This morning began with an early visit to a Brekete Temple. Akos guided us through the compound outside of Dagbe to a shrine where we were welcomed to an outdoor gathering place. As with so many gatherings we have experienced, there was dancing, singing and drumming. Gretel was invited to go to the center and share the intention of the group, and give the shrine leader an offering of a bottle of gin and 50 cedis to give to the gods. After more dancing and singing, we were given small sticks to slap together to join in on the music. We were then allowed to enter into the actual shrine space. We removed our shoes and entered a very small building after we were sprinkled with water. Inside we sat together on mats in a small space, about 10 x 15 feet. Gretel was asked to offer a prayer and she shared her hopes for our group and for the people of Kopeyia and the Gin we had offered was added to the altar. We all sat quietly as the shrine leaders spoke in Ewe. We took in the smell of the food that was offered on altars and listened intently to the ceremony. Once we left this space, we went back to the outdoor gathering area, where the dancing and singing resumed. Ben, Shameek, and Dillon were all invited to sit in with the percussionists, and the rest of us danced and clapped as we followed the non-verbal instruction of the people in the gathering. The students all noted that they felt completely welcomed, and their early concerns about intruding on a sacred space were set aside as the warm smiles and accommodations were made for the group.
“This is something that I had experienced many times before in black church but this was different. Maybe it was that in black church I always felt like an outsider. Although it was my church that I semi-regularly attended, I didn't feel involved. In this ceremony I was welcomed and brought in to contribute. This changed my perception a lot.”
After lunch today we were dressed in wrappers by the Dagbe staff, got into taxis and headed to a funeral. Yes! A funeral. In Ghana, a funeral is a celebration, and once we made an offering to the family, we dove into the celebratory dancing.
|Heading to the funeral|
“Funeral, a word that sounds heavy and sad to me, was explained totally differently in Ghana. The lady sitting peacefully in the tent under the shade, her lips colored in bright red, her body covered by the clean formal white dress. Her the piece of fabric covered her breast, when the breeze blows, I had the illusion that she is going to stand up and welcome us. The rest of the crowd was celebrating, I didn’t really get why they seem so happy. No one I see was crying, the whole atmosphere is just so different from China. The color tone was also different, while we had monochromatic funerals, this one has all the colors possible. People dressed up, fabrics made into different styles of cloth, no pattern was repeated In different people’s cloth. I was surprised by their sanguine attitude, and their amazing talent in creating beautiful patterns.”
And an account from Betty Zhang ’21 about this very new experience:
“At first I saw her from afar, then I went closer. Dressing in a giant white and blue dress, she sat peacefully on her chair with her eyes tightly closed. Her hands rested on the chair handles, and the rest of the body remained covered, even the toes. I stared intently at her eyelids with an illusion that they were pulsing. I could feel my heart racing and my head buzzing as the background noise seemed to fade away. I couldn’t look away from her face, which was hard to depict. She looked like she was asleep, but it was more than that. She seemed to be in slight pain, a little helpless, and very tired. I wondered who she is, what was her job, how she died, where her families are, and when she is going to be buried. But nobody cared about my questions. Nobody cared about her, too. They were just dancing and drumming and laughing as if it was a party.”
After we returned from the funeral, Jen treated us to Fan Ice and we had a singing class with Mensah.
Cecilia Qiu ’22
"Something I remembered so clearly today was the singing with Mensa. His voice is so clean and resonant. When I was singing with him I found myself embraced in the moment of awe and respect."