This Fulbright-Hays Study Tour to Ghana was sponsored by the College of Education and
Human Services at Lehigh University, the Africana Studies Consortium of the Lehigh Valley Association of Independent Colleges
(LVAIC) and funded by the U.S. Department of Education and conducted with the collaborative support of Community of Agile
Partners in Education (CAPE) and the University of Ghana. The purpose of this project was to provide educators an intensive
educational opportunity in Ghana, West Africa that results in curriculum enhancement/development for the LVAIC Africana Studies
Consortium Program and enhancement of multicultural education in primary and secondary institutions in Pennsylvania.
University Faculty as well as K-12 teachers participated it the Group Project Abroad and developed
educational programs on Africa in general, and Ghana in particular, that are being disseminated within Pennsylvania school
districts through the use of both traditional teaching methods and advances in educational technology (e.g., Internet and
video conferencing). In addition, a LVAIC Resource Guide on Africa that includes a directory of educators who can do presentations
on Ghana, class room activities, and specialists that can assist other teachers/educators who want assistance developing teaching
||In most societies religious life predates other forms of social
organization. Ghana is no different in this respect, except that Ghana’s religious practices cover a wide range of experiences.
In their most recognizable form, one sees the artifacts of religious awareness nearly everywhere. Churches and other temples
of worship are omnipresent in this country where Christianity predominates among mainstream practices. Public transportation
vehicles in the capitol of Accra carry bumper stickers proclaiming “Jesus Is Lord,” and “Only God Can Bring
Peace.” You can see it in the countryside posters announcing tent meetings and rallies to hear the Word. The outward
signs of religious practices are integral to Ghanaian society.|
seen and the unseen, often cannot be separated. In traditional culture,
for example, ancestors are understood to serve as familiar intermediators between this world and the next; in other words,
they exist to be a bridge between the sacred and the profane. There are chiefs and kings with extraordinary authority that
has been passed down through the ages, enabling them to define good and bad acts and with the power to judge the actions of
others. These positions underscore the importance of ethnic, tribal and family relationships, as well as the values that are
passed on from one generation to the next and from one extended family member assuming responsibilities for another.
|The strength of organized religious practice owes its success to
a profound spirituality in Ghana, and perhaps among all African countries. Traditional Ghana includes rich practices and customs
of worshipping the divine in such a manner that the distinction between traditional and spiritual, the
The traditional parts of Ghana’s religious life may not always be visible in church-like structures.
They are found in personal rites and rituals; in puberty rites, through marriages, funerals and naming ceremonies. Events
such as these offer corporate expressions of grace and forgiveness, as they bring people together regardless of their station
in life. It is in fact a time of renewal, the purification step necessary perhaps to start over again. Religion in Ghana mirrors
the complexity of this west African country in its diversity and its deep reverence for the spirit world.
C. James Trotman, West Chester University
1. ART AND ORACLE: AFRICAN ART AND RITUALS OF DIVINATION.
THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART, 1999.
2. Desmond Tutu, CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS: THE
STRUGGLE FOR JUSTICE IN SOUTH AFRICA. 1982.
3. Martin Kilson and Robert I. Rotberg,
AFRICAN DIASPORA: INTERPRETIVE ESSAYS. 1976.
MUSIC AND DANCE: CULTURE
|Music is virtually inseparable from dance in traditional Ghanaian societies, and both are integral
to the maintenance of important cultural identifiers. In early times, it was through intense reiteration of layered
cross-rhythms, enhanced by group dancing and song, that villages performed rituals to appease the spirits and unify the community.
|Although the musical landscape is
rich with many vocal and instrumental genres, it is through the magical rhythms of the drummers that the soul of the people
of Ghana is preserved and flourishes. Drums of all shapes and sizes augment daily life throughout the country,
and avid practitioners ensure that the "rhythms of life," inherited over countless generations, will endure.|
|In Kumasi, I was awakened one morning to the distant
sound of ceremonial drums, not an unusual occurrence given the proliferation of rituals and ceremonies. Eager to get
closer and perhaps even record some new patterns for my classes, I ventured out into the early morning haze only to be greeted
by the most cacophonous bird concerto I have ever encountered.
|Within minutes I had identified seven distinct cross-rhythms and
continuous call-and-response patterns, all emanating from various species of birds. Yes, I have listened, sometimes
intently, to bird calls in various parts of the world, but this and subsequent encounters with the birds of Kumasi seemed
so different. While this is not an original observation, Darwin, and others, suggested that the origin of music had it roots
in "man imitating the sounds of nature," I am convinced that birds may have indeed have introduced Ghanaians to the beauty
and intricacy of cross-rhythms. |
furthered my techniques and sensibilities. Through lessons and observations of their marvelous
dance/drumming ensemble, scholarly concepts were given life and theoretical formulas gave way to magnificent sounds. I still
found myself, however, pondering the age-old question of "where does it all come from--(who put the bop in the bop-she-bop-she
bop, who put the ram in the ram-a-lam-a-ding-dong)?"
||As a devotee of Ghanaian drumming I have
searched for insights, both musical and philosophical, that would further open the door of understanding for me and my students.
On this trip I encountered two masters of the art form, Abraham and Gabriel, whose patience and guidance |
|What is the cultural basis for the complex cross-rhythms
that native drummers negotiate so effortlessly and dancers interpret as a natural life experience? For some degree of
self-enlightenment I must pay homage to the birds of Kumasi and the taxi drivers of Accra.
In Accra, and almost everywhere else I traveled in Ghana, vehicles of various categories
(and pedestrians) intermingle in patterns that are both distinctive and, often, frightening to the uninitiated. Typically,
traffic seems to merge into congested intersections at will, rarely stopping, always signaling with encrypted horn blasts,
usually with success. Once I became bold enough to keep my eyes open for an entire trip, I started to notice a startling
resemblance to the magical drum rhythms that have so captivated me. Each participant (drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians)
appeared to maintain their individual motion pattern in sync (from a Ghanaian perspective) with all other participants, ultimately
resulting in a composite pattern whereby the individual driver is integrated into a complex whole. Similar observations
regarding musical performance have been made by African scholars for centuries. What the birds of Kumasi, the drivers
of Accra, and the dancers and drummers throughout the country seem to share is a perspective on the rhythms of life.
J. Larry Stockton
knowledge is like a baobab tree. No one person can embrace
it with both arms."
"Humanity has no boundary."
These quotes reflect wisdom from Ghana, handed down generations after generations. Unlike cultures
which have lengthy written legacies of thought, many African cultures have stressed oral traditions, while others have
had written documents lost over time.
Further, much African thought has been written down and interpreted by European explorers, colonizers,
and missionaries, who misinterpreted African through their own preconceptions of Africans as "primitive." Further, African
philosophers have tended to share their ideas with their communities, not treating their ideas as private property. This practice
goes against Eurocentric assumptions of philosophers as lone thinkers, sole authors of their views. As a result, African philosophical
views have been ignored, considered to be collective cultural wisdom, as if it emerged without the contributions of any particular
Philosophy is not just an academic subject in Ghana. It is woven into the fabric of the culture, through
Ghanaian values, proverbs, music, symbols, folktales, religion, politics, and other social and cultural practices.
Each stool has a unique Adinkra Symbol.
What is philosophy? From the Greek term, it literally translates as "love of wisdom." It is often regarded
as the pursuit of wisdom on vital human questions: How ought we to live? What is justice? What is the world really like? How
can we best pursue knowledge? These are among the universal questions, asked by reflective people across cultures.
Yet, most European and United States philosophers tend to think of philosophy as their territory, tracing
their legacies back before Socrates in ancient Greece. Occasionally mentioning Eastern approaches, many Eurocentric thinkers
assume that African thought has not contributed to European and U.S. traditions, or to a significant philosophical tradition
its own. They persist in this prejudice despite the historical documentation linking Egyptian
thought and sub-Saharan African thought as contributing significantly to Ancient Greek philosophy. Often, even when African
philosophy is studied at colleges and universities in the "First World," it is often treated as anthropology, cosmology, and
religion, as if philosophy is,
by definition, that of Europeans and Americans. Some write elaborate
treatises on whether African philosophy exists at all.
Philosophers in Ghana continue to defy such myths, doing philosophy. They combine rich oral and written
intellectual heritages with the analysis of philosophical perspectives expressed in various cultural practices. At the University
of Ghana, the Philosophy Department reflects African, European, and American philosophical traditions. Courses range from
Philosophy of History, to African Philosophy, to Logic and Critical Reasoning, to Political Philosophy.
Carol Moeller, Moravian College
African Philosophical Thought: The Akan Conceptual Scheme, Revised Edition, Kwame Gyekye,
Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1995.
African Cultural Values: An Introduction, Kwame Gyekye, Accra, Ghana:
Sankofa Publishing, 1996.
Akan Ethics, C.A. Ackah, Accra, Ghana: Ghana Universities Press, 1988.
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