Tag Archives: traditional dancing

ProWorld Day of Culture

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I apologize for the lack of posts. I managed to get a stubborn bacterial infection and was sick most of last week. After surviving some super strong antibiotics, I’m finally starting to feel normal again. Regrettably, I was stuck spending one of my last weekends here in Ghana in bed. C’est la vie.

Before me bedridden weekend, I had an eventful Friday. Along with the two new CRAN interns, I bowed out of work and took part in several traditional Ghanaian activities.

Caleb carving like a pro (or at least better than me)

Caleb carving like a pro (or at least better than me)

In the morning, we met Ebo, a master woodcarver who has a shop within Cape Coast Castle. He was going to try and teach us the basics in woodcarving. First, we stopped by his shop to check out the final products and learn about the different types of wood he uses. Ebo mostly carves with mahogany, ebony, and a local type of wood whose name I cannot pronounce.  His work was extraordinarily beautiful. He had sculptures and wall hangings of all different sizes and colors.

Ebo led us to a workstation on the beach with three small boards and a variety of tools. We were to practice using basic woodcarving tools and make a wood etching of a beach scene. Ebo had already drawn a picture of a boat in pencil for us to follow. We first carved the border, and followed with the boat. Next, we each could add our own designs. We carved our names on the back and then finished with a border around the edge.

Woodcarving is hard and I am terrible at it. I was easily the worst out of the three of us, and poor Ebo had to keep helping me. After a disastrous attempt at hollowing the seat of the boat, Ebo promised to fix it for me. After asking him if my carving was alright, I learned that Ebo is a lousy liar. He gave me a hesitant, “It’s nice,” which really meant, “My toddler could have done a better job.” Despite being very difficult, I really enjoyed our woodcarving workshop and am interested in seeing the results once Ebo “fixes” mine and applies varnish.

My attempt at woodcarving.

My attempt at woodcarving.

After lunch and brief tour of Kingsway for the newbies, we headed back over to the beach for a traditional drumming and dancing lesson. We were joined by the Missou University students, which helped limit my embarrassment. First, we were talk some simple drumming rhythms by our instructor, One Ghana (Yes, this is his legal name. I asked).  I really enjoyed the drumming and hearing the different types of drums.

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I take drumming very seriously.

I take drumming very seriously.

Next was the dreaded dancing portion. It was especially awkward as we drew a crowd of Ghanaians watching us for their nightly entertainment. We were asked to dance barefoot, which was uncomfortable due to the many pebbles on the ground. After a brief warm-up, we were led through a short routine that had lots of clapping and jumping. Being tall, I was able to hide somewhat in the back. Since, I was sick at the time and had just started my antibiotics, I really wasn’t thrilled with the dancing. I was super tired and just wanted to sit down. Luckily it was over fairly quickly and was only somewhat embarrassing.

Warming up for dancing

Warming up for dancing

Overall, I really enjoy participating in some traditional Ghanaian activities.  For me, the highlight was definitely the woodcarving. While I’ve always known that woodcarving is difficult, actually attempting to make something simple was very humbling and gave me new respect for the master craftsmen. I wasn’t a huge fan of the dancing, but a majority of that was because I was feeling so ill. I’m sure I would have enjoyed it more if I were healthy!

I tried to hide in the back.

I tried to hide in the back.

Proworld Ghana's country director, Shawn showing off her moves.

Proworld Ghana’s country director, Shawn showing off her moves.

Breman Odwira Afahyea: It’s Festival Time!

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This weekend I traveled to a remote community called Asikuma for a festival celebrating the Breman State. Asikuma is where my friend, Abby, lives and works during the week. We spent the weekend with her homestay family and attended the Grand Durbur, or the main festival program.

Mary, Sarah, and I left Cape Coast on Friday afternoon to make it to Asikuma in time for dinner. It took about two hours, a trotro ride, and a shared taxi tide to get there. Once we made it Asikuma, we wandered around Our Lady of Grace Hospital looking for Abby. Eventually we found her, and made the half an hour walk back to her house. We ran into a parade along the way, and I was escorted by two men dressed in monster masks and clown costumes. It was one my weirder moments in Ghana, which is really saying something. Once we made it to the house, we met the some members of Abby’s homestay family, Auntie Maggie, Sister Bebe, Grandma, and Petra. They showed true Ghanaian hospitality by supplying us with several beverages and giving us the best bedrooms to stay in. We ate a delicious supper of jollaf rice with chicken, pineapple, and watermelon. We all went to bed early in order to get a good night’s sleep before the festival.

We got up bright and early to fit in a brief tour of the town before the Durbur was scheduled to start. Of course being Ghana, the scheduled starting time and the actual starting time were quite different. The program was supposed to begin at 11AM, but when we arrived at the time, the grounds weren’t even set up yet. The program would eventually begin around 2:30PM. So, we did a bit of shopping and headed back to the house for lunch. Shawn, ProWorld’s country director, met us just in time for the festivities, as Sarah needed to return to Cape Coast that evening.

Festival grounds!

Festival grounds!

We went back to where the festival was being held (this time by taxi), and found the seats that Sister Bebe had saved us. We had a great view of the procession of regional chiefs, but were baking in the direct sunlight. I had forgotten to put sunscreen on the tops of my feet and they were on fire! Once all of the regional chiefs had greeted the Paramount chief and took their seats, a man in traditional clothing approached us. Apparently the chiefs had noticed that we were sitting in the sun and invited us to sit next to them under one of the tents. So we awkwardly paraded across the field in front of everyone and took our seats of honor. Since we four of us were the only foreigners to attend the festival, I suppose they wanted to make sure we were as comfortable as possible and could enjoy our visit. The festival proceedings were several hours long, so I was extremely grateful that we were invited into the shade. Also, Mary and I were given programs for free, even though they were charging everyone else one cedi. Since most of the festival was conducted in Twi, the program ensured that I could understand what was happening.

Procession of the regional chiefs

Procession of the regional chiefs

So the Afahye was being celebrated for several reasons. Most broadly, the festival celebrated the development of the Breman state in areas such as career training, environmental preservation, sanitation improvements, and improvement of infrastructure. The Durbur contained an “Appeal for Funds” portion, in which community members were encouraged to donate to the implementation of the Breman’s 5 Year Strategic Development Plan. The Breman Odwira Festival also was an integration of smaller cultural festivals such as Okyir, Bayerdi, Akwanbo, Abangye, and Essa. For example, Bayerdi marks the yam harvest and Akwanbo commemorates the annual ceremonial clearing of all weeds along the ancestral routes to Asikuma. So really, the Breman Odwira Festival is combination of cultural activities as well as a fundraiser for the community.

Traditional Dancing

Traditional Dancing

As a non-Twi speaker, the Durbur consisted of a procession of regional chiefs directly followed by a greeting and a prayer. Then the Paramount Chief, Odeef Amoakwa Buadu VII, gave a welcome address. We got to see some drumming and traditional dancing, and then a few more speeches. After that, there was the fundraising portion, another prayer, and the final procession.  I really enjoyed the final procession that winded through town, culminating at the royal palace. The Paramount Chief was carried in a throne and was followed by musicians. All of the regional chiefs fell into a line behind him. Everyone danced, clapped, and cheered the procession onwards.

Odeef Amoakwa Buadu VII

Odeef Amoakwa Buadu VII

After the procession, we again headed home for dinner. After a quick meal of spaghetti with hard-boiled eggs, we readied ourselves for a night out. Honestly, I wasn’t too excited about partying as my few experiences here in Ghana have left me somewhat uncomfortable. I’m not a fan of the incessant staring and frequent groping, or being made fun of for my lack of dancing skills. Shawn and Sister Bebe decided to come with us (for which I was very grateful) and we walked over to the taxi station, which had been transformed into an open square with a stage. In Ghana, if there is music playing, people will immediately start dancing. That’s why it was so strange that no one was dancing in the square despite the music playing and dance groups performing on stage. It started to rain, so we decided to go back to the “spot” by Abby’s house for a drink.

We all had a tepid beer and some tasty mystery meat before the rain started to pick up. We managed to make into the bar before it started pouring. At that point, the old lady in me just wanted a shower and bedtime. The bar quickly turned into a Ghanaian version of a frat party. I kept getting spilled on, groped, and was generally hot from the amount of people jammed into the area avoiding the rain. As soon as the rain slowed, Mary, Shawn and I grabbed a cab back to the house, leaving Abby and Sister Bebe to continue frolicking. I took my much need showered and conked out.

When I woke up on Sunday, the sky still looked ominous and it was sprinkling off and on.  We ate an early breakfast, and packed up our things. Apparently there was some sort of major Catholic celebration going on in Cape Coast, so Sister Bebe and Abby joined us for our trek home. I was so tired from my busy weekend that I spent the rest of the day reading and napping. Oh well.

I really enjoyed the Asikuma festival and am really glad that I was able to take part in such a rich cultural experience. Funny enough, I got hit on more during this weekend than I have during my entire stay in Ghana. I left about twenty-five boyfriends in Asikuma. So many choices! 😉

Here’s a video of questionable quality that I took of the festival. Ignore the cheesy IMovie transitions!