Akwaaba

Day 1 – December 29th, 2012

We arrived in Ghana at 5:30am, and were greeted by festive green and red arches as we made our way through the airport towards immigration. Christmas music played as we wait for our baggage, which came shrink-wrapped by the airline for reasons unknown. Yaa picked us up from the airport, along with Isaac Hirt-Manheimer and Yaw Gyamfi, a Ghanaian man who will be accompanying us for the trip. We headed to Yaa’s house topick up JP, who had arrived the previous day and had trouble waking up.

From Yaa’s house we drove about three hours west of the capital to the Sankofa Eco-Arts Village, our base for the duration of the trip. Sankofa is an ecologically sustainable guest house located in the village of Kobina Ansa, one of the communities where we will be conducting our research. The huts we are staying in are simple, clean, and pretty. Constructed of local, natural materials such as mud-brick, thatch, bamboo, and raffia sticks, the huts use solar power and composting toilets.  DSC_0411

We eat lunch at Sankofa, cooked by Fosti, who will be making all our meals while we’re here. It’s delicious – chicken with veggies and jollof rice (rice cooked in a tomato stew).After lunch we headed to the village to meet with the chief of Kobina Ansa; Nana Bediako Ansah XI. The meeting was formal and we had to speak through a linguist (Yaw), who speaks to the chief’s linguist. Linguists are not simple translators, which would be unnecessary as the chief speaks and understands English quite well. Instead, they are meant to make our words cleaner, and put them in language appropriate for the chief’s sacred ear. Occasionally, Isaac speak directly to the chief, which seemed to be deemed acceptable since they have been friends for over a decade. After we informed the chief and his elders about our ‘mission’ as custom demands, the chief’s linguist poured out a libation in the courtyard, calling on God, Mother Earth, and the ancestors for blessings. We then passed around a cup of schnapps to symbolize the connection between everyone in the room. Everyone drank from the cup (though declining was not frowned upon) and some poured a little on the ground for the ancestors.

All of us headed back up to Sankofa after that, as we were all pretty jet-lagged and in desperate need of a nap. We met up again for dinner, another tasty meal cooked by Fausina of groundnut soup with beef, rice balls and fermented corn squares, called Fante kenkey. After dinner we headed to Yamoransa, a nearby town, with Nana in the hopes of seeing a traditional religious celebration. We went to meet with the traditional priest of the town, a meeting quite similar to ours with the chief in the afternoon – linguists, libations, etc. Since the religious celebration had not started yet, we walked over to a nearby outdoor dance club. Most of us sat, talked, and sipped soda, but Paul eventually got up to dance and completely blew everyone in the club away with his break-dancing. We left a bit after 10 to see if the celebration had begun, but were told the drummers necessary for the celebration had not yet arrived. We sat in a courtyard and watched some of the children from the town drum instead – not a bad substitute, as the children in town are incredibly good a drumming despite the fact that some looked as young as 5 years old. Sadly the ceremony ended up starting too late for us to participate, so we left around 11pm to go back to Sankofa and off to bed. Zzzzzzz.

Becky Poplawski

(Akwaaba: Akwaaba means Welcome in the Akan Language)

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