Students Explore Ghana, Learn Drumming & Dance
January 20, 2016
by Elise Goitia '18
When Knox students embarked on the Ghana program, they didn't just sign up to learn drumming and dance in an alternate environment. They adopted a new way of viewing the world through a culturally immersive experience.
"For me, the Ghana trip was one of the reasons I came to Knox," Claire Cody '18 said. "When I was a first-year, they had just done the trip the year before. It sounded so exciting. Being there really gives you a new perspective on your own life when compared to your life at home."
The two-week intensive cultural immersion course took place in Ghana, West Africa, during Knox's winter break. Students stayed at the Dagbe Cultural Arts Centre, located in the village of Kopeyia and were able to take lessons in singing, basket-weaving, cloth-making, drumming, and dancing, and learned about other crafts from local artists.
"During our first class, our instructor came in with her own drummer," Cody added. "At first, a lot of the group was tentative, but I just fell in love with the energy and exuberance. We got into it."
Jennifer Smith, associate professor and chair of dance, was the students' academic leader and spearheaded the program with Jeremy Cohen, director of ThisWorldMusic. Having collaborated with Cohen to create the program two years before, she was no stranger to the diversity that encapsulated the Drumming and Dance in Ghana course.
"One day, we went to the national theatre of Ghana and had a private performance of the national dance theatre troupe and a workshop with them," Smith said. "It's structured in a way to try to give as many different types of cultural experiences as possible."
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While in Ghana, students trekked in the Kakum National Park, visited the Cape Coast Castle, and toured the Ghanaian capital of Accra. They even participated in a funeral, which hosted hundreds of people as a celebration of communities.
"The funeral was probably one of my favorite memories," said Sithara Vincent, a senior with a self-designed major in dance movement therapy and double minors in biology and anthropology and sociology. Vincent said that the openness the group experienced was something she hopes to bring to her future patients.
"There were hundreds of people celebrating life. We went around to the circles of dancers and danced with them. It was great," Vincent added. "I want to be able to help my patients feel the way that I felt there, that feeling of being capable of doing things, giving people that confidence to build themselves up."
For Morgan Tonner, a senior from Macau, China, who is majoring in psychology and minoring in studio art and dance, learning from the Ghanaian people was the most important part of the trip.
"Just connecting with the people meant the most to me personally," said Tonner. "They wanted to hear about our lives here, to understand where we were coming from. On our trip, everyone loved being there with the people, learning new things every day."
Photos by Paul Amankwaah, Courtesy of ThisWorldMusic®