2019 marks the year of the return in Ghana. It officially launched in September 2018 when Ghana's President Nana Akufo-Addo extended a formal invitation for Africans across the diaspora to travel there, 400 years after the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in Jamestown, Virginia. Ghana is much more than just another travel destination for people of African descent across the nation, though with its sprawling beaches and famous landmarks, Ghana is a tourist's dream. For me, the trip was a spiritual and life-affirming journey, symbolizing the resilience of African people and our triumphant and enduring legacy after centuries of forceful oppression. It was also an opportunity to unite with other people of African descent across the diaspora, from the Caribbean to United States and all over the world.
To start, I really enjoyed my travel to Accra, Ghana, the bustling city where I stayed for the duration of my trip. I flew Emirates, a modern, luxurious aircraft with a global hub in Dubai. It was important to me to choose an airline with a diverse staff of people and one that espoused similar values like sustainability (they've reduced the use of single-use plastic on board) and gender parity, regularly highlighting women in aviation. My friends stayed connected to home through onboard wifi and the news on live TV (their ICE entertainment package has over 4,500 channels).
My favorite part — besides the amazing sous-vide halibut I ate — was interacting with the flight attendants and local Ghanaian people on my flight. Sparking conversation with almost everyone around us, all we heard in return was "Akwaaba!" which means "you are welcome." Before we even stepped foot on Ghanaian land, we felt like a new chapter was beginning. We were finally home.
Among the highlights of my trip was a powerful and transformative visit to Elmina castle, the first European slave-trading post in all of sub-Saharan Africa and the last place that thousands of enslaved African people saw before they were taken in chains across the Atlantic on the perilous Middle Passage. But as I looked back and recalled the treacherous journey our people endured some 400 years ago with tears in my eyes and heartache in my soul, I also was intentional about holding onto joy. I felt so euphoric dancing in the sun at AfroNation and Afrochella — and trying the local (and delicious) food like Joloff rice and Kelewele at Buka.
As a lover and student of fashion, I wanted to commemorate my trip to Ghana by wearing a piece from a Ghanaian designer every day that I was in Accra — and there was such a great wealth of talent, innovation and vision among the talented group of designers I chose to wear. Ahead, meet 6 Ghanaian designers that you should incorporate into your wardrobe too, during the Year of The Return and beyond.