… Modern practice and ancient custom collide
Published in Public Agenda on July 13, 2012
Author: Kayla Albrecht
For a decade, Dr Leslie Steeves has been bringing students from the United States to Accra, the capital of Ghana, to immerse in Ghanaian culture, and this year has been no exception. For six weeks, 15 students from the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communications in Eugene, Oregon, United States, can be found interning at various media outlets throughout the capital to gain international communication experience and master our trade.
To steady the balance between work and play, our weekends are filled with excursions throughout the country where our advisors and guides, both American and Ghanaian, allow us a glimpse into the rich traditions of Ghana.
This past weekend, our group was bussed from Accra to Kumasi, the regional capital of Ashanti Region, to tour the Manhyia Palace, the residence of the King of Asantes, learn to make glass beads, master the Adinkra stamp and observe the art of Kente. Each of us was blown away by the beauty of the historical and fundamental traditions, and many expressed the longing for such rooted culture in the United States. When reflecting on the process of bead making, Elora Overbey, an intern at Emerge Magazine, notes with astonishment, “It was completely sustainable to use recycled materials and the energy from a wood-fired oven to create beautiful beads.”
The group encountered a similar bewilderment after visiting a house where Kente was made. “I loved visualizing the patterns,” expressed Courtney Ramirez, an intern at Strategic Communications Africa Limited (Stratcomm). “Americans don’t have the patience to master something like that.” After an explanation of stitch patterns and a demonstration at the loom, the interns found the perfect pieces among the countless, beautiful textiles to bring home.
From all of the divine experiences of our weekend outside of Accra, one adventure stood out above all others: the Kumasi Central Market. As we approached the entrance to the labyrinth of shops and stands, an anxious but anticipatory atmosphere crept through our bus of Obronis, and after a few seconds of wisdom words from our guide, Sonny Louis, we exited the bus and dove into the current of people. “It was overwhelming and at times over stimulating,” explained Lana Burge, an intern at Joy FM.
But soon after we adapted to the multitude of new sounds, sights and smells, the trial took on a completely different turn. Rob Uehlin, an intern at the Musicians Union of Ghana (MUSIGA), was in awe at “the contrast between the modernity of the shop keepers and the ancient way the shop was run.” When the group passed through the fabric stalls, Catherine Dacquisto, an intern at the Media Foundation for West Africa, described the area as a “colourful wheel run by delightful women.”
Other members of our group were struck by the fluidity of the otherwise chaotic market. After witnessing an accidental collision while navigating the narrow pathways, Jeremy Bliesner, an intern with Primetime Limited, noticed that despite the short tempers of the shopkeepers, “they like to keep the peace in almost all situations.”
The time we spend in Ghana, although only brief, is a crucial step towards the promotion of a global community. Each of the students, including myself, looks forward to bringing the experiences back to the United States to grow as aspiring media professionals. As stated by Joseph Faltyn, an intern for Net2 TV, our experience is “a period of complete character evolution.” We strive to not be merely citizens of our home country, the United States, but inhabitants of one collective world.
To learn more about the experiences of the Obronis from Oregon, visit our “Media in Ghana” blog at Ghana.uoregon.edu
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