A part-historical, part-fictional debut book focuses on a Danish settlement in Ghana.
Long before it was successively explored by European countries, Osu was a culturally diverse community in Ghana, home to a variety of indigenous tribes. Then the Portuguese arrived; they not only introduced a wide variety of goods, from tobacco to cloth, but also left an indelible imprint on the Ga language. They were eventually forced out, and the Swedes took their place in the middle of the 17th century only to suffer a similar fate and become supplanted by the Danes, who built a fort they called Christiansborg after their king. Osu became Danish-Osu, and a legacy of cultural assimilation, including intermarriage and generations of mulatto children, challenged the moral climate as well as the preservation of the area’s traditions. One of Danish-Osu’s most historically prominent figures, Christian Petersen Witt, was among the first of this mulatto generation. Eventually, Danish-Osu became a central hub of the Danish trans-Atlantic slave trade, which left a dark legacy of oppression and inhumanity. Wellington has composed an eccentric history that seamlessly blends fact and fanciful fiction—the book is structured almost like a Socratic dialogue, with the mythical figure Ataa Forkoyi, known for his remarkable knowledge of Osu’s genesis, leading a kind of extemporaneous tutorial. He uses the stones left by the Danish settlers of Osu, thousands of them brought for the construction of massive edifices, as historical signposts, almost like fossils that contain an unspoken record. Wellington’s peculiar literary approach intriguingly wrestles the telling of history away from its conventional academic forms, making the life of Osu a vivacious one. In addition, the volume courageously confronts the grim slavery years, defying the Danes’ tendency to gloss over their unseemly participation and the habits of the Ghanaian people to avoid speaking of that era entirely: “Adopting a position of honest confrontation of the horrors of the past will make the lessons to be learnt from this dark period in our common history authentic and proactive.”
A refreshingly unconventional and bold account of a culturally complex place in Africa.