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Ghana 2019: Anomabo downtime

Anomabo downtime!

The last few days have been very rich. In addition to all that we have been learning and processing, we have had some nice downtime at the Anomabo.

A few pictures to give you a sense of it:

Bonfire on the beach
Stella prepares to win
Volleyball, with a soccer ball!

Ghana 2019: Cape Coast Castle

June 6
Cape Coast Castle

Today the group visited Cape Coast Castle, a World UNESCO site, and one of the locations on the Gold Coast that played a major part in the transatlantic slave trade.  The group visited the museum at the site and then had a tour of the dungeons, cells, captains quarters, and after exiting The Door of No Return, entered back through the same  entryway, now named the "Door of Return."

Three students share their thoughts about what was experienced today. 

Cecelia Qiu ’22
“The castle is a beautiful architecture on the outside. But the history behind it is full of violence and blood. It seemed at first a very peaceful place to be, to enjoy the ocean and the breezes. But when we learn about the horrible tortures happened to innocent people, it is hard to look at it the same again.”

Stella Zhu ’22 describes the cell, where slaves who fought against the officers were locked:
“There was a cell where slaves who fought get locked in. It was completely surrounded by darkness. The walls should be smooth and clean from marks, but there were marks (plaster was gone) on the wall that showed signs of people who had chains bonded on their hands struggling. The Europeans did not let the slaves die peacefully, they made them die of dehydration.”

Sophie Zhu ’21 offers her thoughts on how complex the history is:
“When people talk about race here, they talk about white and blacks, but as an Asian person, I often find myself in a situation and mindset that might be different than others. When other people walk into the dark, airless dungeon, they might think about their ancestors, wonder where their roots are, wonder what they could have become if history was altered. But to me, there was empathy and possibly a more objective judgment. In last night's reading, I saw an alternative narrative that some Africans envy African Americans because after their ancestors had gone though the tortured journey to the west, and they are now more educated, more wealthy and are having a ‘better life' in their new ‘home'. Speaking from my perspective, I understand why people would feel this way, I know how to rebut them (imagine yourself going through that torture, you are just selfish), but I also kind of understand them. Does the slave trade do any good on the enslaved people or is there only inhumanity? I don't think there is a simple answer to that question. I believe it is complex, with a positive and negative impact on both groups. I felt depressed and breathless when I was introduced to the extreme conditions people were put into. The one moment when I saw the birds flying into the narrow, dark cell, so many thoughts emerged.”

After returning from Cape Coast we met as a group and had a rich discussion about our experience at the castle. Tomorrow we will head to Kakum National Forest and then back to Accra. 

Ghana 2019: Akpe!  Dagbe, it's been wonderful!

We have safely arrived in the Central Region. Before we enter the next stage of the program, a few more reflections and images from our fantastic time at Dagbe:

All together!

Jude Spencer ’21, on his immersion at Dagbe 
Jude & Destiny
“Being at Dagbe has been such an incredible experience; I have so much love for the people, the place, and so much more I desire to learn that I know I will be back sometime in my life. The staff really quickly welcomed and connected with me and seemingly everyone else in the program with such contagious, lovely warmth. They really appreciated the drive to learn and the talent in our group. I loved taking private drum lessons with George and Jackson because they were patient, honest, and encouraging. An example of their encouragement was when they said, “Don’t answer a question with a question; have confidence in your answer and yourself.” I’m so grateful that they let me play the lead drum and appreciated my desire to learn by displaying it. By the end, it was so hard to leave. They genuinely seemed that they would miss us, and I know I will certainly miss all of them."

 Dillon Stone '21 shares about his time in Kopeyia:
"Dagbe has been amazing, honestly I don’t know how else to describe it. Today we had our final performance and it went really well. The most significant thing for me was seeing all of our work come to fruition. At the beginning of the week we were outsiders and they were unfamiliar faces, and now they are close friends and teachers that brought us a long way."

Shameek Hargrave '20 reflects on his experience at Dagbe:
"As I have continued through my time at the Dagbe Cultural Center I have come to recognize my experience while insightful and mind opening, did not provide me with a complete picture of what life is like for my (quite literally) long lost brothers and sisters. Being of a small percentage of Ghanaian ancestry, I hoped for more than I now realize was possible. That being said, my perspective and worldview has undergone a large shift. For one, I have learned to dance and drum in ways I never imagined possible. Secondly, I have met real people AND learned their stories. I am a very curious individual who wants to know all he can and learning about the lives of others fulfills me. But most importantly, I have come to value my unique circumstance more. Learning that a haircut in Kopeiya is 60¢ (3 cedi), custom shirts $14 (70 cedi), and understanding the difference between the conveniences of my African-American lifestyle and that of Ghanaians has truly shocked me. Therefore I am, and will forever be grateful for this experience. "

Dillon & Akos

David, our basket making teacher... or hat maker?
A very special place!

Dancing Borborbor


Loading the bus to leave :(

Mamatoa, Gloria, Rose & Elizabeth,
 the incredible kitchen staff. 

Eliza, Godsway & Via

Afi & Destiny

Ghana 2019: Performance day! Plus a goat slaughter, a visit to the Kopeyia School and a dance party!

Post written by Gretel Schatz on June 4:

Today many of us rose early to attend a goat slaughter before breakfast and dress rehearsal. The goat was given to the Dagbe staff as an offering from the NMH students facilitated by This World Music. Our dance and drum teachers Odate, Mensah, Paul, Godsway, Jackson and George were in charge of the slaughter and the ceremony began with a libation pouring. 
Libation pouring
Betty Zhang '21 shares: 
"Two men lifted the goat by its front legs and back legs, taking small steps towards it with the knife held by another man. The goat howled desperately and hopelessly as he saw the inevitable fate falling on him. The next thing I know was that blood was dripping down from the neck, followed by feeble howls and kicking. After that everything sank into silence."

Processing the goat so that the kitchen staff can prepare it
This morning we had dress rehearsal in preparation for the final performance:
Baby Destiny watches the dress rehearsal
Dress rehearsal
After dress rehearsal, Mensah hosted us at the Kopeyia Bloomfield School where he is a teacher. 
School visit
Eliza Voorheis '21 on visiting the school:
"Going to the school felt familiar. The kindergarten class was reciting fun poems while the middle schoolers learned science and French. The kids were struggling to sit still under the watch of the teachers, and when some of the younger ones were finally let out for a break, a whole stream of little kids came running to greet us."

School visit
Sophie Zhu '21 found the school to have some aspects that she was familiar with from her experience growing up on China:
"We walked into this place lightened up by kids’ laughter, and saw those classrooms filled with wooden chairs and desks. There was no air-conditioning, no bright light, but to me it didn’t feel like a harsh place to study. But it gave me a feeling of home. Growing up in a middle class family in a small city is an experience similar to this; I remember before I went to a middle school, my primary school was like this place. We didn’t have fancy computers, no projectors, no air-conditioners and no heat in the winter. However, I don’t doubt that a place like this can be a good place to study. Because I’ve known from my past that, as long as there are passion and will to learn, there will be a way, even if the road is unpaved, the walls are unpainted, people enlighten themselves with knowledge. "

School visit
After lunch we were dressed by the Dagbe staff and the final performance began. NMH entered with the Gahu song, then played Gahu on the drums with Jude Spencer '21 playing Boba, the lead part. After drumming all of us danced Gahu and then Ben, Eliza, Via and Taylor dance Tokoe with Paul and Odate. The NMH performers were then able to watch the Dagbe staff perform their incredible pieces.  
Getting ready!
Trip leader Taylor King is all smiles before the final performance
Jude playing Boba, the lead drum part
Ben Van Winkle '20 shares:
"I was very nervous about the performance, especially dancing Tokoe, but as soon as we started to perform the nervousness left and I just trusted in my practice and I had a lot of fun."

Max Alphonso '21 enjoyed the performance:
"Our final performance at Dagbe was really fun and I let my body go full out in it. It was also fun to see the staff at Dagbe doing their really great dances after us."

Dagbe staff dancing at the final performance
Emily Pham '20 offers a reflection on her experience: 
"I walked into that dance performance not knowing what to expect and only hoping that my legs could last me through at least three variations, but I performed better than I thought. And if it weren't for the rigorous training of our Ghanaian teachers, I would've collapsed much earlier into the twenty minute performance. Aside  from that, Odate, Paul, Akos, Atsupui and Rosemary demonstrated spectacular dancing, blowing my socks off with their performance. If there's a reason for my next return to Ghana, it'd be to see it again."

Emily at the final performance
Dabge staff at the final performance
NMH in Ghana - Where will YOU go?!
After the final performance, Dagbe hosted a party. Jackson and Godsway were the DJs and a feast of chicken, rice, akble (sp?), rice, beans, cabbage and cold sodas were shared with the staff. After dinner, Dagbe was filled with kids from the village and the NMH students danced and played the night away with Ghanaian pop music blaring through the compound. 
Mamatoa presents the feast!
Stella Zhu '22 on dancing at the party: 
"The kids in the village were eagerly imitating my dance movements. When they got excited they gestured toward me and told me to imitate them. I could feel the dance genes in their bodies. "

Stella at the farewell party
Via Schatz-Allison '21 describes her time at the party:
"It was really fun to dance and play with the kids at the party tonight. Rita was teaching everyone her moves and telling me when to dance and when to stop. Even as the music was blasting and people were shouting to try to hear each other, Rita’s little brother, Maxwell, was fast asleep."

Dillon gets the party started
Next up: Wednesday we depart Dagbe Cultural Centre and head to Cape Coast.