Or this might be subtitled, “DON’T SHOOT THE MESSENGER” or better still “DON’T SHOOT THIS MESSENGER.”
Part 1 of Larabanga Lament can be found in the new Bradt Guide on Ghana on Page 377. In short, it’s a caution that “if you must see the mosque then do so and LEAVE”.
Anyways, the desperate story continues…I saw the comment below a couple of days ago on the Bradt Update site and you know me, I copied it and sent it to my good friends at the Ghana Tourist Board, Accra mentioning something about criminal activity and the necessity to intervene.
This appeared on September 21, 2010 on the Bradt update site:
A word of warning about Larabanga. We were followed from our car by male youths who told use there was a procedure if we wanted to take pictures in that we should sign the visitors book. We kept walking and said that we wanted to look only and not take a tour or pictures thinking this would shake them off. On returning to our car we were surrounded by about 20 youths and a huge log was placed in front of our car so that we could’t move. The youths threatened damage to our taxi and there was almost a punch up. If it were not for the diplomacy skills of a member of our group (and a 5 cedi payment) the situation would most certainly have escalated. Would advise everyone VERY STRONGLY to stay clear of this place and visit one of the other mosques in the region.
MadinGhana: And let me tell you it’s not the first time I’ve sent off such a report to the so-called authorities at the GHANA TOURIST BOARD. And it’s not the first time concerning Larabanga. On December 27th, 2007 I had an e-mail from the Deputy Director in-charge of Operations who wrote:
“I assure you I will take up the issue at Larabanga mosque myself and let you know of the outcome soonest.”
The lament really is that nothing is done and over time the situation has escalated causing much distress to tourists visiting the mosque. Even the well-meaning efforts of Philip Briggs author of the Bradt Guide to Ghana to bring awareness to the situation have been maligned….
Here is a sequence of entries on his update site :http://updates.bradtguides.com/ghana
January 6, 2009
Comments on Larabanga
Posted by philipbriggs under Mole NP & Larabanga, Uncategorized
Philip Briggs writes: I just received the following comment about coverage of Larabanga in the Bradt guide, which I’m posting anonymously in case the writer would prefer it that way. My response is added as a supplementary comment…. PB
“I feel compelled to talk about some reviews of Larabanga, actually all the reviews you publish, which absolutely DISGUST me. You are supposed to be a travel guide about ethical travel yet you never stop to explain why all the children mill around tourists or why you have to pay to view the Mosque. You publish stories of people who say, don’t go there, and who actually leave without donating anything. I work with a foundation in Larabanga, started by a university student who grew up with no food, whose parents couldn’t afford to pay for his education. He told me he found foster parents from Accra by following tourists around. These people sent him money to finish school and go to university. Without them, he would have no future and wouldn’t have been able to help other, incredibly poor, hungry children in the village. The children are “bugging you” so you will help them. If you are so selfish that you cannot see their bony bodies or understand that the village is trying it’s best to find eco tourism dollars, then I don’t know why anybody would even go to a developing nation. The next time someone complains about Larabanga, perhaps you could set the record straight? The people there have nothing! Anyone who goes to Ghana can afford an expensive holiday, so why don’t you part with a few Cedis to actually make a difference in the lives of a child? You should feel uncomfortable when you go to Larabanga- because you have so much and these people have nothing. They are miles from schools and hospitals, they have limited access to clean water, and their children go to school hungry everyday. See past your own selfishness and DO something. PLEASE! That goes for your guide, and your updates and your website. If you really believe in ethical travel then you have a duty to explain the situation at Larabanga, and put the “bothering” children in the right context-they’re nearly begging, because they need food and water and clothes and schooling, and they know that tourists have all of those things and money to spare.”
January 6, 2009 at 11:08 am
Thanks for your email,
There is a lot of truth in what you say, but the simple fact is that Larabanga gets more negative feedback than any other place I write about in nine different African guidebooks. Blaming this purely on local poverty and lack of sympathy on behalf of travelers is a little patronizing – if it were that simple, then everywhere in Ghana and most other places in Africa would be the same.
The problem at Larabanga, as I see it, is that there a very small number of very annoying young men who hang around waiting to latch on to any passing foreigner, subject them to banal small talk with transparently mercenary motives, and often get rude or abusive if said foreigner doesn’t humour them. In my view, this is unacceptable behaviour, whatever excuse you choose to make for it, and most Ghanaians and other Africans would feel exactly the same way.
Contrary to what you suggest, I feel that the core reason for this is that the village has never organised itself as a proper ecotourism unit in the manner of, say, Tafi Atome or Amedzofe. So there is no community control over how a small but vociferous clique of self-styled guides approach tourists. If these ‘guides’ become sufficiently annoying, unfortunately that will affect how travelers respond to the village, and many will choose to spend their time and money in a village whose inhabitants don’t display this sort of behaviour, and will advise other travelers to do the same.
Of course every traveler to a country like Ghana recognizes and sympathizes with the poverty that surrounds them. I don’t feel that the typical traveler or volunteer is so stupid or heartless that it requires me to point this out. However, there are only so many allowances most people are prepared to make in terms of personal interaction, and for many travelers, certain aspects of what goes on in Larabanga cross that line.
To take a more extreme situation, it would be easy enough for a guidebook to contextualize crime against travelers in terms of material poverty and disparity of wealth. Most travellers, however, would rather be warned about crime than subjected to it. To a lesser extent, the same goes for places where travelers are subjected to inordinate hassle. We all understand the reasons why. Mostly, though, we’d just rather go somewhere more pleasant!
Still, who knows, if you are working in Larabanga, perhaps you can help address the issues that turn so many travelers against the place.
NOW YOU’VE GOT TO READ WHAT kamara Says:
July 9, 2010 at 1:32 pm
As much as I agree that there should be a proper structure put in place to manage and promote ec0-tourism in Larabanga; there should not be concerted efforts like yours putting Larabanga in a negative light.Hundreds and perhaps thousands of tourist will attest to the fact that the people of Larabanga are hospitable and welcoming.As a native and youth of Larabanga, I have always advocated for a proper and well planned way of dealing with street ism, but those tourist who give you the ”feedback” are those who have prejudicial minds before coming to Larabanga.They turned to be rude to the young guys on the street as well.
It is perplexing to note however, that you said the negativity of Larabanga can not be compared to the number of African countries that you cover.I find this, not only a pure false, but a concoction of unimaginable magnitude.I guess you have being to Cape Coast, Elmina,the art centres, the beaches etc.There is no truth in what you write out there.Besides, I do not blame you at all.
July 9, 2010 at 3:51 pm
Thanks Kamara, but the fact remains that I get more negative feedback about Larabanga than any other single place I write about in Ghana or nine other African countries. And I personally think that anybody living in Larabanga and concerned with addressing these issues might be better of doing so at root than ‘shooting the messenger’!
Madinghana: I ask, “What can be done?” I would think that the Ghana Tourist Board has to act in conjunction with the Ghana Police Service to set up a sting to entrap the small number of hooligans who are so blatantly breaking the law as well as undermining Ghana’s good name as a safe destination. A little publicity about such an event, to be sure, wouldn’t hurt the often do nothing image of the Ghana Tourist Board.
You can direct your comments to the Ghana Tourist Board-attention Mr Edwin Owusu Mensah, Operations