Two days after leaving Freetown we call at Seccondee. We have reached the Gold Coast.
The West African portion of our Empire which is commonly spoken of as the Gold Coast for short, includes the Gold Coast Colony and its dependencies of Ashanti and Northern Territories; the whole of this country covers an area of 80,000 square miles; in other words, it is about the size of Great Britain. Seccondee is in the Colony, and from here a railway runs to Coomassie, the capital of Ashanti, a distance of 168 miles. The only other main railway line in the country links up the port of Accra with Tafo - sixty-five miles in the interior. There are several ports, but no good harbour; everybody and everything coming to this country, everybody and everything leaving it, have to be transported two or three miles between coast-town and steamer in a surf-boat. It is very entertaining for us, as visitors, to watch numerous surf-boats coming and going, or tied up in bunches round our steamer. Leisurely strolling along the deck, or standing at ease looking over the side, we are delighted by the variety show that springs to life the moment a ship drops anchor, and ceaselessly continues until she again gets under way - the rhythmic movements or surf-boat crews, the flash of paddles, the din of weird chants to which the paddles keep time, the antics of small craft on heaving waters that are challenging the skill of the boat-boys, the rainbow-hued costumes of the natives, with here and there an outstanding patch of bright scarlet, navy, or white, contributed by the jerseys of the boat-boys in the service of the Post Office, Medical Department, Customs, or special transport firm - these are but a few of the fascinating sights and scenes amidst which the winches do their work of putting off and taking on passengers, mails, and cargo. But suppose we were in the shoes of the Gold Coast business man; say, for instance, we were buyers and shippers of cocoa, which is the principal work of nearly every important business man over here - should we not look on surfboats from a very different point of view, seeing that we should be dependent on them for putting aboard every bag of cocoa we wanted to export, and for bringing ashore motor lorries, scales, bales of empty sacks, tarpaulins, building materials, and numerous other accessories indispensable to the pursuit of produce dealing on a large scale ? As you can well imagine, there would be heavy entries to be made on the wrong side of our profit and loss account for damage to cocoa that has got wet during the surf-boat passage, and for out-and-out losses as a result of boats turning turtle or performing somersaults in rough weather.
The principal localities of the Gold Coast in which cocoa production has been developed up to the present are the districts around Coomassie and the country in the neighbourhood of the Accra-Tafo railway line; there is also a large area under the crop in Winnebah, off the track of the railway, but near Accra, to which it is accessible by a motor road - activities such as the erection of stores and bungalows are proceeding apace for tapping the supplies available there. The Accra cocoa district is in the Gold Coast Colony, whilst that of Coomassie is, as I have told you, in Ashanti; but Seccondee, the port for the Ashanti crop, is in the Colony. The methods of farming and of marketing the crops are similar in both districts, but as the largest area under cocoa is in the Accra-Tafo region, and as the development of the industry has been specially favoured there by the provision of motor transport facilities, we are going to make Accra our first headquarters; afterwards we will come back to Seccondee and go up to Coomassie.
At Seccondee we make our first acquaintance with the Hausas, several of whom come aboard as deck passengers. By their features and dress they at once strike us as being different from any of the negroes, although they have black skins. They have Eastern blood in their veins, and look very much like Arabs, to whom they are akin. The Hausas are a distinct race, which, though it has often been conquered, has never renounced its individuality; outstanding characteristics of the race are energy and enterprise in trading, skill in craftsmanship, appreciation of art as applied to things in everyday use, courteous manners, and an entire absence of desire to ape the European. The religion of these people is Mahom-medanism; their language is the lingua franca of the Sudan, and the only language of tropical Africa which the natives have themselves learnt to put into writing, a modified style of Arabic characters being used; their home is North-Central Africa. Following the habits of their forefathers from time immemorial, the Hausamen trek hundreds of miles, peddling Hausaland wares and wares from Old Testament lands, which they have acquired by payment in money or cowry shells, or by barter; the principal "curios" they have in their packs are feathers, goatskins, grass mats, beads, Kano cloth, and leather goods. Some of them we now see squatting in picturesque attitudes on the lower deck have made their way for nearly a thousand miles to the coast from Timbuctoo, and are bound for that other well-known old caravan centre, Kano, another thousand miles or so away up in Northern Nigeria. The walled city of Kano is now in British territory; it is still one of the most important and densely-populated towns of Hausaland.
Breaking Open The Pods, Or "Cracking" Cocoa: Gold Coast
Since the moment you had an inkling of what the Hausas have in their packs, I am sure your thoughts have been with the friends at home for whom you want to get a nice "dash." "Dash," mark you, is West African palaver for a present, and it covers the whole range of offerings from a tip to a gift of love; you will soon find when you get ashore that every native, no matter what be his tribal language, savvies that word "dash." You will have plenty of opportunities of bargaining with Hausamen; at the moment, therefore, give your whole attention to noting details which will enable you to recognise them, for such knowledge will help you to solve the puzzling problem of " who's who " among the mixed crowds of natives you will meet ashore. The Hausaman's national costume, as you see, is Oriental in style: cotton trousers that are like a voluminous petticoat in the body, with legs that fit tight to the ankles; long flowing cotton robe, wide armholes, sleeveless, and beautifully embroidered at the neck; sandals or mule pattern shoes; daintily embroidered skull cap, or a fez or turban as head-dress; favourite colour scheme blue and white, the blue being all shades, from pale sky to deep navy that is almost black - blue garments of any shade are native dyed with indigo. The cap form of head-gear is invariably white, turban blue or white, fez red or green - a green fez denotes that the wearer has made a pilgrimage to Mecca, the Mahommedan holy of holies.