Study African Arts and Culture in Ghana
Please note: this page will be continually updated with the latest information about the Ghana program, so check back often.
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This 9 credit summer program, entitled "West African Music, Dance, Society, and Culture", comprises social science, humanities, and performing arts components, and is formally equivalent to three semester-long University of Alberta courses, available at both undergraduate and graduate levels.
- West African Music Ensemble (Music 144/244, 544). A practicum developing basic skills required for performance and understanding of traditional Ghanaian music, song, and dance, including music of the Ga, Asanti, and other groups, but with a special focus upon Ewe music traditions of the Volta Region. Includes study on the University of Ghana campus, and in a traditional Ewe village. Note: if you require non-junior credit you can substitute 244 for 144.
- Introduction to Ethnomusicology: The ethnomusicology of Ghanaian music and dance (Music 365, 565) Scholarly study of traditional and popular performance of Ghana, treating the form and meaning of traditional music and dance in cultural contexts, linking music and social identity, and reading Ghanaian culture, politics, history, and religion through music. The music, culture, society, and history of the Ewes will be included, so as to harmonize with the other two courses. The course culminates with the practical experience of doing ethnomusicology in Dagbamete.
- West African culture, language, and society (Middle Eastern and African Studies 300, 500). This course comprises a multidisciplinary investigation of West African culture (possibly including study of literature, linguistics, anthropology, sociology, history, political science, religious studies, or other disciplines), plus a practical introduction to the Ewe language, in conversation and through its oral literary tradition.
The program comprises three parts, of roughly 10-12 days each: (1) classroom study at the University of Ghana's beautiful Legon campus, on the outskirts of Ghana's capital, Accra; (2) travel throughout Ghana, with attention to historical and cultural landmarks, and varied opportunities to observe and study music; (3) cultural immersion in a small village located in southeastern Ghana.
You do not need to be a student at the University of Alberta to attend this program - in fact you don't need to be a student - it's open to everyone. (If you need the credits applied to your academic program, you're responsible for arranging their transfer. The University of Alberta will provide an official transcript.)
Ghana provides a rich learning environment, through four primary modes: (1) classroom study, including lectures from some of the best scholars and intellectuals in Ghana, mainly at the University of Ghana, in Legon; (2) varied travel experiences throughout Ghana; (3) practical study of African music and dance, including both observation and (more importantly) participation; (4) ethnography, especially during our village stay.
Music and dance performance is central, but no musical experience or talent is required to succeed (only a willingness to try!), and there are no prerequisites for any of the three courses. In 2007 and 2008, long-weekend field trips provided additional musical-cultural perspectives. In 2009 we rolled many of these trips into a single continuous week of travel. Field trips typically include visits to Cape Coast, Elmina, Kakum, Kumasi, Tamale, and Mole National Park where it is possible to view a wide assortment of wildlife. We undertake 2-3 day drumming and dancing workshops in many places we visit, such as Kokrobite, Kumasi, and Tamale, focussing on local musical culture (Ga, Asante, and Dagomba, respectively).
In our more sedentary moments, we'll be studying primarily on the beautiful Legon campus of the University of Ghana (Legon is a suburb of Accra, and a bit cooler too, where the rolling inland hills begin) and in the Volta-region village of Dagbamete, approximately two weeks in each location.
Here's a map on which you can find many of the places we'll visit: Legon, Accra, Kokrobite, Cape Coast, Kakum, Kumasi, Tamle (in the north). Kokrobite is around 80 kilos west of Accra. Elmina and Kakum are short drives from Cape Coast. In the Volta Region: Akatsi (a few kilos from our village, Dagbamete), and Ho, the capital of the Volta Region.
Here's a testimonial from a 2008 summer student enrolled in the University of Alberta's Faculty of Nursing.
To communicate with past or prospective participants, join our Facebook group
2010 program and application procedures...
...are not yet available. But please read the materials posted for 2009 below, and stay tuned, or email me if you need more info. We'll certainly schedule some information sessions this fall for those on the UofA campus.
The start date should be more or less the same as for 2009 (early July), but we may stay a few days longer than 2009. You are certainly encouraged to book your ticket so as to extend your stay beyond the end of the formal program; many students did so in 2009, while others wished they had!
Please note that the program is now available for graduate credit: Music 544 (West African Music Ensemble), Music 565 (Area Studies in Ethnomusicology), MEAS 500 (Topic in Middle Eastern and African Studies). The latter two courses emphasize advanced, critical reading, independent field research, and ethnomusicological analysis and writing. Students pursuing an MA in ethnomusicology could use these courses to develop a corpus of research and knowledge sufficient for the preparation of an MA thesis, or simply to develop a secondary area of ethnomusicological expertise.
Non-University of Alberta students are responsible for ensuring that credit transfers to their home institution and program, and must enroll in University of Alberta open studies prior to enrollment in the program.
2009 program and application procedures
Following your arrival in Ghana by Thursday July 2, the 2009 program will commence on Friday July 3, lasting a total of 33 days until its conclusion on August 3 (departure August 4), including 3 days of orientation (July 3-5), 8 days of classroom lectures (July 6-9, July 13-16), 12 days of travel throughout Ghana (July 10-12, July 17-24), and 10 days' residence in a small Ewe-speaking Ghanaian village (Dagbamete), located in Ghana's Volta Region, for field study and musical/linguistic/cultural immersion (July 25-Aug 3). Unless you've made other arrangements, you'll be leaving Dagbamete on August 4th, and can catch a flight in the afternoon or evening on that day if you wish. It's also possible to arrange to stay in Dagbamete longer, or to spend time touring elsewhere in Ghana if you wish. But please do not plan to leave Ghana before August 4th.
The Ghana portion of the program will be shorter in 2009 than in 2008, but will provide the same number of credits. You are welcome to plan your trip as you like, arriving before the program begins, or remaining in Ghana afterward, in order to extend your stay. Because the Ghana portion is shorter, I will assign some readings for you to complete before your arrival in Ghana. Feel free to do these assignments at any time before the program commences.
Preparation for Ghana
Unless you're bringing a computer or e-reader, you should print out online reading assignments prior to departure.
Because the Ghana portion of the program is shorter than last year, you will be expected to complete a number of reading assignments prior to travel. Please take note of readings on the syllabi that you should complete before the program begins, namely:
You will prepare final papers after returning from Ghana - papers will be due at the end of August.
Costs and scholarships
Scholarships are available!
Fifteen $1,000 scholarship awards are available to early applicants from Canada, with priority to UofA students. Ready to apply? Complete the application. (Note: the application says these grants are only for UofA students, but in fact you can obtain a scholarship even if you're not a UofA student. It's just that UofA students have priority.)
$2,250 scholarships are available for International students (including students from the USA).
- Scholarship application: March 16th, 2009
- General application: March 16th, 2009
Our 2008 and 2009 groups carried out original field research in a Ghanaian village. Read the results of our study here: Music and change in Dagbamete
Student blogs from 2009:
Browse photos from previous programs here:
Research in Ghana
Our summer program includes original field research in a Ghanaian village. Read the results of our study here: Musical Change in Dagbamete
Need more information?
Regarding application procedures please contact Caroline Lawson, Study Abroad Student Advisor, University of Alberta International, Education Abroad Program, 8920 HUB Mall, Edmonton, AB, Canada, T6G 2E1 Tel: 780 492 6215 Fax: 780 492 6213 www.international.ualberta.ca
You may also contact Professor Michael Frishkopf for further information about the program itself.
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