Monday, September 2, 2013

Thanksgiving Sunday in Ghana

I love Baobab trees, so I thought I would post a photo of a beautiful one I ran across the other day.

A Baobab Tree on the Ghana University Campus
While America celebrates Labor day this weekend, Ghanaians are celebrating their harvest day with Thanksgiving Sunday.  This was the culmination for us of a beautiful weekend exploring Accra, seeing great Ghanaian theatre, and just all in all, enjoying our time.

We went to see the University of Ghana Theatre department perform in a play called “Snakes and Ladders”  -- an original devised work about the ups and downs of life, much of it focused on students and stereotypical scenarios in Ghanaian life.  I didn’t find the drama itself to be all that intriguing, but I loved the dance, music and movement.  Indeed, this is where Ghanaians excel and I would love for the dance and drama to meld more gracefully in the theatre works I see here.  The dancing and drumming in this particular piece took on a life of its own and the musicians themselves were great commentators and controllers of the action of the piece. 

Then, on Saturday, we went to a poetry slam for kids 13 to 19 years old at the National Theatre and Julia and I were chosen as judges!  So, that was fascinating as we judged the competition.  It was a tie between the only female competitor and another very smooth talking young poet who often seemed to be preaching more than making poetry, still his use of alliterative and internal rhyming, even in an extempore round, was quite good.

After this, we went to see Ebo Whyte’s new play “Men Run, Women Cry” which was fabulous.  Mr. Whyte has been writing a play every quarter for the past five years, and then, at the end of the year in December they perform all four of them.  This one takes place in a hair salon and involves a plot device of a magic necklace that makes men fall instantly in love.  What I love about Ebo’s plays is the combination of music, Ghanaian character types playing out every antic in the book, dance, and Ghanaian humor.  They’re really wonderful, and he develops them free form with improvisation.  I am hoping to go sit in on some of his rehearsals for his fourth quarter play when I have more time in November.  I’d love to write about his use of improvisational form in the theatre.  The jokes in the play about various stereotypes in Ghanaian culture were hilarious – for example and Ashanti character messes up his Ls and his Rs and sings a love song (the Ashanti’s are known for this consonant confusion)  So LOVE became ROVE etc.  And another local joke replaced a popular Twi gospel song with the name of a woman in the place of God and Christ.  The audience ate it up! 

Then, as I mentioned above, we culminated the whole weekend with the Thanksgiving service at Legon Interdenominational church.  And here’s a couple of pictures of our weekend.

The Thanksgiving Service

Snakes and Ladders:  University of Ghana Devised Theatre Production

Thursday, August 29, 2013

In Ghana for nearly three weeks....

We have been here now for three weeks, working and studying, playing and soaking up the new culture.  This group of students is full of adventure and vivacity, seeking out new experiences at every turn.  I will write here about the 2013 experience and post some photos every week.

To begin, I would like to thank God for this beautiful country where the people are so peaceful.

Today is the day that the Ghanaian Supreme Court rules on the country's 2012 election, which was contested by the NPP party.  It has taken months of deliberations to reach this moment.  Thousands of police have been deployed and the streets are empty this morning as people lay low awaiting the decision.

The hope is that there will be peace, no violence, and that this situation will be a learning experience for Ghana about the need for election reform and policy change.

I just spoke with a Ghanaian friend on the phone and he says it is all "a big fuss about nothing."

This morning, the gentleman who cleans my flat, Osman, said that "we share blood so we shall not shed blood."

And yesterday a refugee from Nigeria stopped me on my walk back to campus and questioned me about the situation in Ghana, claiming that he came here to find peace and hoped, indeed prayed, that it would last.  And by God's grace, it will.

So, I thought I would share a Ghanaian proverb that is close to me and speaks in to this situation:

"Only when you have crossed the river, can you say the crocodile has a lump on his snout. "

No explanation necessary, for we all know that treachery is necessary to cross a milestone.  My prayer is that the treachery of this election ordeal in Ghana will teach them to recognize those problems that must be brought to the forefront for change.

And this Ashanti image of the Crocodile with two heads should be the symbol of the moment as Ghana's two party system finds itself pulling in opposing directions and yet shares all of its vital organs.

Let's go forth in peace, with two heads, one body, and seek for peace.