Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Well, we’re here folks. We’ve been in Ghana for three weeks now. I have not been able to post any experiences until now, because I committed the cardinal sin and left my computer power cord at home. But thanks to my trusty friend Susheel and FedEx, I now have a new one, and able to continue with plans to share my trip via this blog site. We have had all of the good, the bad, and the ugly/beautiful since we arrived (beautiful, confident African people everywhere, water shortages in our campus apartment, wonderful, eager students, and lots of beggars on the streets---everything).
The ancestors seem to send us a big welcome greeting the first Sunday we were here by giving us a private performance of Ghanaian and Senegalese dance and music through the Afrique Dance Theatre, directed by Joss of the W.E.B. DuBois Centre in Accra. Going to pay homage to the great Pan Africanist himself, W.E. B. Dubois, the first Friday we were here, we had a humbling experience seeing the last house he lived in, his library with original copies of The Souls of Black Folk and Darkwater, as well as old photos of DuBois, is wife Shirley, and Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana who had invited him to live in his country. But the most reverent part of the trip was to go inside the next-door mausoleum where he is buried. One truly felt his presence, and that Ghana had provided his last resting place, when the U.S. had treated him so poorly in his latter years.
While visiting the center, Gene and I met Joss of the Afrique Dance Theatre, and he invited us to a performance that he promised to convene just for us. What an honor of an invitation! And it actually happened. Gene and I arrived at 2:30 PM for a 3:00 PM performance that turned out to be the real deal: an exquisite performance of Ghanaian dance—Ewe and Dagomba dances---as well as dances that they had learned from Senegal. And it was all for us! There were no other guests in attendance. Joss also interwove his original poetry on the theme of Atlantic slave trade and what happened to Africans in the diaspora, all to a beautiful sensitively play flute.
This is what I mean about the sign from the ancestors, saying welcome (akwaba). Of course, they would love us to try to bring the troupe to the U.S. But there was no hard sales pitch, and we ended the afternoon with smiles and genuine hugs! Gene immediately got a dose of genuine African hospitality, and we felt welcomed by Mother Africa. Notice my smile in the picture when I danced the Bamaya dance from Northern Ghana (which I had studied some 32 years ago when I was last here). The dancers asked me how long I had been dancing, and I said, “longer than you’ve been alive.” And one said that I looked about 18 years old when I was dancing. You know that made me feel ecstatic.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
We are now three days before leaving for Ghana. The going away party on July 26 was fabulous with my familly and friends as far away as Los Angeles coming to celebrate with me. I shared my video from Malawi, where I worked with the national dance company and visited villages of the Yao and Chewa peoples; and Gene shared his thoughts about going to Africa for the first time, and his interests in theater there.
This photo was taken at the ending performance of the Annual Katherine Dunham Technique Seminar held at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, not to far from East St. Louis, during the week of July 27. Thank you Susheel for this photo that shows the spirit of Miss Dunham coming through Dr. Albirda Rose (center), the Director of Dunham Certification. We the Certified Teachers were taking a bow at the end of the performance, and the spirit got Albirda. She danced to the drum, and we had her back. This shows the spirit of Africa that lives in the U.S. through African Americans and those in tune with the drum. I had to go the seminar for Miss Dunham, even though I had so much to do to get out of here. Now the last minute preparations are under way.