Akwaaba and the Land in your Blood


Akwaabais a word from Twi language, one of the dialects commonly used in Ghana, and it translates to ‘Welcome’. The accepted response, in Twi, is Medaase meaning ‘Thank you’.

I have been back home in Scotland for a few weeks now after my trip to Ghana in honour of the year of return to acknowledge 400 years since the first documented enslaved people were taken from Africa to America. It is still settling within me. I am sure that ripples from the trip are still moving for all concerned. 

There are many significant memories when I look back but there is one overriding theme that I am very aware of. When we travelled around Ghana as a group, and we were a big group at over 250 people, at each new region it was important to visit, honour and acknowledge the tribal chief of that particular region. This is a local custom and an appropriate one. You wouldn’t enter someone else’s home without knocking on the door, introducing yourself and asking them to let you in. But it was so much more complex than that. Ghana is celebrating the return of the descendants of the ancestors who were stolen. And the vast majority of the group were returning to the land of their ancestors, to honour those ancestors. 

We travelled to three different regions within Ghana. Firstly, within the capital Accra, then to the Cape Coast and finally Kumasi, within the Ashanti Kingdom. At each welcome ceremony the Chief or King, his family, priests and dignitaries, maybe around thirty people in total, would be seated on a stage waiting to receive us. 

One by one, each member of our group worked their way along the line of dignitaries, bowing gently and shaking each person’s hand. Each member of the king’s group would clasp their hand and say ‘Akwaaba – Welcome home. You are home’ as they looked them in the eye. ‘Medaase’was the response. 

In my work I have observed that there is an influence, on all parts of the constellation field, from the psychohistory of different lands. Memories are held within the land and those memories hold sway over each of us as individuals, particularly in connection to our belonging. These memories are held within our blood, passed silently from one generation to the next and they become stirred at points of transitions, choices and change that are in resonance with our ancestors and their fields of influence.

Migration of some kind within a family’s historical narrative, whether through choice or through force, is not uncommon. If there is unresolved trauma around a forced displacement, then the associated entanglement will be rooted to that time and with those ancestors, and their historical narrative will flow down the line to the descendants in the present generation. It also flows from the collective belonging of a particular land or country to the people that knowingly or unknowingly belong to that land or country. The ‘silence’ that characterises the experience of this within general constellation exploration appears as a collectively rooted entanglement within the psychohistory of the land, the unscreamed scream.

Several generations may pass with the family or a particular branch of the family being established in the new land however the first loyalty, known or unknown, will be to the land of origin and to those left behind. 

The land of origin within the ancestral line can have greater influence upon the individual in question particularly if there is an entanglement around land, be it displacement, slavery, perpetration, betrayal, exclusion or a belief system associated with the land of origin. 

In exploring these influences within the constellation field I have found that there is a pattern that repeatedly appears. It is a triangle of:

Those left behind > those who left > the individual in the present

It is this very triangulation that is the root cause of entanglements around a lack of compassionate response, or a sacrificing response on a personal level, in intimate and family relationships or to the current geo-political changes. 

If our belonging within our family field is fractured, from ancestral or present time migration or displacement, then our individual belonging is severely hampered.

These disruptions create the entangled memories that are passed trans-generationally and are inherited by us as individuals. It also affects how we see others and how we may perceive others as potentially dangerous for our belonging. If we for a moment think about our current geo-political situation it begins to make a little more sense.

So how do you begin to heal something like that?

In each of these ceremonies to honour the tribal chiefs and kings there was an unconscious meeting of those left behind, those who left and the individuals in the present. An enactment of that very triangulation. It was a hotbed of deeply intense emotions, healing and trauma. It was fascinating and deeply humbling to witness the reconnection of such an entrenched separation. Witnessing those who chose to actually ‘see’ the individual in front of them and truly connect in the moment, with land looking on. It wasn’t always possible but when it was possible it was a highly charged moment of connection. A moment of bearing witness within the emotional relationship between the descendants of those who were taken and the descendants of those left behind. It also varied within each of the different regions of Ghana. 

It gave me great hope to witness the gathering and the healing connection between the descendants of those left behind and the descendants of those who were forced to leave. The hard part to ‘see’ for some of the those present within the group, and for the majority in the collective, was within ‘those forced to leave’ and in particular ‘those that didn’t survive’. The victims. The dead. Their suffering and pain. But that is where the deepest healing movement is. 

We processed up the hill towards the palace where the King and his dignitaries where waiting for us. We had been asked to wear white. There were drummers and dancers and people lining the streets welcoming us. It was quite a sight to see. We eventually arrived at the palace and we each made our way slowly along the line to be received by the King, shaking hands, a mix of seeing and not seeing, being seen and not being seen. 

When the ceremony was completed we slowly walked down the hill to the ‘Cape Coast Castle’. It is referred to locally as ‘The dungeons’. No one in Ghana calls it a castle. And the weight of the dead were present in the air. Standing in the darkness of the dungeons the waves pounding against the old walls was the loudest sound. People silently walked through and witnessed the horror. The crashing of the waves reached back through the generations, unchanged from then until now. The guide explained that the thick black hardened substance we were standing on was not actually concrete, it was several hundred years of decomposed human waste, flesh, blood and tears. And so we were present too with the ancestors. With those who didn’t survive, those forced to leave, those left behind, the descendants in the present, the dead and the land itself with the unchanging roar of the ocean behind us. 

I see you

I feel you

I remember you

You have not been forgotten

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