‘The Black Stars of Ghana’ by Alan Whelan

Alan Whelan’s ‘The Black Stars of Ghana’ is littered with enviable and illuminating turns-of-phrase; the kind that made ‘African Brew Ha-Ha’ one of the stand-out books in recent motorcycle travel.

Arriving in the Ghanaian capital city, Accra, Alan sources a Chinese-built Royal RYGY 150cc and sets off on a solo journey to discover what lies beyond the tourist trails of this relatively stable and prosperous sub-Saharan nation. His purpose is to get under the skin of Africa more than conventional adventure overland travel books and leave the reader with a more rounded picture of Ghana.

The journey begins just as the ‘Black Stars’ – Ghana’s national football team – commence their progress through the final rounds of the 2010 World Cup. This is the backdrop for most of the book.  Everywhere Alan goes the population seems completely absorbed in the successes of their team and his vivid descriptions of the matches, watched on TV amid throngs gathered in bars and hotels, are completely absorbing – even for someone who doesn’t follow soccer.

Along the way he meets an Ashanti Chief, witches, wizards and fetish priests, gold miners and custodians of reliquaries of the slave trade – those echoes of the slave trade are in sharp contrast to the shared euphoria surrounding the Black Stars’ progress.

In towns and villages, through jungle and along the coastline, he is among people whose lives are often hard but who are almost universally warm, kind and intelligent.

Alan is a true Afrophile who describes himself as “eternally optimistic” about the continent which he sees as often misunderstood through news reports that concentrate on the continent’s evils: famine, corruption, war, disease and poverty.

As Alan says; this is a fascinating time for Africa “with technology transforming people’s lives and commodity prices at their highest for generations, Africa is about to emerge out of the dark and people want to read about it”. You can get a copy here.

Nich Brown



240 pp

Inkstand Press 2012