Tabom, the Afro-Brazilian ex-slaves who set up Ghana’s first tailoring shop in 1854

Mildred Europa Taylor August 24, 2018
Afro-Brazilian ex-slaves established Ghana’s first tailoring shop in 1854

First Scissors House, Ghana’s first tailoring shop, was well-known for its beautiful and dapper suits and top hats.

The building trained generations of Afro-Brazilians and Ghanaian tailors before it caught fire and burnt to the ground in 2007.

It was built by Afro-Brazilian ex-slaves who arrived in Ghana’s capital, Accra in the mid-1830s.

Upon their arrival, they set up the “Brazil House” in the region of the old port in Jamestown, and this served as one of the first houses built and used by them.

Tabom, the Afro-Brazilian ex-slaves who set up Ghana’s first tailoring shop in 1854

Brazil House

These Afro-Brazilian ex-slaves arrived on a ship called S. S. Salisbury after the Malê Revolt of 1835 in Bahia.

It is documented that about 10,000 of these former slaves with families with Brazilian names like Souza, Silva, Cardoso, Da Costa, Gomez, and Costa, settled in communities in Nigeria and Togo when they arrived in West Africa but they had a warm welcome in Ghana.

The Gas, an ethnic group from Accra, Ghana’s capital subsequently offered them, about 70 families, a large tract of land in the area known as Jamestown.

They would later be given other lands in privileged locations; in places that are currently described as popular estates in Ghana.

Upon their arrival, they were given the name Tabom because of the familiarity the local people had with the term they used while greeting.

Since they could only speak Portuguese when they arrived in the coastal town, they greeted each other with “Como está?” (How are you?) to which the reply was “Tá bom”, so the Ga people of Accra started to call them the Tabom people.

But these Afro-Brazilians did not just come empty-handed, as they arrived with not only with wealth but skills in diverse areas such as agriculture, architecture, irrigation, blacksmithing, tailoring, and so on which would later enhance the quality of life of people in the community.

Tabom, the Afro-Brazilian ex-slaves who set up Ghana’s first tailoring shop in 1854

A sewing machine

And that is how the First Scissors House, Ghana’s first tailoring shop was built.

It was established in 1854 by George Aruna Nelson, who would later be chosen by Ghana’s former president, Kwame Nkrumah, to provide the Ghanaian Army with uniforms.

The building subsequently became a school where one could learn tailoring under the leadership of Nelson, who later became Nii Aruna I, the third chief of the Tabom.

First Scissors House, apart from once being used as a place of residence for the Tabom people and as a nursery, also became a place for enstoolment of chiefs, such as subsequent Tabom chiefs like Nii Azumah.

It is reported that tailoring work, however, continued in the building for more than 150 years until 2007 when it collapsed in a fire.

Tabom, the Afro-Brazilian ex-slaves who set up Ghana’s first tailoring shop in 1854

Sweet Mother, a fetish priestess of Tabom descent — Definidentity

Despite the unfortunate occurrence, the building continues to be a reminder of the history of the Tabom presence in Accra, who has since been integrated into the Ghanaian society and can be found among the Otublohum tribe of the Ga people.

Last Edited by:Francis Akhalbey Updated: August 24, 2018


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