Friday, July 13, 2007

Africa Shoot: Ghana Part 2

This morning we arrived back in Jamestown to shoot the return of the local fishing fleet. We gained permission to shoot from the Fisheries Council and were guided by two ambassadors, Akonte and Niikommey. We were also met by Lamtui (a.k.a. Apna). Apna is a bit of a local celebrity. Officially he would be called a Canoe Group Leader. Unofficially, he is a gang leader, and it was obvious that he was held in very, very high esteem. As we filmed, our guides and our production fixer, Teddy Sabutey, negotiated with each canoe group, paying tribute as we moved.

Typically, we were met with a great deal of shouting, anger and hand waving, which lasted about a minute until everybody realized that we were being escorted. As soon as nerves were settled, we were then greeted by big smiles, cheers and laughter. This scene repeated itself over and over again during our shoot. At first, the rough and tumble atmosphere was a little unnerving, but very quickly we got into what would become the dominant rhythm of the day. (Incidentally, and it should come as no surprise, but it was pointed out that most Ghana's great boxers come from fishing communities. Having spent a few short hours in Jamestown, it's easy to see why that's the case.)

As the boats were being pulled in, the fishers sang beautiful sounding chants that were actually typically very off-color and vulgar. Many of the chants were made up on the spot, but some catch on and become part of the local "tradition."

The Jamestown community is predominantly made up of the Ga Tribe, approximately 85%. The other large majority come from the Fente Tribe.

Virtually all of the fishers are men. It was pointed out that in Jamestown there is one woman who goes out on the boats. Women make up the majority of the buyers and they await the return of the fleet each morning. Negotiations take place right on the shore as the boats land and the women load the fish that they buy into large metal pots. Many of the fish wind up at the market, which is less than a mile away, although we did film a woman buy from a fisher, turn around, take two steps and sell her entire take. (Sometimes the lines of commerce are very short!)

Among the fish we saw coming off the boats: tuna, mud crab, shrimp, giant sea snails, cassava, red fish, herriing, baracuda, and octopus.
As were were finishing our shoot, we were approached by a very angry fisher who shouted at us in native Ga, "When you are finished and get what you want, put fish back in the ocean!" In essence, he was trying to tell us that he had gained nothing from our presence. If only he knew our goal.

Among the fishers of Ghana, we came across another Pittsburgh Steeler fan!

In the afternoon, we headed north looking for baboons in the countryside about 45 minutes of Accra.

Moses Sam, Cole Burton and Justin Brashares, our featured scientists, join the search.

Stephen Aflo, a five year field guide of the Ghana Wildlife Division served as our guided. Stephen helped us try to find any of the fifteen troops that live within the Shai Hill Reserve.

With luck and skill, Stephen lead us to a troop of baboons that are habituated to humans.

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