Diviner

Upon entering the diviner’s “office,” we were asked to remove our shoes. It was a small, cement-walled square hut separated from its surrounding sand. The hut would have been open on the top if not for a thatched roof constructed from locally gathered leaves and sticks. I’ve always found thatched roofs to be incredibly cool, and briefly wondered how one like this would fare against rain, storms, goats, and other natural disasters. Stepping into the hut, I was also intrigued by all of the decoration jammed into one small space. Primarily, I noticed a multitude of bones and skulls hanging from the ceiling. There was a lingering smell of death masked by burning incense in the corner. As I moved my gaze beyond the (probably not human) remains, I was met with blackened figurines and sculptures placed strategically throughout the room. They didn’t quite resemble any animal or human form in particular, but obviously were intended to represent some sort of creatures that signified some sort of meaning or power. We took our seats, and in came the diviner – a heavy-faced, overweight man in his 40’s or 50’s. He did not greet us, but rather slumped down into his seat, with little expression. Instead, our guide and friend, Godwin, addressed the priest in his native Ewe language, praying for us, introducing our group, and explaining the purpose of our visit. The man spoke back to Godwin in Ewe, and Godwin proceeded to respond, explaining to us in English that he had asked for permission to be a part of the divination process, and for the priest’s approval. After more conversation, Godwin revealed that he had been allowed to consult the diviner in English to ease the process for those of us who were not natives. However, the diviner never spoke in English himself, and never directly addressed anyone but his assistant and Godwin. After the vocal exchange, Godwin presented the diviner with our traditional gifts of two bottles of schnapps. The diviner’s assistant opened the first and poured a shot in a bowl built into the floor, followed by a shot at the door frame, then several sloshes on each blackened figurine. After more prayers and chants, it was finally time to consult the oracle.

by Justin Brown

Shrine Visit

During our stay in Klikor, we took a trip to visit a Holy Shrine, which is where they are Animists, and they do libation prayers. The priest had us take our shoes off before coming inside, and we made some prayers before introducing ourselves as a group. They told us about how they have these shells attached on a necklace-like material, and they even told us about how we can ask questions about our future, and what it holds for us in the years to come. Papa Geoff in particular, they could sense something about him, and they gave him a few pieces of advice ; first, that he should only eat beans a few times, second, that he should only present kindness and generosity towards the people in his life, and they even made a prediction that he would get money stolen from him. Outside the shrine, there were people dancing for hours and we got to join them for hours, I got a little nervous at first, but it was still fun.
Now I thought the experience was both fun and spiritual, and it opened me up to another form of giving prayers that I simply wouldn’t have known about under any circumstances. When we were first told about the shrine, I was expecting it to look similar to a chapel in a church, or even a temple, but it turned out to be a hut, but I still had a good time there. Before leaving, Godwin talked about how proud he was of us for making this study abroad trip experience worthwhile, and that these will be stories we’ll share with our friends and families, so that too was really nice. All in all, it was a great experience.

by Kobe Busia

Goodbyes

DSC08133 DSC08134While there are more photos to post, here are a couple from our farewell dinner. Kwakutse is heading off early as he has a long commute. Madase pa (thank you very much)  to all our new found Ghanaian friends. Nine of us are headed to the airport in 30 minutes.

 

 

A bit of Klikor

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Baobob tree in Klikor

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Crossing the Lake Volta tributary which flows to the Atlantic Ocean.

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Saying farewell to our Klikor hosts, Godwin and Nana

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Returning from the festival in Klikor

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Out for late afternoon stroll

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Corn growing in the field across from the balcony of our housing in Klikor

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Getting a rhythm lesson from Alaska

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Traditional Ceremony Experience (long post)

I was unaware of what was happening. John and I were walking into what we thought was the market, but instead we found ourselves in a situation where a man was politely asking John to remove his shoes. A quick look around and we realized that all the people around us were shoeless and dressed in traditional wear, but what stood out was how all the men were topless and wrapped at the waist with a single piece of flamboyant fabric. I watched as John politely removed his shoes and then his hat as well per request of the random stranger. I noticed also that we were near an entrance way to a court yard; a fence was built around the yard and made completely out of palm reeds, with a large wooden opening. People were bottlenecking their way through the entrance with an intense sense of excitement across each of their faces. I looked back at John as he was now removing his shirt, and three women from behind a merchant counter started wrapping his waist with a similar brightly-colored fabric. I then caught John’s eyes and his expression was beaming with excitement, for he was now in the realization that he was being invited to the ceremony at hand. The women behind the merchant counter then gestured towards me to come partake as well. I thought for only a second about the situation’s potential at being a high-risk one, but that thought was washed away by the sea of stretched smiles as people made their way toward their communal and religious ceremony. At the same time, I noticed that John was now one of these expressively-happy people making his way into the courtyard. I then felt a gentle grip wrap the outside of my hand; it was one of the elder merchant women with an ever-so polite smile. We linked eye contact for only a second before she softly pulled me toward the counter. I had my shoes, hat and shirt off quicker than I could type this sentence, and I was then wrapped in a fabric with what appeared to be prints of pineapple on it. I was then gently walked into the gateway by one of the women.

When I got inside I could physically see the energy. The men were on the left, by a round building on an external porch. The women were on the left by a hut with straw roofing. The middle was a two-lane highway of people filing in and out. I was pointed in the direction of the men, and quickly saw John. I feel like I could have spotted his pale body from space. As I was walking towards him I noticed he was in the front row of a group of men on their knees, head bowed, and palms grounded. They were all pointing with their bodies in the direction of three men who sat on short wooden stools. These men were dressed more elaborately. The two on either side were dressed in white and wore little hats that I couldn’t describe if I tried (I guess they were a hat with an extended door-knob shaped figure on top). The man in the middle had a stern look. He was dressed in much more fabulous colors and had a bright blue piece of fabric wrapped around his head in a way that it made it look like he almost had two large blue ears. This man, I would find out, was the community’s High Priest. As I got closer to John he lifted the corner of his head, acknowledged me, and then gestured with his eyes to kneel down next to him. That’s what I did. I wasn’t kneeling long. After a few moments, the High Priest rose, and every man in the crowd rushed to his feet. The priest didn’t say anything to the crowd, but instead turned his attention to a piece of cloth hanging on the rounded-wall. The cloth was white with blue patterning; above it was a rectangular wooden figure with dried palm reeds sticking out of the top. The priest then start muttering, what I believe was a prayer, to the fabric. I took advantage of the standing and looked around the courtyard. John and I were seemingly a sideshow of attention. Men and women looked at us out of the corners of their eyes and would grin, smile, wave or chuckle a little. I now also noticed the women were all carrying similar clay bowls, with what appeared to be a grey thick liquid inside.

My attention was turned back towards the priest when I noticed he had removed the fabric, and behind it laid a small, wooden door. The priest had then removed a handful of dried palm reeds from the shrine above the door, and dropped them on the floor directly in front of it. Then both of the other priests followed with the same actions, removing dried reeds, dropping them to the floor. The High Priest then stood tall to remove the bare shrine, and tapped it several times over the doorway while chanting a prayer. He then handed the wooden shrine to one of the priests dressed in white, and casually opened the door and walked in. He was in there for only a few seconds before he made his way back out and gestured his right palm up and pulled his fingers collectively towards the doorway a short number of times. In an instant the men rushed their way into the small doorway. The man who had brought John in had signaled for us NOT to enter as he pushed his way into the mysterious opening. Some of the men were even carrying machetes.

This got John and my curiosity, but we did as we were instructed, not wanting to step on any toes. We stood there for a minute, smiling, wondering what was in that door. A couple of the other men, who weren’t going in on their own will, then started to come towards us with big smiling faces and talked politely to us in a mix of English and Ewe. Everyone in the court yard, was extremely friendly, happily waving and trying to hold conversation. While talking to some of the ceremony-goers, I noticed people were starting to come out of the door, and they were carrying branches. They all were emerging with fresh cut branches. Branch after branch came out of the small door, and the branches started coming out larger and larger. They would carry the branches out and bring them to the corner of the courtyard and stack them upright. When I looked back at the door I saw three men carrying a full tree. The men were the ones holding the machetes while carrying their fresh cut. About 3 more trees squeezed their ways through the opening. After the trees were stacked, a few more people came out carrying bundles of random sized branches, and the door was then closed. The men then carried out each piece of timber out of the courtyard entirely, that’s when we saw John’s inviter for the last time. After the last of the branches left the yard, the High Priest then turned and left from the doorway entrance and walked towards the women side. There I noticed they were now smearing the grey thick paste in the bowls onto a wall of the clay building.

A man near us explained that the women were saying their prayers into the bowls of thin clay and sticking them onto the shrine that was the building. The man then explained that the festival we were at was a once a year ceremony to celebrate African Unity and Harvest, It was called Balili. As he was saying this the High Priest had returned holding a new wooden shrine. Everybody was silent as replaced it back over the doorway, said a prayer and then fit a handful of lively green palm reeds into it. The man next to us said the new shire and reeds were from the cut wood pulled from the doorway. Each of the other priests then walked up to the shrine, said a prayer and slide their handfuls of reeds into the shrine. After the last reads were placed all the men ran up to put whatever bit of their hand would fit on it, and everybody who wasn’t directly touching the shrine was touching the shoulder of the man in front of him, creating a web of human connection based out of the shrine. The man next to us explained, while we were incorporated in the web, that touching the shrine, or connection to the shrine, gave the ability to have ones miracles come true. He explained to us the realness of it and gave an example, saying his wife was unable to bear children, so he prayed to the shrine, and then she twins. I heard the other men all muttering their wishes, I think I asked for safety and good health for my family and friends. After people presented their wanted miracles to the divinity, the High Priest lead a prayer while the priests on the side started unfolding the fabric from in front of the doorway. Meanwhile the man asked us to the center of the courtyard, so that he could explain the significance of the date on a calendar that was hanging from a tree.

Once in the center, I felt an overwhelming sensation of welcomed and eased. That quickly changed, for a man in a full toga styled fabric was talking to our “guide through Balili” while pointing unhappy towards John and I. He started to talk to us in Ewe and we gestured that we only understand a very little Ewe at all. He then simple stated, “Leave immediately.” Our guide and us tried to quickly explain how we were came to be there, but the man said, “No, Leave Immediately. Go”, putting his arm up pointing towards the entrance we had come through. John and I apologized and thanked the man and our guide and walked casually to the exit. Upon exiting, we went back to the merchant where we had gotten our fabrics and where we left our shoes. The women smiled and laughed as she received the cloth and gave us our bags and shirts. We then thanked the women and headed out of the area. A few other people asked to go back in, but we explained that we couldn’t. We had experienced enough to understand what wonders can be found when you get lost.

by Ben Novello

Riding Tro-Tros

Today, 8/7/14 we rode in the tro tro for about 6-7 hours with 1 bathroom break; the bathroom consisted of a walled off wooden corner in the parking lot of the gas station. A tro tro is a van/bus that all 12 of us can fit in, plus our 3 guides that accompany us to help teach us the language and culture.
Tro tros are the bus system here in Ghana and most people use them to travel to and from work. If you don’t like the price the driver is selling his ride for you can either negotiate it or move on to another bus. Depending on where you are though, there might not be another bus coming for a while. So it helps to have good bargaining skills.
We have hired Francis to be our personal tro tro driver while in Cape Coast, so we have a more guaranteed mode to travel as we stick to our American schedule of observations and lectures as we move through town. It’s a unique and brilliant opportunity to travel so easily with the accommodations such as security as they also help us in the market.
I have found new friends on the tro tro, for it is easy to make conversation when compacted so closely together. In fact it is almost awkward when encountering silent travelers. The silent spaces fills like an empty patch of earth after heavy rain, though most people are lively, and friendly.
I had the opportunity to ride different tro tros during the “drop off” session where the students grouped together in two or three’s, and we were challenged to find our way back with no help by the Ghanaian guide traveling with us, a sort of scavenger hunt for home. This better acquainted us with the local area and gave us a sense of what it really felt like to live here as a Ghanaian.
During the ride home, I sat next to some of the new friends I mentioned. (Here friends are made easily as it is polite and stressed for people to greet each other when passing by, regardless of the time on the clock, the personal relation-known or unknown, and regardless of what that person may be doing. Time is allotted here to be taken to travel, and the rush of a schedule comes more into play during the fast, fast trade in the depths of the markets, or crossing streets.) I met a man who was telling me about his attempts to travel abroad, and the elongated process it can take to acquire all the details needed for customs. He was on his way to visit friends in the UK and we talked about the mountains and the people, for I had just been there.
The use of tro tros here takes place of what America calls busses, trains or subways. Although none travel through underground tunnels, they do a pretty good job handling the pot holes and paved highways all at the same time. For me, riding the tro tro gives me the chance to see a wider range of Ghanaian culture as we travel from town to town. It is a great way to people-watch from a distance without being obvious, and is there is a quiet exchange of acknowledgement as you meet the eyes of so many people who, more often than not, smile back and wave.

by Eryn Powers

Nkrumah, Ghana’s First President

We got on a tro-tro and navigated through Accra to a mausoleum and small museum where Ghana’s first president, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was buried. Ghana became independent from England in March of 1957; this is also a national holiday in Ghana. We arrived and I could see statues from the tro-tro; I grabbed a photograph with my camera. Soon we entered the mausoleum and I saw pictures of Dr. Nkrumah with famous people such as John F Kennedy in 1962.
Nkrumah was the famous and helped bring the continent of Africa into unity. I believe that this was overall a fun trip.
From my point of view I would compare him to George Washington or Nelson Mandela, he was a hero. Like at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC., which is where Lincoln is remembered, this was a public place we entered and there is an entrance fee. We are allowed to enter both memorials. We can all agree Dr. Nkrumah was a good leader for Ghana.

By Will Sutherland

Some of our Ghana staff and scenes around Klikor

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Papa Attah, our chief support staff, sorting out the details before leaving Accra

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Ama, support staff in Accra

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The pineapples, bananas and oranges are delicious

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Kwame, support staff and IT problem solver, working on lunch

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Kwame and Kwakutse, support staff from this region, on the way to the market. Our classroom is on the 2nd floor.

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Across from our Klikor home

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Pounding fufu (usually made from cassava and plaintains)

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Klikor and Kente weaving


Just a short ride away from our home here in Klikor we were able to learn about Kente weaving and all the steps leading to the brightly colored four to six inch wide cloth woven in long strips. Intricate patterns are produced and the skill of the weaver is evident from the edges and thread transitions. Children of this region learn the skill from a young age.

We also saw the villagers working to make gari, which is granulated, roasted cassava used with the many tomato based spicy stews which we have been enjoying from the very able hands of Nana, our chef.

Today students began their ethnographic studies and you’ll be hearing more about those topics in the days to come. Topics include oral traditions, music and dance, clothing, the arts and cooking.

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IMG_0655 IMG_0654 IMG_0649 IMG_0637 IMG_0633 IMG_0622 IMG_0617 IMG_0699[1] IMG_0679 IMG_0659  IMG_0700 IMG_preparing the kente thread

 

Dancing!

My experiences in the past few days were quite astounding. While the group of students and I were visiting a priest and oracle, I had a view of the entrance of the shrine and occasionally I would hear drums being played from outside. At that time I would look to see what was going on and there would be several drummers, pounding out a rhythm on their drums. Eventually it was time to leave the shrine.
This was an experience worthwhile, both the men and women wore colorful clothing, yet the women were dressed even more-so vibrant. As the many drummers pounded the various sized drums, the women started dancing to it. The dancing itself had a ritualistic vibe to it, and I became immersed in the music, the thrumming of the drums, the singing and the spectacular dancing.
What was interesting is that none of the children got up to dance, many of the women did. There were also periodically “possessed” people dancing alone. Usually the dancers would dance in pairs, but these “spirits” that possessed these conduits would dance oddly, even wildly swinging limbs around as if fighting. Other than the women in the group men did go into dance, but not as often. All of the students danced as well, a friend, Ben had some sort of intense standoff between him and another dancer, more or less like dance competition between the two of them.
Even I, usually nervous in this situation, was not, I was just unsure I wanted to dance but did it anyway. I found this experience very fun and enjoyable. I doubt there will be another experience like this, that I will have the opportunity of seeing again.

By Curtis Durrenberger