Bright Botwe (left), Grant Holder for British Library Endangered Archives Project, explaining a point to some patrons of the National Museum. Picture: ELVIS NII NOI DOWUONA
Bright Botwe (left), Grant Holder for British Library Endangered Archives Project, explaining a point to some patrons of the National Museum. Picture: ELVIS NII NOI DOWUONA

400 Patronise exhibition on registered lands

An exhibition of registered lands in Ghana, spanning 1843 to 1960, has ended at the National Gallery of the Ghana National Museum in Accra, with more than 400 people from all walks of life patronising the event.

The exhibition, dubbed: “Registered Lands: A significant heritage", was mounted between August 9 and 26, 2023.

It afforded researchers, students, tourists, lawyers, traditional rulers and the wider public the opportunity to explore the rich history behind acquisition of lands in Ghana.

Patrons were conducted round the “L-shape” section of the National Gallery in an orderly fashion.

The sections were divided into five provinces — the Western, Eastern and Central Provinces, Ashanti and Northern Territories — covering the entire country.

At some sections, indentures on mining concessions, timber and other natural resources were labelled with narratives on the transactions and those involved.

An integral part of the exhibits included the influential role women played in land business between the 1800s and 1900s.

The records shed light on the documented transactions that emphasised the contributions of women to the country's land history.

There was also a spotlight on the colonial administration during the era of Sir Gordon Guggisberg’s governance and Dr Kwame Nkrumah’s rule.

There were exhibits of land documents purchased by Dr Nkrumah for the establishment of the Ghana National Senior High School in Cape Coast on October 26, 1956; the Korle Lagoon acquisition on May 22, 1961; the Akosombo Dam; a master plan for the Accra-Tema Metropolitan area, and the Railway lands from Accra to Akuapim, among others.

The Needmet International LBG was the curator of the exhibition, which was sponsored by the British Library Endangered Archives Programme.

The exhibition also focused on digitalising and cataloguing the Deeds Registry as the major source of information and documentation on land administration in the country.


One of the patrons, the Okyeman Adontenghene of Akyem Kukurantumi in the Eastern Region, Daasebre Boama Darko, lauded the curators and the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board for the innovative exhibition, saying “they are on the right path".

“I came with a land issue, but when I came, I realised that everything was well arranged; what I have seen shows that it is some lawyers who have been causing problems because they are not aware of some of these things," he noted.

Daasebre Darko called on lawyers to take advantage of such exhibitions to update their knowledge instead of relying on potentially false information from the citizenry.

“Indeed, what I was looking for I have seen it, and I will advise my colleague chiefs to learn from such exhibitions; don't sit at home and give judgments on land issues," he said.


Three United States volunteers, who are in Ghana for a three-month Study Abroad and General Cultural Excursion programme, described the exhibition as a beautiful development.

The volunteers are Prof. Amy Patterson, Ashton Butler and Ashlyn Brown, all of the University of the South, Tennessee, US.

They said they were excited about how the exhibition was well organised, with clearly labelled dates of documentary proofs of what happened in the past, regarding land ownership and transfer of rights to lands, among others.

Prof. Patterson suggested to the exhibitors and the museum board to find ways to improve the initiative by showing two sides of the coin in terms of the current state of those documented lands, saying it would help to avoid controversies in land ownership.


The Grant Holder for British Library Endangered Archives Project, Bright Botwe, noted that “when you build an archive and you don't sell your products, nobody will get to know about it”.

“Every bit of records kept at the Deeds Registry has an important information embedded in them, so what we are supposed to do is to bring that element of importance out of the Deeds Registry; and so this exhibition is all about that,” Mr Botwe explained.

“We can't just say Atiwa Forest belongs to one person, so these documents show the number of chiefs involved in the Atiwa Forest acquisition.

For instance, if there is encroachment, there is a document to prove that this is the dimension or acres of land which were given out for the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital which used to be called the Accra Hospital,” he said.


Mr Botwe explained that the project was also aimed at drawing people's attention to where they could find information, including tracing their lineage.

“Our doors are open to people or Africans in the Diaspora, and so far, so good.

Although we didn't start early, we have received visitors from Sierra Leone, United States, United Kingdom and Nigeria, among other countries,” he indicated.


The Executive Director of the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board, Kingsley Ofosu Ntiamoah, said management decided to allow organisations and institutions to mount such temporary exhibitions to boost domestic tourism.

“I want to call on corporate Ghana to support us because when we refurbished the National Gallery, we had almost 14,000 patrons within a month, so I want to encourage you that whenever you mount an exhibition here it will be seen," Mr Ntiamoah said.

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