Published online by Cambridge University Press: 09 January 2013
Akosombo Township, designed by the Greek urbanist Constantinos Doxiadis, is the model city at the foot of the hydroelectric Akosombo Dam, Ghana's largest development project. The article explores different visions of high modernist planning for Akosombo and juxtaposes it with the desires for and imaginations of modernity among its residents. Officials of the Volta River Authority, the agency in charge of the township, promoted specific ideas about housing, husbandry, and hygiene, while residents engaged with and resisted this kind of social engineering. These tensions came to the fore, when the squatters of Combine struggled to remain in the township. In conversation with residents, VRA officials produced a form of ‘high modernist local knowledge’.
Research for this article was supported by the American Council of Learned Societies; the President's Research Fellowships in the Humanities, University of California; and the Academic Senate, University of California, Santa Barbara. I am grateful to Laura Fair, Lisa Lindsay, Bianca Murillo, Erika Rappaport, and three anonymous readers for comments on earlier versions of this article.
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9 Preparatory Commission, The Volta River Project, I: Report of the Preparatory Commission, II: Appendices to the Report of the Preparatory Commission, and III: Engineering Report to the Preparatory Commission (by Sir William Halcrow & Partners) (London, 1956). For the production of local knowledge during preliminary surveys of large hydroelectric dams, see Loo, ‘Environmental’, 408–9. For Nkrumah's relationship with Ward and Jackson, see Public Records and Archive Administration Department, Accra (PRAAD) Record Group (RG) 17/2/378 and RG 17/1/220. For Doxiadis's influence on Ward's later work, see Ward, B., The Home of Man (New York, 1976)Google Scholar.
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11 d'Auria, ‘Tropical transitions’, 41–2. For a similar argument, see Crinson, Modern Architecture, 154.
12 For the Africanization of architecture following independence and the founding of the Faculty of Architecture at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, see Crinson, Modern Architecture, 130–2; and Le Roux, H., ‘Modern architecture in post-colonial Ghana and Nigeria’, Architectural History, 47 (2004), 361–92Google Scholar, esp. 385–90. In the early 1960s, Richard Buckminster Fuller, a member of Doxiadis's circle, visited and lectured at the Kumasi Faculty of Architecture.
13 M. deCerteau, The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. S. F. Rendall (Berkeley, 1984), xiv.
15 Volta River Development Act, 1961, (Act 46), Sect. 10 (1).
17 PRAAD RG 17/2/496, M, Memo 15, ‘Policy regarding further housing and ancillary development at Akosombo’, 3rd VRA Board Meeting, 20 Jan. 1962.
18 Evening News, 25 Aug. 1965. Nkrumah commissioned Doxiadis Associates to draw up a plan of formal gardens as a monument to the people who worked on the project: Constantinos A. Doxiadis Archives, Athens (DA), files 24488 and 24414, ‘Akosombo landscape’, 23 Dec. 1964, DOX-GHA A95. I am grateful to Giota Pavlidou for her assistance.
19 Moxon, Volta, 146.
20 D. Grove and L. Huszar doubted whether Akosombo would compete with the regional centers of Koforidua and Ho: see Grove, D. and Huszar, L., The Towns of Ghana: The Role of Service Centres in Regional Planning (Accra, 1964), 83Google Scholar.
21 Scott, Seeing, 112.
22 Kirchherr, ‘Tema’, 215. See also DA, files 24494 and 24414, ‘Accra-Tema-Akosombo regional programme and plan: Final report’, 22 Feb. 1961, DOX-GHA 12, and ‘Accra-Tema-Akosombo final programme and plan for the metropolitan area: Summary report’, 24 Feb. 1962, DOX-GHA 14.
23 Volta River Authority Library, Accra (VRA-Library) 711-4 (667) D75, Doxiadis Associates, ‘Akosombo master plan, 30 May 1962, DOX-GHA 43’, 32. The garden city of Lusaka on the Zambian Copperbelt is a good example for late colonial urbanism: Rakodi, C., ‘Colonial urban policy and planning in Northern Rhodesia and its legacy’, Third World Planning Review, 8:3 (1986), 193–217CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Segregation was integral to South African urban planning: Mabin, A. and Smit, D., ‘Reconstructing South Africa's cities? The making of urban planning 1900–2000’, Planning Perspectives, 12:2 (1997), 193–223CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For post-independence reorganization of urban spaces, see C. U. Rodrigues, ‘Angolan cities: urban (re)segregation?’, in F. Locatelli and P. Nugent (eds.), African Cities: Competing Claims on Urban Spaces (Leiden, 2009), 37–53.
24 Hart, Volta, 34–5; Hart discusses the report by C. St. Bird, J., Report on Volta River Scheme (Accra, 1949)Google Scholar. See also ‘Preparatory Commission’, Appendices, 296–325. d'Auria and De Meulder note that the smelter town, proposed by the Preparatory Commission at Kpong, was organized based on skills, training, and wages, reflecting the dwellers’ position ‘en route towards urban living’ and modernity: d'Auria and De Meulder, ‘Unsettling landscapes’, 123–9.
25 VRA-Library 711-4 (667) D75, Doxiadis Associates, ‘Akosombo master plan’, 8, 10, and 20.
27 The lowest income groups (46 per cent, earning up to £250) were allocated plots of 1,800 square feet each; the middle groups (47 per cent, earning £251–500) received plots of 3,600–4,050 square feet; the highest group (7 per cent, earning over £500), received plots of 7,200 square feet. Ibid. 27.
28 Ibid. 20, 30, and 44–51. By 1983, the township had 12,000 inhabitants, with VRA workers and their dependents constituting 63 per cent of the population, VRA, Annual Report, 22 (1983), 29. John Osei estimated the population at 18,000 inhabitants, half of them VRA employees and their dependents: Interview with John Osei, Akosombo, 17–18 July, 2006. Census records seem to underreport population figures for Akosombo; 1970: 7,716 people; 1984: 9,820; and 2000: 14,429. See Ghana Statistical Services, 2000 Population and Housing Census: Special Report on 20 Largest Localities (Accra, 2002)Google Scholar, 32.
29 By 1963 Impregilo housed 1,072 employees, and Kaiser Engineers and the government housed 144. Yet there were 1,062 people living in the improvised structures at Asukwao Market, among them 323 ‘mommies’, 290 girls (unmarried young women), 267 children, and 180 men. VRA Archive, Tema (VRA-A) Resettlement (RMT)/128, Impregilo, Camp Daily Report Summary, 9 May 1963. Thanks to Marian Antwi and Charlotte Selom Adza-Yawo for facilitating my research.
30 Crinson, Modern Architecture, 127–56; Le Roux, ‘Modern architecture’; Uduku, ‘Modernist architecture’; d'Auria, ‘Tropical transitions’; d'Auria and De Meulder, ‘Unsettling landscapes’. For the planning of new capital cities, see N. Elleh, ‘Architecture and nationalism in Africa: 1945–1994’, in Enwezor, Short Century, 234–45.
31 PRAAD RG 8/2/1011, Executive Instrument 106, Volta River Authority (Akosombo Township) Instrument, 1963; see also F. A. Sutherland, ‘The role of the Volta River Authority as a local authority for the Akosombo Township’ (unpublished DPA thesis, Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration, 1996), 3–4.
32 VRA-A Service Department & Registry (SD-R)/359, Agreement between VRA and Doxiadis Associates, 24 Sept. 1962. Until the end of 1965, Y. Matsakis served as town planner; see his sketches of Community 1 and 2, DA, files 24475, 19 April 1963, R-GHC 31.
33 Interview with John Osei; Email correspondence between Mario Baldassarrini, who was Impregilo's general manager at Akosombo, and the author, 15 June 2010.
34 ‘New post for Volta man’, Daily Graphic (Accra), 6 June 1963. Futa was well trained with two law degrees (London, Exeter) and an MBA (Harvard University), and he had served in regional administration before joining the Volta River Secretariat: see VRA-A Management Services Department (MSD) 1247, curriculum vitae (1987); interview with A. B. Futa, Accra, 15 July 2008.
35 VRA-A RMT/128, Alice A. Appea, ‘Welfare officer's report’, March 1963.
36 Ibid. Town planner Matsakis reflected on the requirements for establishing a day nursery; the cost of accommodating 400 preschool children seemed prohibitive: VRA-A RMT/128, Matsakis to Chief Executive, 3 May 1963.
37 VRA-A RMT/128, Alice A. Appea, ‘Welfare officer's report for December 1962’, Jan. 1963.
38 VRA-A MSD/94, Resident Manager, Akosombo, to Chief Executive, 16 June 1964, 2.
39 VRA-A RMT/128, Appea, ‘Welfare officer's report’, Jan. 1963. See interview with John Osei; M. Steegstra, ‘A “license to indulge in premarital sexual activities”? Dipo and the image of Krobo women’, in C. Oppong, M. Y. P. A. Oppong, and I. K. Odotei (eds.), Sex and Gender in an Era of AIDS: Ghana at the Turn of the Millennium (Accra, 2006), 77.
40 VRA-A RMT/138, Alice A. Appea, ‘Report on preliminary visit to Akosombo’, 29 Nov. 1962.
41 VRA-A RMT/128, Appea, ‘Welfare officer's report’, Jan. 1963.
42 VRA-A RMT/138, Appea, ‘Report on preliminary visit’, 29 Nov. 1962; VRA-A, RMT/128, Alice Appea, ‘Welfare report for the week ended 8 December 1962’.
43 VRA-A MSD/94, Resident Manager, Akosombo, to Chief Executive, 16 June 1964, 3. For recollections about film screenings, see the interview with Rev. Mercy Wood, Nene Doku Tetteh, George Thunder Ayeh, and Peter Adebrese-Mensah, Akosombo, 15 Feb. 2008.
44 ‘Akosombo area gets power’, Ghanaian Times (Accra), 13 Oct. 1965.
45 Interview with M. K. Kumatia, Akosombo, 26 June 2006.
46 Interview with A. B. Futa.
47 The AMC, formally constituted in 1968, consisted of the town manager and six VRA officers, as well as one representative from the Public Service Workers’ Union and one non-VRA resident. In 1971, non-VRA residents received a second representative and the headmaster of the Akosombo International School was included; in 1975, the Akwamu Traditional Area was allowed one representative. In 1993, the VRA board reconstituted the AMC and expanded it to 16 members; new AMC members were partly appointed and partly elected, the latter included now two representatives from the Asuogyaman District Assembly. See Sutherland, ‘Akosombo’, 4 and 16–8.
48 VRA, Annual Report, 8 (1969), 22 and 3 (1963), 5.
49 ‘Habitus’ is understood here as ‘subjective but not individual system[s] of internalized structures, schemes of perception, conception, and action common to all members of the same group or class and constituting the precondition for all objectification and apperception’, P. Bourdieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice, trans. R. Nice (Cambridge, 1977), 86.
50 Comaroff, J. L. and Comaroff, J., Of Revelation and Revolution, Volume Two: The Dialectics of Modernity on a South African Frontier (Chicago, 1997), 274–322CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For the impact of missionary teaching on men, see Miescher, S. F., Making Men in Ghana (Bloomington, IN, 2005)Google Scholar.
51 VRA-A MSD/249, AMC, 23rd Meeting Minutes, 15 Feb. 1978, 9; VRA-A MSD/1304, AMC, 60th Meeting Minutes, 11 June 1986, 9. They included Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist, Pentecostal, Apostolic, and Mossama Disco Christo churches.
52 VRA-A MSD/96, AMC, 32nd Meeting Minutes, 4 Nov. 1970, 4; 33rd Meeting Minutes, 10 Feb. 1971, 5; and 34th Meeting Minutes, 10 March 1971, 5.
53 VRA-A MSD/96, AMC, 34th Meeting Minutes, 10.
54 VRA-A MSD/249, AMC, 3rd Meeting Minutes, 6 Sept. 1972, 5; 15th Meeting Minutes, 16 July 1975, 4. For other complaints about stray animals, see VRA-A, MSD/96, AMC, 7th Meeting Minutes, 11 July 1973, 7. In September 1971 the AMC was reconstituted, leading to a renumeration of meeting minutes.
55 VRA-A RMT/128, A. B. Futa, Deputy Secretary, to Chief Executive, 29 Jan. 1963. d'Auria and De Meulder note the distinction between communal sanitary blocks in Tema Manhean and internal flush toilets throughout Tema Township; access to the latter was a sign of transition towards a more cosmopolitan urban living among township's residents. See d'Auria and De Meulder, ‘Unsettling landscapes’, 137.
56 VRA-A MSD/96, AMC, 34th Meeting Minutes, 4. ‘Two-to-One’ quarters referred to a single room shared by two workers.
57 For problems at the Aksukwao Market and the planning of the new market, see VRA-A MSD/249, AMC, 1st Meeting Minutes, 8 Sept. 1971, 4; VRA-A MSD/96, AMC, 2nd Meeting Minutes, 5 April 1972, 6.
58 VRA-A Akosombo Real Estate Department (AK/REED)/75, Town Manager to ATL Administrative Manager, 3 May 1973 and ATL General Manager to Chief Executive, 9 June 1973. For the beginnings of ATL, see: Interview with René Goettin, Basel, Switzerland, 19 Aug. 2008; and Interview with Sandy Pan, San Mateo, CA, 5 Feb. 2011.
59 VRA-A SDR/1497, E. L. Quartey's address, 21 Aug. 1975.
60 See the blueprint in VRA-A MSD/95. Market construction is covered in VRA-A MSD/249, AMC, 13th Meeting Minutes, 11 Dec. 1974, 3.
61 VRA-A MSD/249, Minutes of the Extraordinary Meeting of the AMC, 28 May 1975, 1–3. For the role of commodities in the organization of the Kumasi market, see Clark, G., Onions Are My Husband: Survival and Accumulation by West African Market Women (Chicago, 1994)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Clark, G., African Market Women: Seven Life Stories from Ghana (Bloomington, IN, 2010)Google Scholar.
62 Sutherland, ‘Akosombo’, 5.
63 VRA-A MSD/205, Minutes of Meeting with Kaoga District Council, 26 Feb. 1976; VRA-A MSD/249, AMC, 14th Meeting Minutes, 12 Mar. 1976, 5.
64 VRA (Akosombo township) Instrument 1989 (E. I. 42), which revoked the 1963 instrument (E. I. 106); see Sutherland, ‘Akosombo’, 5–8, 28, and 61; Interview with John Osei; and Tsikata, Living, 144.
65 Volta River Development Act, Sect. 14 (2).
66 Scott, Seeing, 265, drawing on Holston, J., The Modernist City: An Anthropological Critique of Brasília (Chicago, 1989)Google Scholar.
67 VRA-Library 711-4 (667) D75, Doxiadis Associates, ‘Akosombo master plan’, 8. See also Moxon, Volta, 147.
68 Interviews with D. K. Danquah and John Gyaise, Akosombo, 15 Feb. 2008; Interview with Samuel Mawuko and D. K. Danquah, Akosombo, 19 July 2008.
69 VRA-A MSD/96, AMC, 32nd Meeting Minutes, 8. ‘Combine’ is a corruption of the name of the company that built the hospital, Combined Contractors: Interview with John Osei.
70 VRA-A MSD/96, AMC, 38th Meeting Minutes, 7 July 1971, 5 and ‘Housing in Akosombo’, Appendix I of AMC, 2nd Meeting Minutes, 5 April 1972.
71 VRA-A MSD/249, AMC, 3rd Meeting Minutes, 6 Sept. 1972, 3. In a letter to the chief executive, the town manager reflected on this earlier initiative: VRA-A MSD/205, 17 Apr. 1977.
72 VRA-A AK/REED 75, Akosombo Muslim Association to Town Manager, 15 Jan. 1974, and Town Manager to Muslim Association, 16 Jan. 1974.
73 Hart, Volta, 59.
74 Interview with Margaret Apeagyei, Akosombo, 6 Dec. 2007; Interview with John Osei; Interview with A. B. Futa.
75 Interview with Rev. Wood et al.
76 VRA-A MSD/96, AMC, 33rd Meeting Minutes, 2–3.
77 VRA-A MSD/96, AMC, 34th Meeting Minutes, 3.
78 VRA-A MSD/96, AMC, 38th Meeting Minutes, 7 July 1971, 7.
79 Interview with Samuel Mawuko and D. K. Danquah; see also interview with Rev. Wood et al.
80 VRA-A MSD/249, AMC, 17th Meeting Minutes, 17 Dec. 1975, 9.
81 VRA-A MSD/249, AMC, 18th Meeting Minutes, 14 April 1976, 6; AMC, 23rd Meeting Minutes, 15. Feb. 1978, 8.
82 VRA-A REED/171, ‘Status report and recommendation for the clearing of the Combine slum area, Akosombo’, n.d. (1988), and ‘Report of the Akosombo slum (Combine) clearance and relocation committee’, 7 Sept. 1989. See also Sutherland, ‘Akosombo’, 38.
83 See Scott's discussion on the Brasília squatters asserting their political power: Scott, Seeing, 129.
84 VRA-A REED/171, ‘Status report’, (1988). Mawuko recalled how a petition launched by Vincent Selormey, Nana Kakari, Maame Akoto and others convinced the Busia government to abandon its plan for eviction and start building low cost housing in Community 2, a project terminated after the 1972 military coup; see Interview with Samuel Mawuko and D. K. Danquah. Of 100 units built, ATL received half for its workers; Interview with John Osei.
85 Interview with Samuel Mawuko and D. K. Danquah.
86 Nugent, P., Big Men, Small Boys and Politics in Ghana: Power, Ideology and the Burden of History, 1982–1994 (London, 1995)Google Scholar; and Shillington, K., Ghana and the Rawlings Factor (London, 1992)Google Scholar. See also Herbst, J., The Politics of Reform in Ghana, 1982–1991 (Berkeley, CA, 1993)Google Scholar.
87 VRA-A REED/171, ‘Status report’, (1988).
88 VRA-A REED/171, Draft letter of Chief Executive Louis Casely-Hayford to PNDC Secretary, Ministry of Fuel and Power, 25 Jan. 1989. While the VRA had built houses just with one core room as part of the Akosombo Dam resettlement, regardless of the previous house size, the VRA replaced all rooms for those displaced by the Kpong Dam; M. Danby, ‘House Design’, in Chambers, Resettlement Experience, 165; and Tsikata, Living, 141.
89 VRA-A REED/171, Notice: Demolition of Combine, n.d. (1988).
90 Interview with Rev. Wood et al.
91 Interviews with R. D. Salawu, Akosombo, 7 Dec. 2007 and 31 March 2011.
92 Impregilo was already in Akosombo rehabilitating houses in Community 1 and building one hundred units for VRA employees in Community 2: VRA-A MSD/1304, Minutes of meeting with Impregilo, 8 Aug. 1985.
93 VRA-A REED/171, Acting Town Manager to Director of Services, 7 Aug. 1989; A. B. Futa's handwritten note with talking points.
94 VRA-A, REED/171, Combine House Owners Association to Chief Executive, 28 June 1989.
95 VRA-A REED/171, Chief Executive Casely-Hayford to Combine Home Owners Association, 16 Aug. 1989; see also interview with Louis Casely-Hayford, Tema, 16 June 2008.
96 VRA-A, REED/171, Minutes of meeting between town management and Combine residents, 3 Aug. 1989.
97 VRA-A REED/171, ‘VRA memorandum on Akosombo slum clearance and relocation’, 26 Sept. 1989.
98 VRA-A REED/171, ‘VRA memorandum on Akosombo slum clearance’, 26 Sept. 1989.
99 Interview with Samuel Mawuko and D. K. Danquah.
100 VRA-A REED/171, ‘VRA memorandum on Akosombo slum clearance’, 26 Sept. 1989.
101 VRA-A REED/171, Acting Town Manager to Acting Director, Organizational Services, Accra, 12 Feb. 1990; Interview with Samuel Mawuko and D. K. Danquah.
102 VRA-A REED/171, Town Manager to Director, Engineering & Design, Akuse, 21 June 1990; see the more upbeat reporting about ‘satisfactory progress on the Slum Clearance exercised at Akosombo’, VRA, Annual Report, 30 (1990), 35; VRA-A REED/171, Acting Engineering Director to Deputy Chief Executive, 23 April 1993.
103 VRA-A REED/171, ‘VRA memorandum on Akosombo slum clearance’, 26 Sept. 1989.
104 From June 1990 to Oct. 1991, over eighty house owners in New Combine received ‘provisional approval’ to extend their houses: see VRA-A AK/REED/136; Interview with John Gyaise, Akosombo, 11 Jan. 2008, whose 28 June 1990 request for the extension of his Type 4 house is in this file.
105 VRA, Annual Report, 33 (1994), 34; VRA, Annual Report, 34 (1995), 35; VRA, Annual Report, 35 (1996), 37; and VRA, Annual Report, 37 (1998), 39.
106 Interview with R. D. Salawu, 7 Dec. 2007. Among the people who relocated, 2,000 resided in 278 structures in Combine, the rest in other parts of Akosombo with unapproved structures: 643 people in 122 structures in Kyease, 35 people in 9 structures in Kokono, 278 people in 60 structures in Asukwa, 53 people in 14 structures in Accra City, 23 people in 12 structures in Agbozokope, and 265 people in 56 structures in Abmakwadzo: see VRA-A REED/171, ‘VRA memorandum on Akosombo slum clearance’, 26 Sept. 1989.
107 Interview with Rev. Wood et al.
108 VRA-A REED/171, Acting Town Manager to Director of Real Estate, Akuse, 20 July 1990; Director of Real Estate to Deputy Chief Executive, 26 July 1990; hand-written note by Casely-Hayford, forcefully arguing for reforestation.
109 Interview with Rev. Wood et al.
110 Interviews with John Osei, 17–18 July 2006, and 27 July 2008.
111 VRA, Annual Report, 36 (1997), 34, and VRA, Annual Report, 37 (1998), 39.
112 For water supply problems in houses beyond the township boundaries, see: Interview with Rev. Wood et al.
113 The 2000 census lists 14,429 inhabitants for Akosombo; Ghana Statistical Service, Census, 32.
114 Fuel transport makes up 70 per cent of the revenue of the Volta Lake Transport Company; Interview with Mr. Martin, Akosombo Harbor, 17 Aug. 2009.
115 I attended a ‘Crusade’ in the community center, organized by the Action Chapel International, Accra, on 2 May 2008; thanks to Doris Soku for inviting me.
116 Scott, Seeing, 145; Ferguson, J., Expectations of Modernity: Myths and Meanings of Urban Life on the Zambian Copperbelt (Berkeley, CA, 1999)Google Scholar.
117 See Sutherland's positive assessment of the VRA for turning a ‘construction camp into a modern model township’: Sutherland, ‘Akosombo’, 35–7.
118 Interview with John Osei, 2006; Interviews with M. K. Kumatia, Margaret Apeagyei, and R. D. Salawu.
119 Ferguson, Expectations. For former ATL employees retiring in Akosombo, see: Interview with John Gyaise; and Interview with Kofi Ansah, Akosombo, 11 Jan. 2008.
120 See Massey, Space, 120.
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