, are centered between the pilasters, proving the asymmetry of the side arcade arches is not an error but a choice.

Figure 22

Plan, Amonoo family residence, Anomabo, Ghana (author’s drawing).

Figure 22

Plan, Amonoo family residence, Anomabo, Ghana (author’s drawing).

Figure 23

Amonoo family residence, partial west side, Anomabo, Ghana, 2009 (author’s photo).

Figure 23

Amonoo family residence, partial west side, Anomabo, Ghana, 2009 (author’s photo).

The Amonoo residence can be compared to a house constructed around 1883 in Cape Coast (Figure 24) for Allen Quansah, a wealthy Fante merchant who made several trips to Europe. The symmetrical façade is similar to Amonoo’s house, with a series of five arched entrances across the ground floor, belt courses, pilastered quoins, arched windows with spoke-like entablatures, and a cornice. Although both stone nog residences borrow from the Italianate style, details on the façade differ. The Quansah house has a double hall and chamber plan with two large central halls and side chambers, borrowing from the Palladian plan. Though the Amonoo residence displays a British Italianate style, the interior space is organized in Fante fashion with rooms arranged around a courtyard.92 I believe the Amonoo residence, like the Mefful residence, exhibits hybridity through adhesion to express status and modernity in a unique way.

Figure 24

Allen Quansah family residence, ca. 1883, stone nog, brick (cement plaster and paint added later), Cape Coast, Ghana, 2009 (author’s photo).

Figure 24

Allen Quansah family residence, ca. 1883, stone nog, brick (cement plaster and paint added later), Cape Coast, Ghana, 2009 (author’s photo).


These stately homes constructed by some of the most powerful members of the Gold Coast elite class served as visual markers that conveyed multiple meanings. The cultural appropriations evident in these houses demonstrate a widespread desire on the part of Africans to express their status as wealthy, cosmopolitan, global individuals who were educated and economically connected. Cultural appropriation is an ongoing process in Fante architecture, from eighteenth century two-story compact rammed earth houses to colonial period Italianate and Queen Anne–style stone nog residences to postindependence International Style buildings to contemporary postmodern concrete homes.93 In 1941, British anthropologist Godfrey Wilson expressed the colonial period motivations of urban Africans as a desire to be “full and equal citizens of a modern urban society. If they enthusiastically adopted elaborate forms of European dress and manners, it was to press their claim ‘to be respected by the Europeans and by one another as civilized, if humble, men, members of the new world society.’ ”94 Anthropologist James Ferguson agreed that the adoption of European manners and dress was a means of claiming the “political and social rights of full membership in a wider society.”95 While exterior appearance demonstrated a desire to conform to British ideas of modernity, other messages were being simultaneously communicated by the Fante elites that convey their being equal to the task of self-governance.

The hybrid style evidenced by African colonial residences in Ghana combines local architectural elements—such as two-story compact houses, courtyard plans, and asymmetrical details —with the sobrado and imported Italianate and Queen Anne styles. In the British Empire, the Italianate and Queen Anne styles were identified with the rising class and ideas of self-improvement attached to status, modernity, and Christianity. These architectural styles would have been equally suitable for the rising elite class in port cities of the Gold Coast because of the elites’ aspiration to be members of modern urban society. While these grand residences displayed family and individual status, these homes can be interpreted as representations of local resistance to British control. Through the process of adhesion, local patrons in Anomabo appropriated a cloak of British style that could be viewed by the colonizers as emblems of mimicry, yet they also cultivated a reverse gaze, effectively empowering locals by harnessing British power symbols. This Akan tactic is observed in other Fante art forms, including Fancy Dress, asafo flags, and posuban.

Thus, I interpret the façade of British styles as a tactic to transfer hegemonic power to the indigenous culture. It is not always necessary to achieve a military victory in order to retake power from an oppressor, though conquered peoples must devise more covert strategies. As such, resistance via mimicry may be difficult to detect through Western paradigms. Art historian Janet Catherine Berlo, who studies Native American and Inuit cultural resistance through artistic expression, sees these covert strategies as “taking an active stance in relation to one’s own culture and in relation to the dominant culture.”96

In a similar way, I suggest that the Fante utilized hybrid architecture to convey double or multiple messages, “mock[ing Britain’s] power to be a model, that power which supposedly makes it imitable,” as Bhabha puts it.97 While the Fante Confederacy had tried both diplomatic and military efforts to enforce its right to rule, the Fante needed to adopt covert strategies of resistance after the British established the Gold Coast Colony. For veterans of World War I, such as Atta Amonoo, who was awarded a Star for his service in battle in Cameroon, it was apparent that the Fante could never physically oust the British and their allies.98 Richard Harris and Garth Myers, specialists in geography and urban planning, have examined local hybrid housing in Zanzibar, East Africa, and stressed the significance of hybrid vernacular architecture to understanding “cultural patterns and change … . Colonizers strove for control; hybridity hints at its limits.”99 Harris and Myers imply that hybridity acts as a form of resistance against colonial hegemony. In a similar vein, regarding homes in Nigeria, Okoye asserts:

For, by imagining power as inherent in an object … by imagining power as almost graspable in a physical sense; by dissociating power from the European possessor of it, a very different conclusion might then result from their performances of mimicry. That is, such a relocation of power as is inherent in the architectural innovations of the period allows the mimicry of Europe to operate as a means of attempting to restore something previously usurped.100

In Ghana, I assert that this “relocation of power” was first attempted in the Blankson Addition, where European architectural style was appropriated to relocate power from the Europeans back to the coastal African elites. This relocation of power was mirrored in the efforts of the Fante Confederacy to which Blankson belonged.

Postcolonial theorists have addressed issues concerning cultural appropriation as expressions of identity in the global context. Bhabha writes that the “menace of mimicry is its double vision which in disclosing the ambivalence of colonial disclosure also disrupts its authority.”101 With its British façade and Fante plan for the interior, the Amonoo residence evokes political resistance through its hybridity. Historian Michael Crowder has observed that Britain’s system of “indirect rule seemed designed to exclude the educated elite from an effective national role, and was therefore seen as an agency of reaction against the forces of modernization which colonial exploitation had stimulated.”102 Yet, as a key delegate for the Gold Coast in the British West African Conference and later as a member of the Legislative Council in Nigeria, Atta Amonoo played an active role in shaping the colonies toward nationalism. Thus, while the Amonoo residence’s façade connects Atta Amonoo to modernity, the space within retains its Fante character. Rather than simply mimicking British architecture, these grand hybrid homes are exceptional and inventive forms of African art. Art historian Salah Hassan offers an alternative frame for understanding these new forms: “It is also important to see how African artists have interpreted and translated the aesthetic and social experiences of postcolonial, contemporary Africa into new idioms of artistic expression that are both related to their cultural heritage, and connected to Western modernism. This would offer a new critical perspective on ‘modernism’ as a concept in twentieth-century Western art history, and on cross-cultural aesthetics in general.”103

I argue that the same perspective may be applied to African colonial period architecture on the Gold Coast. African patrons appropriated European forms of architecture in the same period when Europeans adopted forms from African art. The hybrid colonial period houses of Anomabo represent an African architectural style that points to larger questions dealing with African agency and the impact of globalization, modernism, and colonization.



My thanks to Robin Poynor, Stanley Ikem Okoye, Maureen Cox-Brown, Doran H. Ross, and the JSAH reviewers for finding merit in my essay and offering suggestions for improvement. Special thanks to Kwa Nyanfueku Akwa, town historian, for his assistance in Anomabo.

I purposely divide the colonial period into two phases: the early period of the 1870s to 1920s, as a stylistic period when the façades evince an appropriation of British styles, and the late period of the 1920s to 1957, when the political climate changed and American architectural styles were appropriated. This article covers the first phase while a later article will cover the second phase.


Salah Hassan, “The Modernist Experience in African Art: Visual Expressions of the Self and Cross-Cultural Aesthetics,” in Reading the Contemporary: African Art from Theory to the Marketplace, ed. Olu Oguibe and Okwui Enwezor (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1999), 232–33.


Christian Huck and Stefan Bauernschmidt, eds., Travelling Goods, Travelling Moods: Varieties of Cultural Appropriation (1850–1950) (Frankfurt: Campus Verlag, 2013), 19.


Denise Cuthbert, “Beg, Borrow or Steal: The Politics of Cultural Appropriation,” Postcolonial Studies 1, no. 2 (1998), 257.


Robert J. C. Young, Colonial Desire: Hybridity in Theory, Culture and Race (London: Routledge, 1995), 23. Young quotes Homi K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture (London: Routledge, 1994), 160.


Doran H. Ross, Fighting with Art: Appliquéd Flags of the Fante Asafo (Los Angeles: UCLA Museum of Cultural History, 1979).


Asafo flags were created in greater numbers in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. The first posuban was constructed in 1883. For a short list of references, see Herbert M. Cole and Doran H. Ross, The Arts of Ghana (Los Angeles: UCLA Museum of Cultural History, 1977); Doran H. Ross, “ ‘Come and Try’: Towards a History of Fante Military Shrines,” African Arts 40 no. 2 (Summer 2007), 12–35; Ross, Fighting with Art; Kwame Amoah Labi, “Fights, Riots and Disturbances with ‘Objectionable and Provocative Art’ among the Fante Asafo Companies,” Transactions of the Historical Society of Ghana 2 (1998), 101–16; Kwame Amoah Labi, “Criminalizing Art: The Struggle between Fante Asafo Companies and the British Administration on the Gold Coast (1844–1957),” Baessler-Archiv 50 (2002), 153–68; and Courtnay Micots, “Performing Ferocity: Fancy Dress, Asafo and Red Indians in Ghana,” African Arts 45, no. 2 (Summer 2012), 24–35.


Cole and Ross, The Arts of Ghana, 9. In asafo arts Ross has noted the inclusion of British heraldic lions, cannons, cannon balls, dragons, leopards, swords, clocks, the lock and key, warships, whistles, barrels, equestrians, airplanes, picks and shovels, anchors, chains, mermaids, British coats of arms, the Union Jack, a compass, a griffin, and a unicorn. Ross, “ ‘Come and Try’ ”; Doran H. Ross, “The Heraldic Lion in Akan Art: A Study of Motif Assimilation in Southern Ghana,” Metropolitan Museum Journal 16 (1981), 165–80; Doran H. Ross, “Cement Lions and Cloth Elephants: Popular Arts of the Fante Asafo,” in 5000 Years of Popular Culture: Popular Culture before Printing, ed. Fred E. H. Schroeder (Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1980), 287–317; Ross, Fighting with Art; and Cole and Ross, The Arts of Ghana, 186–99.


For more information on Ghanaian Fancy Dress, see Courtnay Micots, “Carnival in Ghana: Fancy Dress Street Parades and Competition,” African Arts 47, no. 1 (Spring 2014), 30–41; Courtnay Micots, “Fancy Dress: African Masquerade in Coastal Ghana” and “Masquefest 2012,” in Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion online, Berg Fashion Library, ed. Joanne Eicher and Doran H. Ross, Africa volume, November 2012; and Micots, “Performing Ferocity.”


Robert Farris Thompson, African Art in Motion: Icon and Act in the Collection of Katherine Coryton White (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974), 13.


Coastal elite homes once occupied every major port town on the Gold Coast, but today only a few survive in Cape Coast and Anomabo.


Newell Flather, “Anomabu: The History of a Fante Town on the Ghana Coast” (master’s thesis, Columbia University, 1966); and Margaret Priestley, West African Trade and Coast Society: A Family Study (London: Oxford University Press, 1969).


Flather, “Anomabu,” 59–60, 136; Henry Meredith, An Account of the Gold Coast of Africa (1812; repr., London: Frank Cass, 1967), 152 (page citations are to the reprint edition); and Rebecca Shumway, “Between the Castle and the Golden Stool: Transformations in Fante Society in the Eighteenth Century” (PhD diss., Emory University, 2004), 142.


Anthropologist Vincent Kenneth Tarikhu Farrar and archaeologist Kwesi James Anquandah have extensively researched the beginnings of rammed earth construction in Ghana, principally in the Shai Hills and eastern Accra plains. Their findings revealed that this technology may date to the Neolithic period. It may have been independently invented, or it may have been adapted from either the Mande groups to the north (Western Sudan) or groups to the east such as those from the Dahomey-Yoruba-Benin cultural sphere (modern-day Republic of Benin and Nigeria). Vincent Kenneth Tarikhu Farrar, “Indigenous Building Construction in Southern Ghana: Some Aspects of Technology and History,” West African Journal of Archaeology 25, no. 1 (1995), 159–60, 164–65. Most of my colleagues in the field, however, label this construction method by its material—swish. For a more detailed description of swish and its construction in the nineteenth century, see Brodie Cruickshank, Eighteen Years on the Gold Coast of Africa, 2 vols. (1853; repr., London: Frank Cass, 1966), 2:288–89 (page citations are to the reprint edition).


LaBelle Prussin has linked sub-Saharan African courtyard houses to North African Roman and Egyptian houses via influence across the trade routes. Farrar has emphasized a more local building tradition. Labelle Prussin, Hatumere: Islamic Design in West Africa (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986), 105–8, 159; and Labelle Prussin, “Convivencia at Timbuktu: Archetypes, Architects, and Artisans,” University of Florida, Gainesville, Harn Eminent Scholar Chair in Art History program presentation, 23 Oct. 2008, photocopy; and Vincent Kenneth Tarikhu Farrar, Building Technology and Settlement Planning in a West African Civilization: Precolonial Akan Cities and Towns (New York: Edwin Mellen, 1996).


My research is based on data collected in 2009 from Kwa Nyanfueku Akwa, town historian, and the families living in these houses.


Farrar, “Indigenous Building Construction,” 160, 164–65.


Cruickshank, Eighteen Years on the Gold Coast of Africa, 2:287–88, 295–96.


A 1931 Gold Coast Survey map indicates four stone quarries located just north of the coastal highway in Anomabo. Gold Coast Survey. “Anomabu,” sheets 1 and 3 (map), 13 Feb. 1931; reviewed at the National Archives in Cape Coast, Ghana.


Edward E. Crain, Historic Architecture in the Caribbean Islands (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1994), 61–62.


Brew was governor July 1756–60 and 1761–64. He lived in the house of Chief Besi Kurentsi, also known as John Currantee, from 1756 to 1760. Priestley, West African Trade and Coast Society, 44–45.


The Anomabo Traditional Area encompasses an area of roughly 50 square miles and includes sixty-four villages and towns, counting the city of Anomabo. The chief, or omanhen, of the state of Anomabo resides in Anomabo. Kurentsi successfully parlayed the best trade prices and gifts for twenty years (1730s to 1750s) by courting offers, yet not quite accepting them, from the French and British, who wanted to rebuild Fort Charles; the fort was in ruins by the mid-eighteenth century. Eventually he accepted the offer from the British African Company of Merchants, which constructed Anomabo Fort, known today as Fort William. Although the Dutch and British were allowed to build their forts in Anomabo, Irishman and long-term resident Richard Brew is the only European known to have constructed a house in the city. Flather, “Anomabu,” 59–60, 136; Meredith, An Account of the Gold Coast of Africa, 152; and Shumway, “Between the Castle and the Golden Stool,” 142.


Engineer and governor John Apperley originally designed and began construction on Fort William in 1753. After he passed away in August 1756, Brew, operating as a trader on the coast, was hired to succeed him as governor. Flather, “Anomabu,” 20–32, 45–46, 70–76; and Priestley, West African Trade and Coast Society, 42–44. Anomabo Fort is one of the few forts on the Ghanaian coast built primarily for the slave trade. Brew, Cruickshank, and, to a lesser extent, Blankson were involved in the lucrative slave trade.


Courtnay Micots, “African Coastal Elite Architecture: Cultural Authentication during the Colonial Period in Anomabo, Ghana” (PhD diss., University of Florida, 2010), 156–57.


“Detained” is the word chosen by the author of Blankson’s obituary. It is not clear whether he was detained under duress or willing employment. “The Late Hon: G. K. Blankson,” Gold Coast Aborigines, 3 Sept. 1898, 3.


Ibid., 3–4.


Francis Agbodeka, African Politics and British Policy in the Gold Coast 1868–1900: A Study in the Forms and Force of Protest (Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1971), 137–46. For example, while the Europeans deemed the land around their forts as territory over which they had jurisdiction, the omanhen of Cape Coast, John Aggrey, protested these rights as having no legal basis. For centuries the Europeans had paid rent to the traditional leaders, but in the late nineteenth century the Europeans demanded ownership and control of the forts and the surrounding cities. Ownership of land was highly contested and would have been important to ruling and prestigious families especially. Generations of important members were buried underneath rooms in the family house; their regular honoring through prayers and libations was needed to receive their blessings on the living. Land ownership had not previously been documented by the Fante and other groups on the coast through paperwork before the late nineteenth century, yet it was after the Fante Confederacy failed and the British administration prevailed that paperwork for land tenure and building permits was created. A land purchase agreement was provided by the family head, or abusuapanyin, Kobina George Kingsley Otoo, for the site of the Kobena Mefful family residence. The property was purchased by Kofi Aiko, a.k.a. Coffee Aikoo, from Henry Brew (d. 1890) of Cape Coast on 22 July 1862. Henry Brew was the great-grandson of Richard Brew and brother to Samuel Collins Brew (see note 32). Eight acres of land situated between “the East and North side of John Hammond’s House, and in the Road of the Wesleyan Burial Ground, in the front of two stones commonly called Intah na Intah [located near today’s taxi rank]” were purchased for three ounces of gold. This description seems strange at first because other property records show that Rev. Hammond and his siblings purchased the land for the Russell House in 1895. That house was built between Nov. 1897 and Apr. 1898. The land purchase of the Aiko property, although it originally occurred in 1862, was not documented, however, until it went before arbitrator Amonoo IV on 23 Apr. 1898. By this time, Hammond and his siblings had constructed their house. This also acknowledges that the Kobena Mefful family residence was built sometime after Apr. 1898 (by the grandson of Aiko). Therefore, paper documentation, not deemed necessary in 1862, became necessary to the family members in 1898. This shift to documentation, favored by the British, shows the influence of British administration upon prior local cultural and judicial precedents. Micots, “African Coastal Elite Architecture,” appendix D, 421–31. Also see David Kimble’s chapter 9, “The A.R.P.S. and the Lands, 1889–1900,” in A Political History of Ghana: The Rise of Gold Coast Nationalism 1850–1928 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1963), 330–57.


Historian Francis Agbodeka documented how the traditional rulers and educated elite class worked together in the 1860s against Asante, British, and Dutch political and economic powers. After the Bond of 1844, British officials had usurped power by paying regular stipends to chiefs and dignitaries in the Fante towns, but with the financial boom of the 1860s from the lucrative palm oil trade, Fante leaders no longer needed these stipends and began to resent British demands. Agbodeka cites several incidents in which leaders in Cape Coast, Abura, and Anomabo refused to conform to the British, mainly through military displays rather than violence. Agbodeka, African Politics and British Policy in the Gold Coast, 1868–1900, 15–23, 27.


Ibid., 9, 24.


Kimble, A Political History of Ghana, 231.


Agbodeka, African Politics and British Policy in the Gold Coast, 1868–1900 32. Confederacy members William Edmund Davidson, vice president, James Faustus Amissah, secretary, and James Hutton Brew, undersecretary, were arrested on 30 Nov. 1871 on charges of high treason. They were arrested shortly after C. S. Salmon, acting administrator in Cape Coast, received (but did not read) the “Constitution of the New Fantee Confederacy,” which was delivered to him by George Kuntu Blankson. On 1 and 3 Dec., Salmon also had George Blankson Jr. (Blankson’s son), Samuel Ferguson, J. D. Hayford, and two others arrested. Though all these men were eventually released on bond, they pursued the injustice of the arrests and by Mar. 1873, they were vindicated and allowed “some compensation.” Sadly, George Blankson Jr. had died in early 1872. British administration letters of Arthur E. Kennedy, governor, to the Earl of Kimberley, secretary of state, 1 Dec. 1871, 16 Dec. 1871, 2 Jan. 1872 (National Archives, Kew, CO 879/4/2); F. Fitzgerald to the Earl of Kimberley, secretary of state, 16 Dec. 1871 (National Archives, Kew, CO 879/4/2); J. Pope Hennessy, administrator in chief, to the Earl of Kimberley, secretary of state, 6 June 1872 (National Archives, Kew, CO 879/4/2); and Earl of Kimberley, secretary of state, to Robert William Keate, governor, 10 Mar. 1873, the Earl states that it is proper to allow them “some compensation” on account of the acting administrator’s proceedings (National Archives, Kew, CO 879/4/2).


Samuel Collins Brew, great-grandson of Richard Brew and contemporary of Blankson, may have built a similar structure utilizing brick and stone nog around the same period. Collins Brew was a prominent merchant in Anomabo trading, mainly in gold and ivory. His family residence was located on Sam Brew’s kukwadu, or hill, in the Krokessin, or old town, neighborhood. Today, it is difficult to find traces of the foundations. It is reputed to have been a magnificent and large house that collapsed sometime before 1929. A set of buildings marked in poor condition is depicted on the Gold Coast Survey map of 1931. Unfortunately, none of his descendants in Anomabo could remember the façade or the interior plan of this residence, yet the brick debris on-site and remnants of an old brick kiln nearby attest to its construction, possibly utilizing the materials, construction method, and design elements similar to the Blankson Addition. Unfortunately, like his great-grandfather, Collins Brew lost his wealth after a decade of disruptions in trade due to Asante invasions. In 1867 he had to relinquish his properties, including his houses in Anomabo and Cape Coast, to pay his creditor Forster and Smith, who incidentally were Richard Brew’s creditors as well; Gold Coast Times, 10 Dec. 1881, back page. After the death of Collins Brew in February 1881, a public auction was held on 15 Dec. 1881 to sell “house-hold furniture, wearing apparel, silver wares, country cloths, bedsteads, mattrasses …”; Priestley, West African Trade and Coast Society, 156–57. Brew, Blankson, and Collins Brew suffered the same fate in their later years—loss of wealth because of Asante political and military entanglements.


After Blankson’s troops lost an important battle against the Asante in 1873, the Fante chiefs were so angry, they accused him of treason. “Obituary. The Late Hon: G. K. Blankson,” Gold Coast Aborigines, 3 Sept. 1898, 3–4. After long debate in the Supreme Court of Cape Coast, Blankson was acquitted on 16 Mar. 1875, and the chiefs were ordered to pay Blankson ₤2,000 in damages. “The Blankson Case,” Gold Coast Times, 31 Mar. 1875, 3.


For an image of the Franklin House in the late nineteenth century, see Mae-ling Jovenes Lokko, The Brazil House (Accra, Ghana: Surf, ca. 2010), fig. 40, p. 78; or see “Old Trading Post, Christiansborg,” Basel Mission Archives, D-30-1-22, by Rudolf Fisch,


H. Nii-Adziri Wellington, Stones Tell Stories at Osu: Memories of a Host Community of the Danish trans-Atlantic Slave Trade (Legon, Accra, Ghana: Sub-Saharan, 2011), 251. The Danish area is primarily located in sections of old Osu and Jamestown in Accra. It is possible that elderly Ga builders or their descendants assisted with Blankson’s Addition, or other contractors copied the Franklin house closely. In 1850, all Danish forts were transferred to the British.


Bayo Holsey, Routes of Remembrance: Refashioning the Slave Trade in Ghana (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008), 47–50.


Bhabha, Location of Culture, 122.


Modern Ghana was essentially a British colony from 1874 to 1957, though the Asante kingdom was not fully defeated until 1896. The third Anglo-Asante war ended in 1874, when General Garnet Wolseley, with 2,500 British troops and several thousand West Indian and African troops, including some Fante asafo troops, defeated the Asante. The last Asante attempt to resist British authority took place in 1895–96 and ended in Asante defeat. Asantehene Agyeman Prempeh was deposed and sent into exile. However, the coastal area had all the makings of a colony since the signing of the Bond of 1844. According to political historian Susanne Zantop, the European idea of a colony existed as a fantasy, sexual and racialized, about a hundred years before actual colonization. Susanne Zantop, Colonial Fantasies: Conquest, Family, and Nation in Precolonial Germany, 1770–1870 (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1997).


Flather, “Anomabu,” 144.


Michael Crowder, West Africa under Colonial Rule (Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1968), 199–200.


Ibid., 199.


I believe the demise of many early structures is due to three factors: the environment— after the salty air has eroded the corrugated steel roofing, strong sun and rains deteriorate the mortar; owners deliberately knock down buildings to make way for more modern construction; and generally, more stone nog houses were built in the early twentieth century because more need was felt by the elites (and those desiring to be viewed as elites) to pronounce their status.


Although the gold and palm trade lessened after the 1870s, the trade in cocoa, wood, and rubber flourished in the 1880s. According to his grandniece Dora Ferguson, a. k. a. Adwowa Bentuma (b. 1930), the current owner and resident, Justice Akwa worked for Cadbury & Fry. I was not able to locate a company named Cadbury & Fry on the coast during this period. Probably Akwa worked for Cadbury Bros., the chocolatiers. An “Acquah” from Saltpond and “Amooaku” from Cape Coast are mentioned in N. Edwards, 1935–36 (Cadbury/269). Ivana Frlan, Archivist, Cadbury Research Library, University of Birmingham, UK, email, 12 Jan. 2015.


Peter Mark, “Portuguese” Style and Luso-African Identity: Precolonial Senegambia, Sixteenth–Nineteenth Centuries (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002), 43–45, 49.


Holsey, Routes of Remembrance, 47–50.


Skilled masons among the Tabom, descendants of the Afro-Brazilians who settled in Accra, maintain they were “the first architects of this region.” “Brazil House,” Accra, Ghana: The Brazilian Embassy, n.d.


Lokko, The Brazil House, 5. The impact of the Afro-Brazilians on Ghanaian art and architecture has yet to be fully explored.


The Brazil House was greatly altered during a reconstruction discussed in detail by Lokko. Unfortunately, she did not provide a plan of the original house. It was, however, built in stone nog. Afro-Brazilian use of the sobrado in coastal West Africa is well documented by Peter Mark in “Portuguese” Style and Luso-African Identity, but he doesn’t include Ghana. It is my belief that the Tabom used the sobrado plan in Ghana, but this is speculative.


In fact, Riis was nicknamed “Osiadan” (builder of buildings) for his skill in building houses. A. D. C. Hyland, “An Introduction to the Traditional and Historical Architecture of Ghana,” in History of Ghana, ed. Maggie Dodds (Accra: American Women’s Association of Ghana, 1974), 180–81; and Emmanuel Akyeampong, “Introduction to Visual Interpretation of the Basel Mission Archive Photo Project,”


Some of those trained were West Indian immigrants. The craftsmen under the guidance of the mission built several variations of these homes in the Akuapem Hills area. Anthony Hyland, “Le Ghana,” in Rives Coloniales: Architectures, de Saint-Louis à Douala, ed. Jacques Soulillou (Marseille: Éditions Parenthèses, 1993), 161–62.


Noel Smith, The Presbyterian Church of Ghana, 1835–1960: A Younger Church in a Changing Society (Accra: Ghana University Press, 1966), 60.


Hyland, “An Introduction,” 68–69.


Ghanaian archaeologist Mark Henry Freeman confirmed evidence of piers on 6 Aug. 2009.


See John Michael Vlach, “The Brazilian House in Nigeria: The Emergence of a 20th-Century Vernacular House Type,” Journal of American Folklore 97, no. 383 (  Jan.–Mar. 1984), 3–23; Marianno Carneiro da Cunha, From Slave Quarters to Town Houses: Brazilian Architecture in Nigeria and the People’s Republic of Benin (São Paulo, Brazil: Livraria Nobel S.A., 1985); and Ikemefuna Stanley Ifejika Okoye, “ ‘Hideous’ Architecture: Mimicry, Feint and Resistance in Turn of the Century Southeastern Nigerian Building” (PhD diss., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1995).


Vlach, “The Brazilian House in Nigeria.”


In my fieldwork I examined the walls and found evidence of prior architectural detail, especially around the windows and main entrance facing the road. Some windows still have their pediments and sills. The belt course remains on the front and back walls. The cornice can be seen under the eaves.


Anthony Sutcliffe, London: An Architectural History (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2006), 93.


Timothy Fletcher Hubbard, “Towering Over All: The Italianate Villa in the Colonial Landscape” (PhD diss., Deakin University, 2003), 56–60.




Ibid., 153.


Sutcliffe, London, 93, 112.


Mark Girouard, Sweetness and Light: The Queen Anne Movement, 1860–1900 (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1984), 1.




Michel R. Doortmont, The Pen-Pictures of Modern Africans and African Celebrities by Charles Francis Hutchison (Leiden: Brill, 2005), 489.


“The History of 170 Queen’s Gate,” Reporter (London: Imperial College).


Sutcliffe, London, 112.


Family history dictates that while the siblings and their families lived upstairs, they always rented out the lower floor to merchants. This was a common arrangement used on the coast by Europeans and Africans alike. In early 1915, a representative for H. B. W. Russell & Co. Ltd. of Cape Coast wrote to inquire about the space. Shortly afterward it appears that an agent for the English company rented the lower level to use as a store, and part of the second floor became his own residence. It was during this time that the premises became known around town as the Russell House, for the store name not the property owner.


The siblings are Reverend John Oboboam Hammond (2 Feb. 1860–28 Dec. 1918); Francis Medanyamease Hammond (d. 3 Sept. 1920); and Mrs. Charlotte Oyemame Acquaah (1858 –31 July 1908). The Land Indenture (1895) and Building Permit (1897) for the Russell House are reprinted in Micots, Appendix D, 425–29. This contradicts the attribution by architect A. D. C. Hyland as a “late 18th-century British colonial house.” This is an honest mistake, considering the strong likeness of the façade to other homes in Britain. A. D. C. Hyland, “British Colonial (West Africa),” in Vernacular Architecture of the World, ed. Paul Oliver (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 2038.


Gold Coast Leader, 25 Oct. 1902, 2.


Gold Coast Nation, 27 Feb. 1913, 8.


This obituary also lists the numerous members of the elite class and the Omanhen Amonoo V in attendance. Among those listed is Henry Van Hein, an important Cape Coast merchant and nationalist who served as president of the Aborigines’ Rights Protection Society and a founder of the British West African Conference. “The Late Rev. John O. Hammond,” Gold Coast Nation, 23 Nov.1918–18 Jan. 1919, 5.


Gold Coast Leader, 5 Dec. 1925, 4.


On my visit to Anomabo in July 2011, I noticed wide cracks down the east and west sides of the structure, the result of decaying mortar. Corrugated iron or aluminum sheet roofing, introduced to the coast in the early twentieth century, rusts quickly in the salty environment, allowing rains to penetrate and damage the sand/lime mortar. This is one of the reasons why many of these homes have not survived.


See figs. 7.1 and 7.2 in Ikemefuna Stanley Ifejika Okoye, “Scratching the Membrane: Photography, Sculpture, and Building in Early Twentieth-Century Southeastern Nigeria,” in Architecture and the Pictorial Arts from Romanticism to the Twenty First Century, vol. 2, The Built Surface, ed. Karen Koehler and Christy Anderson (London: Ashgate, 2001), 136–39.


Sanders lists J. B. Mefful as the tufuhen, the leader of the Anomabo asafo companies, from 1923 to 1925. James R. Sanders, “The Political Development of the Fante in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries: A Study of a West African Merchant Society” (PhD diss., Northwestern University, 1980), 286. In the coastal newspapers, James B. Mefful is listed as a safuhin, or captain, of a regiment within the Tuafo No. 1 asafo company. At some point between May and December of 1921, he became the tufuhen, a position second in command after the omanhen. Gold Coast Nation, 14 May 1914, 4; Gold Coast Leader, 21 May 1921, 7; Gold Coast Leader, 24–31 Dec. 1921, 3. According to the descendants, Kobena Mefful and the asafo leader James B. Mefful is the same man. He may have either taken an English name when he was baptized into the Methodist Church (a common practice), or added an English name, as did many African coastal elites. It is possible that Mefful was a member of the rising middle class, making his fortune from farming and brickmaking. Family remembered that he owned a lot of land and used his kiln to make burnt bricks for his house and perhaps others.


Jacob Wilson Sey (1832–1902) was a similar member of coastal elite society without Western education. He made his fortune primarily through rental properties and the palm oil trade. He was a Methodist and constructed a grand residence in the hybrid style in Anomabo (no longer in existence); Micots, “African Coastal Elite Architecture,” 413–16.


T. B. Freeman, Journals of Various Visits to the Kingdoms of Ashanti, Aku, and Dahomi in Western Africa (London: J. Mason, 1844), 45, 74–76, 99, 102.


Doortmont, The Pen-Pictures of Modern Africans and African Celebrities by Charles Francis Hutchison, 482n30.


Birgit Meyer, “Christianity and Ewe Nation: German Pietist Missionaries, Ewe Converts and the Politics of Culture,” Journal of Religion in Africa 32, no. 2 (May 2002), 168.


Stephanie Newell, Literary Culture in Colonial Ghana: “How to Play the Game of Life” (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002), 157–63.


The Methodist Mission in Anomabo was begun under the direction of English Rev. George Wrigley in 1836, and after a fire partially destroyed the building, it was reconstructed under the direction of West Indian Rev. Thomas Birch Freeman in 1840. Freeman, Journals of Various Visits to the Kingdoms of Ashanti, Aku, and Dahomi in Western Africa, 45, 74–76, 99, 102.


The relief motifs resemble three stars flanked by two crescents. Descendants do not name or attach any significance to these motifs, which may have been borrowed from local, Muslim, or Western sources. The entrance ornamentation is similar to a decorative arch on Fort William, yet it does not include the star and crescent motifs.


The Mefful residence and the Italianate Bromley Public Hall on Bow Road, London, are two-story, massive rectangular buildings with classical details—a belt course, cornice, frieze, and an arched entranceway, though the entrance of the public hall is framed by a portico. The original arched windows on the Mefful residence, altered in 1975 to fit shutters, would have made these buildings appear more similar. For an image of Bromley Public Hall, designed by A. & C. Harston and completed in 1880, see .


For the history of Nananom Mpow and Methodist missionaries, see F. L. Bartels, The Roots of Ghana Methodism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1965), 55–60.


Bengt Sundkler and Christopher Steed, A History of the Church in Africa (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 96.


Adm. 1/461, no. 35, Kennedy to the Duke of Buckingham and Chandos, 29 May 1868, in Agbodeka, African Politics and British Policy in the Gold Coast, 1868–1900, 22.


Doortmont, The Pen-Pictures of Modern Africans and African Celebrities by Charles Francis Hutchison, 483.


Omanhen Amonoo V reigned from 9 Apr. 1901 to the day he died, 20 Mar. 1921. According to one description, “He was an able and wise ruler … . His administration was all that should be desired. He was a man of great intellectual force. He was bold and ever ready for criticisms. He was a deep thinker. His suggestions were wholesome.” Amonoo V’s accomplishments include the partial construction of the road connecting Anomabo to Cape Coast that is now used as the coastal highway. He also served as an official member of the Legislative Council as of September 1916. See “History of Anamabu: The Formation of the Town of Anamabu,” n.d., 11, Ghana National Archives, Cape Coast. Gold Coast Leader, 26 Mar. 1921, 2, reported that Amonoo V died on 21 Mar. 1921. According to descendants, Amonoo V was Western educated and instigated a number of measures to improve local quality of life, such as the construction of modern public toilets and fining those who continued to use the beach.


William Ward Brew was a great-, great-, great-grandson of Richard Brew. His grandfather was Samuel Collins Brew (see note 32). He served as vice president, and “Prince Ata-Amonu” was joint secretary for the Central Province Committee of the British West African Conference. The conference met in Elmina on 14 Nov. 1919 and afterward in Accra with delegates from Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Gambia. Gold Coast Leader, 3–10 Jan. 1920, 5; Lagos Standard, 28 Jan. 1920, 7; Gold Coast Leader, 20–27 Mar. 1920, 4; and Weekly News (Sierra Leone), 27 Mar. 1920, 8. “Prince K. Ata-Amonu” presented the issue of “Representation of West African Views in London” on 23 Mar. 1920. Gold Coast Leader, 9–17 Apr. 1920, 6–7; and Times of Nigeria, 12–19 Apr. 1920, 6–7. A meeting was held in Saltpond on 19 July 1920, with the Gold Coast representatives in order to relay developments. Gold Coast Leader, 14 Aug. 1920, 7.


Okoye, “ ‘Hideous’ Architecture,” 92. Additionally, in note 133, Okoye notes that Lagos was part of the Gold Coast colony from 1874 to 1886.


Construction of the impressive two-story structure known today as the Omanhen’s Palace began in 1639 or 1640 as a Dutch lodge. It is possible that Heindrick Caerlof, a.k.a. Sir Henry Carlof, a Polish-born mercenary working for the Dutch West Indian Company and others, was responsible for the original design. The company would have employed local Fante builders to assist in the construction. Work was temporarily halted when the English told the Dutch that the Fante territory had been ceded to the English. Yet, after the arrival of the Dutch commander, Arent Jacobsz van der Graeff (1557–1642), the lodge was soon completed under his supervision. Flather states that the Dutch began construction on Anomabo’s first lodge in 1639 or 1640. He located this information in the Dutch records available at the University of Ghana in Legon; Flather, “Anomabu,” 23. Kwesi J. Anquandah stated that the lodge in Anomabo was one of several built under the direction of Polish mercenary Heindrick Caerlof, a.k.a. Sir Henry Carlof; Kwesi J. Anquandah, Castles & Forts of Ghana (Paris: Atalante, 1999), 10. His source is not given. When the second Dutch-Anglo war ended in 1667, the British gained the foothold in Anomabo and began building Fort Charles near the water in the early 1670s. I contend that the town chief inhabited the lodge during this time and, through appropriate ritual actions, transformed it into his royal palace.


Girouard, Sweetness and Light, 32. For another example of hybrid coastal elite architecture in Ghana incorporating the Italianate style, see an image of Cape Coast’s Charity-Ville, the residence of Anglo-African Henry Van Hein (1857–1928), president of ARPS and the British West African Conference, in Doortmont, The Pen-Pictures of Modern Africans and African Celebrities by Charles Francis Hutchison, fig. 161, p. 428.


For the appropriation of the International Style, see Janet Berry Hess, Art and Architecture in Postcolonial Africa (  Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2006), 75; and of postmodernism, Micots, “African Coastal Elite Architecture,” 271–72.


Godfrey Wilson, “An Essay on the Economics of Detribalization in Northern Rhodesia,” The Rhodes-Livingstone Papers, no. 5 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1941), 19–20; quoted in James Ferguson, “Of Mimicry and Membership: African and the ‘New World Society,’ ” Cultural Anthropology 17, no. 4 (2002), 553–55.


Ferguson, “Of Mimicry and Membership,” 555.


Janet Catherine Berlo, “Portraits of Dispossession in Plains Indian and Inuit Graphic Arts,” Art Journal 49, no. 2 (Summer 1990), 137–38; my italics.


Bhabha, Location of Culture, 125.


Gold Coast Leader, 26 Aug. 1916, 5–6; and Metal Card of Ata Amonu (National Archives, Kew, WO 372/1/140392). He entered the service on 24 Nov. 1915, as a corporal in the Gold Coast Regiment.


Richard Harris and Garth Myers, “Hybrid Housing: Improvement and Control in Late Colonial Zanzibar,” JSAH 66, no. 4 (December 2007), 476.


Okoye, “ ‘Hideous’ Architecture,” 595.


Bhabha, Location of Culture, 126; his italics.


Crowder, West Africa under Colonial Rule, 213.


Hassan, “The Modernist Experience in African Art,” 232–33.