Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Fanti Towns Of Liberia

Inside a Fanti Boat in Fanti Town, Buchanan, Liberia - note the Ghanian influences
Fanti (or Fante) towns have established themselves all along the shores of the Liberian coast and they do business with the Liberian people mostly through their fishing enterprises.  There is nothing like walking along the beach and gathering around a Fanti boat full of fresh creatures from the sea and placing your bid on some fish.  You never know what you might get:  I remember eating hammerhead shark, barracuda, grouper, snapper, & sea turtle to name a few.  If it is in the ocean the Fanti have probably brought it up.

The "Ebenezer" - a Fanti boat in Fanti Town, Buchanan, Liberia

Dugout Canoes are often used for both fishing and
for selling fresh fish right on the beach
While not originally from Liberia, in 1974 the Fanti were so numerous in Liberia that they were included on the Liberian census as a Liberian ethnic group.  The Fanti are originally from Ghana and still keep ties there.  They are from the Akan group (the same group as the Ashanti).  One of their most famous sons is Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the UN.  They have long done business in fishing and historically provided a middleman function between trading Europeans on the coast and the interior tribes of Ghana.  They are recorded as doing business with the Portuguese as far back as the 1400's and they also traded with the Dutch and the English who ultimately destroyed the Fanti Confederation in the late 1800's.  I assume that this event helped to scatter the Fanti people all along the coast of West Africa and today they are mostly found in Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire and Liberia.

Fanti Boats in Fanti Town, Buchanan, Liberia
I have always found their communities intriguing and their customs very similar yet slightly different than Liberians.  They have usually been very friendly and I remember riding my bike through the middle of Fanti Town in Buchanan as a small boy and receiving nothing but broad smiles.  What really sticks out in my mind though are their beautifully decorated boats.  If you're into photography a Liberian Fanti Town would yield a treasure trove of beautiful images.  You can find these towns on the beach in most of the larger coastal communities of Liberia like Monrovia and Buchanan.  Enjoy the pics and the following video of a Fanti boat that I was invited to enter and photograph by a friendly Fanti man.

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