The small yet unique village of Nzulezo is an exciting part of Ghana’s heritage. Built inside the Amansuri River and overlooking Lake Tadane, this floating village boasts a community of over 500 and a school. It has become a popular tourist attraction, but there is more than meets the eye in this village.
The name “Nzulezo” in the Nzema language means “water surface,” as stilts and platforms support the entire village. Such structures are of “Ewuture” origin and situated close to the northwest shore. The snail is the village’s totem. As local legend says, the town was built by a group of people from Oualata, a city in the ancient Ghana Empire and present-day Mauritania, that came about from following a snail. “The spirit told them to build their houses on the water for safety and security,” John Arthur, a community elder, told CNN.
Nzulezo’s existence came out of a necessity for safety. As a means of protection, the village was built inside water for protection during wars. The village is constructed out of wood and raffia with one central walkway/pier that the locals call “Main Street” and buildings on either side. One side of the village has living quarters while the other side of the street has businesses, the school, a community centre, two churches, a guesthouse, and a bar.
While Nzulezo is well-known for its aesthetic, the village is also famous for its gin. Known as Akpeteshie, this alcoholic beverage is made from raffia palm tree juice. “Tourism here started 20 years ago,” said David Blay, a local tour guide. “Most people travel out of different towns in Ghana, some of them come and taste the alcohol here. They feel it is far different and tastes good compared to other places.”
Nzulezo’s distant proximity to modernity is why the village has maintained much of its traditional life. The village is a 7-hour drive west of Accra, and interestingly enough, every family has three canoes – two for the parents and one for the children – as their primary mode of transport. As a result, children in Nzulezo are proficient swimmers by the age of four. The village’s lifestyle, however, proves difficult to adopt for outsiders.
The primary school in Nzulezo has four classrooms and 81 pupils, yet, according to The Guardian, the staff consists of only two teachers. Emmanuel Bonsu, who has worked at the school for 14 years, says that teachers are brought into Nzulezo but never stay long because “They are scared of the water.” Unfortunately, Nzulezo experiences transport issues whereby the local boat fails to keep time or does not arrive. As a result, often, when teachers leave, they cease to return. Evans Cudjoe, the headteacher of the primary school, says the reason for this is that teachers need to be incentivised enough to stay and work in the village.
“There is no safety allowance, no safety equipment. I think if all of these things are being done by the government, teachers will be willing to come and teach,” he added.
The village was nominated in 2000 for inclusion as a Unesco world heritage site. It is quite a tourist spot and is a particular part of Ghanaian history. Unfortunately, much like other regions in Africa, Nzulezo suffers from neglect. Residents are trying their best to get the request for a 24-hour medical centre approved and improve the transport situation to attract more teachers for their school. Nzulezo is such a monumental place that distinguishes itself from the rest. The village and its people deserve to be heard.