Ghana: Origins of African Identity
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Gain a deeper understanding of the African diaspora's impact by exploring Ghana and Benin
Educational excursions outside Cape Coast are a central component of the program. Excursions provide direct contact with historic sites, including major slave routes; diverse West African communities and cultures; and Ghana’s natural treasures, such as the waterfalls in Kintampo and the game reserves at Mole Park.
During excursions, students gather substantial resources, information, and cultural knowledge that build significantly on the classroom and homestay learning experiences. Some students choose to do their Independent Study Project in an excursion location.
A two-week excursion to the neighboring country of Benin, formerly known as Dahomey, enables students to examine another West African cultural center uniquely shaped by the diaspora, including communities of Afro-Brazilian returnees.
- Ouidah - Ouidah developed as a melting pot of people affected by the transatlantic slave trade. Students study the city's history by exploring the ancient Kingdom of Dahomey and the architecture within Ouidah, influenced by former slaves who returned to Africa in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The largest slave population exported from West Africa came through Ouidah’s slave port.
In Ouidah, students also visit a sacred forest and learn about the critical role the forest has played throughout the city’s history. Benin is well known for voodoo religious practices and is the source of the voodoo practiced today in Haiti, Cuba, and New Orleans, amongst other sites.
Students also visit the Temple of Pythons, an important site of worship among the present-day Aja-Ewe-Fon speaking groups. The temple’s direct proximity to a Roman Catholic church often sparks discussion among students about the influence and role of both Christianity and traditional religions in the region.
- Ganvie - The largest stilt village in Africa, Ganvie was originally built as a way of deterring slave hunters who were prohibited by their religion from being in contact with water. Almost all of the village’s homes are built on water. The visit illustrates how the local population has adapted over the centuries to their unique living circumstances. Students consider the ways in which the villagers are currently addressing contemporary challenges through community health and development programs.
- Expatriate/returnee communities - Students will interact with expatriate/returnees and their descendants, including the Agudas, descendants of freed Afro-Brazilian slaves. Students develop an understanding of these communities, including their modes of integration into local culture, socioeconomics, and histories of the African continent in the contexts of resettlement.
Wa, Gwollu, and Sankana (Upper West Region)
Students travel north to the region bordering Burkina Faso to experience important sites of resistance against the slave trade. During this period, students are based in Wa, the capital city of the Upper West Region, which serves as a good base to access neighboring towns.
- At the site of the Gwollu Defense Wall, students discover how a nineteenth-century community came together to protect itself from slavery by building a wall around its water sources and agricultural and living areas.
- At Sankana, students witness how natural rock formations were creatively employed as defense mechanisms.
An excursion to Ghana's capital city of Accra brings students to the urban center of the country, where Ghana’s political, economic, and business institutions are concentrated.
Students visit Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park, a museum depicting the life of Kwame Nkrumah, the Republic of Ghana’s first president. Nkrumah played an important role in the Pan-African movement. The park includes the mausoleum where Nkrumah is buried. It also highlights Nkrumah’s close collaboration with W.E.B. Du Bois.
While in Accra, students have lectures with local professors from the University of Ghana and interact with both local and foreign students.
In Kumasi, students participate in art seminars with professors from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. Students also visit the Manhyia Palace Museum, the Centre for National Culture, and the Awhiaa Carving Centre, to learn about the artistic focus of Ghana's culture and history.
The Manhyia Palace Museum depicts the history and culture of the Asante Kingdom. The museum focuses on the Asante kings that ruled the kingdom, particularly during the slave trade era. The excursion complements the lecture on Asante history; together, the lecture and museum visit prompt discussion on the Asante Kingdom’s expansion, trade, and role in the slave trade in transporting prisoners of war captured during battle to the coast where they were sold to European traders.
Duration: 15 weeks
Program Base: Ghana, Cape Coast
Language Study: Fante
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