If there is one thing that I will remember most from Ghana it will be the people. The beautiful and welcoming people. Wherever you go everyone is saying hello, shaking your hand, and genuinely interested in where you come from. As a traveller I have never felt more welcomed into a country.
We docked the morning of September 27, and as the ship was being tied up a local drumming and dance group welcomed us with music from the docks. Music is integrated into almost all aspects of Ghanaian culture so it was nice to get a taste of what we would be hearing for the next 4 days before even stepping off the ship.
FIELD TRIP IN GHANA
I had my World Music field class on the first day. We went into a small village on the outskirts of the city to learn about music and culture, as well as practice some of our musical skills. Our teacher for the day was Jerry Ei who is a local music instructor who has traveled around the world teaching as well as performing traditional African drumming.
The day started off with a lesson on how drums are made and fixed, and then we moved onto drum lessons. We all sat on the roof top with the rolling hills in the background. Jerry went through the basics before moving onto more difficult rhythms. It was amazing to hear the beating of all the drums fill the air and see everyone with huge grins. As the pace picked up my hands were trying so hard to keep the beat but my left hand was struggling. It is amazing to see how easy the professionals make it look. You can’t help but love African drumming.
We then had a short dance lesson with one of the performers. In Ghanaian culture it is almost impossible to separate music, dance, and drama as they are all integrated into once piece. There is little separation between the performers and audience unlike what we are used to North American culture, so if the music or song moves you it is appropriate for you to join in.
We had a bell lesson and learned a short lullaby later in the day. Jerry was genuinely impressed with how quickly we picked up the rhythms and patterns. At the end of the day we got to watch a performance with drumming, singing and dancing by a local group. It was so special to be a part of such a close nit group of people for a day. The music completely energizes you. There was a woman down the street hanging clothes dancing to the music, and some children playing, dancing and singing along. I don’t think it is possible to watch and African drumming performance without a huge smile.
I think this was probably my favourite part of being in Ghana. Spending the day with the locals, being welcomed into their home with open arms, and learning about such an important part of their culture.
ACCRA AND THE MARKET
Accra is the Capital City in Ghana housing approximately 2.25 million people. The city is spread out with some office and apartment buildings but mostly made up of smaller townships. There are many structures remaining from the European Colonists that have since been passed down through generations that some families live in today.
The shuttle bus dropped us off downtown in a parking lot and the adventure began. My favourite part of being in a new place is just being able to walk around soaking in my environment.
We made our way to the old market in Accra along the Ocean to do some bargaining. Some other SASers who made it to the market the previous day told us how tough the locals were at bargaining. I was thinking that they had never had to bargain before and didn’t know what they were doing but after 5 minutes in the market I knew what they were talking about. The locals are very persuasive and great sales people. I also have never been to a market where I speak the same language as the owners of the shops which is probably part of what made it more difficult. They were all so nice and happy to have us in their country. Almost everyone who had a stall came up to us and introduced themselves, shook our hand and asked where we were from. Shopping and purchasing an item through bartering is a very social experience and is a fun was to get to know the person selling you the items. We bartered our little butts off that’s for sure.
GLOBAL MAMAS BATIK WORKSHOP
I registered in a field program through Semester at Sea to take a tour of the Global Mamas office and then take a Batik workshop. For those of you who don’t know about Global Mamas, they are a company based out of Ghana, who empower women in their community to become financially stable and fulfill their dreams. They teach the women how to handle their finances, how to save money, and the basics of running a business. The women start by Batiking or Sewing for Global Mamas and are encouraged to branch out and gain more business for themselves. You can find Global Mamas products in many stores around North America (specifically at Ten Thousand Villages).
The afternoon was spent taking our Batik workshop. Batiking is a way to die cloth, beginning with a white sheet that is then stamped with foam dipped in wax. The fabric is then soaked in a mixture of water, dye, and some chemicals before being hung to dry. Depending on the colour that the fabric is dyed in it might not change to the desired colour until it is oxygenated through drying. Once dry the fabric is then rinsed in hot water to get rid of the wax and hung once more.
At the end of the day it was amazing to look at my piece of cloth and be able to say “I made that”. It takes a lot of skill to be able to produce high quality Batik consistently. I am very thankful to the women at Global Mamas and Marry (the Batik instructor) for taking the time to teach us more about their company and show us how the fabrics are made. I highly recommend finding a shop near you to check out Global Mamas products.
CAPE COAST CASTLE AND EMLINA TOWNSHIP
“Look back to the past to help us more forward in the future” – Ghanaian Proverb
The tour that I took of the Cape Coast Castle was the most impactful moment of my trip so far. The castle built in 1653 was used to traffic African men and women during the slave trade. No matter how much you read or hear about the horrors that thousands of people went though, nothing is more powerful than standing where they stood. It was mind boggling to walk through the dungeons where slaves were kept, meanwhile in the room above their heads was a Chapel for the white man living above their heads to pray and hold services.
This is a part of Ghanaian culture that has drastically shaped who they. Our tour guide told us that “we may not be able to make up for our ancestors actions but we can say sorry”. That statement is something that will stick with me.
After lunch we had a walking tour of the Elmina Township where we were able to immerse ourselves in the local fishing village and see how so many people make their living.
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