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.
New York Times travel section article about Ghana (August 9, 2009)
- 1 General information
- 2 2010 program and application procedures...
- 3 Past programs, testimonials....
- 4 2009 program and application procedures
- 5 African Arts and Culture resources
- 6 Program research in Ghana
- 7 Need more information?
This 9 credit summer study abroad program in Ghana, 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.
The program aims to provide an international, life-transforming educational experience, grounded in study of music and dance (both traditional and popular), yet valuable to students enrolled in programs across arts, sciences, humanities, education, and social sciences. The Ghana program offers a grounded global perspective relevant to a wide range of disciplines and career trajectories; previous years' students came from a diversity of faculties, including Arts/Social Sciences, Science, Education, Business, Nursing, and Pharmacy. Thus studies of music and dance in Ghana are not intended as merely ends in themselves, but rather offer performative and participatory strategies for intercultural understanding, complemented by study of politics, history, religion, linguistics, literature, drama, economy, women's studies, and development--in the classroom, on the road, and in the field.
Formally the program includes three courses, of 3 credits each:
- 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, in a traditional Ewe village, and in various locations throughout Ghana. 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, economics, or other disciplines), plus a practical introduction to the Ewe language, in conversation and through its oral literary tradition.
These three courses continue in parallel throughout three program components, 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 natural, historical and cultural landmarks, and varied opportunities to observe and study music and dance; (3) cultural immersion in a small Ewe village located in southeastern Ghana, with opportunities for fieldwork and intensive study of music, dance, and language.
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.
To communicate with past or prospective participants, join our Facebook group
2010 program and application procedures...
As of April 13th our budget has been approved, and the program is moving ahead!
The 2010 programs runs July 1 to August 8. Syllabi are not yet entirely fixed as yet. But please read the materials posted for 2009 below (the program will be very similar this year), and stay tuned, or email me if you need more info.
The original application deadline, March 15, has been extended, as the program is currently underenrolled. If you plan to go, please contact Caroline Lawson immediately and no later than the week of April 12.
For applications, contact Caroline Lawson, firstname.lastname@example.org. Tel: 780 492 6215 Fax: 780 492 6213
Anticipated program dates in Ghana are Friday July 2nd (you must arrive in Ghana by Thursday July 1 or earlier) to Saturday August 7th, inclusive (you must not depart Ghana before August 8th). Our tentative schedule:
- Thursday, July 1: arrival in Accra (unless you've elected to spend some time in Ghana before the program starts); move into International Student Hostel dorms at the University of Ghana, Legon
- Friday, July 2: meet at University of Ghana Guest Center (11 am) for meeting and greeting, program overview, lunch, campus orientation and tour
- Saturday, July 3: Accra tour
- Sunday, July 4: fieldwork in church
- Monday, July 5 - Thursday, July 8: 4 days classes at University of Ghana (Legon)
- Friday, July 9 - Sunday, July 11: 3 day Kokrobite musical beach adventure (30 km from Accra)
- Monday, July 12 - Thursday, July 15: 4 days classes at University of Ghana (Legon)
- Friday, July 16 - Sunday, July 18: 3 days: Cape Coast, Elmina, and Kakum forest tour (historical and ecological), about a 2-3 hour drive from Legon
- Monday, July 19 - Tuesday, July 20: 2 days classes at University of Ghana (Legon).
- Wednesday, July 21 - Wednesday, July 28: 8 day tour to Kumasi and Tamale
- Thursday, July 29 - Saturday, August 7: 10 day Dagbamete village stay (cultural immersion, fieldwork, and intensive music/dance instruction), culminating with final performance and party on August 6
- Saturday August 7: free day - wrap up your research, say your goodbyes...
- Sunday August 8: depart Dagbamete for airport (transportation included) or further travel in Ghana
In sum, we'll stay in the University of Ghana hostel from the evening of July 1 to the morning of July 21, then travel around Ghana, and return for one more night at the hostel on July 28), before departing for Dagbamete the morning of the 29th. (During our Ghana travel you can leave your bags locked at the hostel for a small fee.)
Note that you must schedule your air travel so as to arrive in Accra by the evening of July 1, and must not leave Ghana before August 8. However you are certainly encouraged to extend your stay beyond the end of the formal program; many students did so in 2009, while others wished they had! (it wasn't always possible to extend the ticket later, as summer is "high season"). Or you may prefer to arrive in Ghana before the program starts, in order to do some traveling on your own. In that case you'll still move into the dorms on July 1st, and meet us on campus on the morning of July 2. If you want to avail yourself of pre-paid transportation to and from the airport, you should arrive on the evening of July 1, and depart in the late afternoon on July 8. However transport to and from the airport is not difficult to arrange.
Unless you're bringing a laptop or e-reader (Kindle would work well), you should print out online reading assignments prior to departure.
Note: the syllabi will be updated frequently until June 2010.
Undergraduate and graduate credit
Please note that the program is available for both undergraduate and 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.
Albertan students will each receive a $750 scholarship from the government of Alberta, up to 14 scholarships total. It is not yet clear whether scholarships are available for other students; you are encouraged to seek out sources of funding from your own institution, province, or state.
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.
Approximate costs in 2010 (subject to change depending on enrollments):
- Education Abroad application fee
- Fees for visa
- Cost of vaccines, medicines (anti-malarial is a must)
- Books, supplies, clothing, equipment, etc.
- Tuition for Canadian students for the 3 courses : $1743.56 (more for International students) [paid in advance]
- Program fee (includes Dagbamete room/board and transportation, Internet use on campus, airport pickup, certain workshops): $750 [paid in advance]
- Housing on campus (July 1 - 20): approx $300 [paid in advance]
- Food during campus portion of trip (July 1 - 20): approx. $200 [paid individually in Ghana]
- Mandatory fieldtrips (transport, food, lodging, activities): $250 [paid individually in Ghana] [Note: price has decreased due to rosier financial picture]
- Flight: around $2600 from Edmonton to Accra, significantly less from eastern Canada or US. Note that it may cost significantly less to purchase multiple roundtrip tickets with a stopover in Europe, but in this case you should leave a day or more between flights to ensure connections. [arranged and paid individually]
- Optional fieldtrips (two long-weekend excursions): about $100 each, or $200 total (most students won't want to miss these) [paid individually in Ghana] NOTE: these fieldtrips will now become mandatory, but the price will come down somewhat since with higher enrollments I'll have enough money to subsidize, probably for transportation (I can't spend program fees on anything that isn't mandatory...)
- Optional spending money for souvenirs, clothing, drums (a drum costs about $50, and can be brought home as an extra bag), excursions, gifts....
- Room and board during fieldtrips is figured at $25/day. These are conservative figures. In Ghana, it is possible to procure a satisfying meal for under $2 and lodging will often be $5/night or even less. But in some situations (e.g. the wonderful restaurant at Kokrobite, where dinner will be about $12, or the Guest Center on campus, where a meal's about $5), costs will be higher.
- ATMs are plentiful in Ghana's larger cities, and on the campus, so you need not bring a lot of cash. Please see advice on financial preparations.
Past programs, testimonials....
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
Here's a testimonial from a 2008 summer student enrolled in the University of Alberta's Faculty of Nursing.
Student blogs from 2009:
Browse photos from previous programs here:
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.
2009 Program syllabi
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.
2009 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).
African Arts and Culture resources
General info on Africa
Aluka (log in via your university library site; if it's not available request a subscription)
General info on Ghana
Dagara xylophone music center outside Accra
Film: West Africa and Diaspora
Jean Rouch's classic "Les Maîtres Fous" (unfortunately only the first third available online...)
Joy Uspeakable (Pentecostals)
- Google Map showing locations we'll likely visit on the summer program
- Historical maps
- Modern maps
- West Africa maps
- Ghana maps
- Harvard's Africa Map project
- interactive map quiz for countries
- interactive map quiz for capitals
Program 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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