The Symbolic Use of Kantamanto Market and Korle Lagoon in UNEXPECTED JOY AT DAWN


Kantamanto Market and Korle Lagoon are two symbolic places used in the portrayal of the Ghanaian realities in Alex Agyei-Agyiri’s Unexpected Joy at Dawn. They represent in their distinct ways the unpleasant situation of Ghana in the 1980s the author tries to situate in the text.

The Symbolic Use of Kantamanto Market

Kantamanto Market in particular is a relic of a part of the Ghanaian history where there was no xenophobia and all nationals made a living there without fear or restraint. It represents a period in Ghana when there was no distinct difference between citizens and non-citizens; aliens were not subjected to discrimination.

Kantamanto gave expression to African unity. One could, standing at a spot, sample the diverse races and tribes in Africa and Asia.

Unexpected Joy at Dawn

In other words, the former market used to be the point of convergence for traders from different nations. It is the African unity that is missing in Ghana. The old Kantamanto Market embodies the never-say-die Pan-African spirit and African brotherhood which used to be in Ghana before the 80s.


In its ruins, Kantamanto Market symbolises the several changes Ghana has gone through: changes in diplomatic policies; changes in government; changes in economic situation; changes in its general outlook among many other changes. Kantamanto Market is symbolic in the sense that the author uses it as the microcosm for the deterioration of Ghana as a whole.

The Symbolic Use of Korle Lagoon

The Korle Lagoon on its part is used to symbolise the rottenness of the Ghanaian society of that period. The pungent smell, collected waste, stagnant sewage, corpses etc in or within the surrounding of Korle Lagoon all add up in signifying a complete state of rottenness and repulsive atmosphere Ghana (in the text) is enshrouded in.

Ghana has been reduced to a country where there is famine, economic depression, and aversion for aliens. It also does not appreciate the creativity of its citizens as evident in the turn-down of Aaron’s Ant Hill Brick Project. In this type of country, only criminal elements thrive as we have seen in Joe and Tally O.

There is also this other thing about the revolutionaries. They are always right. Anyone with a dissenting view is immediately branded a reactionary and given severe punishment. A country that gives no room for different opinions is bound to be stagnant like the Korle Lagoon.

The shooting of a minor not only shows the extent the revolutionaries can go but also how much morally repugnant these self-righteous individuals are. The nodding approval of the crowd also indicates how rotten this society is.

Korle Lagoon also houses criminal elements. It is the rendezvous of young men smoking marijuana and robbers sharing their booties. Remember Tally O went to this same lagoon to change his clothes after duping Mama Orojo.
In short, Korle Lagoon symbolises a derailed society at its social and moral ebb.

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