Divine Word Missionaries
T I C C S NEWSLETTER
Tamale Institute of Cross-Cultural Studies
T I C C S N E W S L E T T E R
The Bi-annual Newsletter of the Tamale Institute of
THE NEWS AT TICCS
Registration of TICCS
As of the 13th of March, 2006 TICCS received its Certificate of Incorporation and was finally registered as a “Company Limited by Guarantee” according to the Companies Code of Ghana (1963).
Bearing in mind that the first feelers toward the official registration of TICCS were put forward at the second meeting of the Board in 1985, we can certainly say that the wheels of change move slowly but surely here in Ghana.
The MA in C-C Ministry
Our affiliate institution, now titled “Akrofi-Christaller Institute,” has expanded by leaps and bounds. It now has a full Presidential Charter to run its various programmes including the MA in Cross-Cultural Ministry. Eyikoo! Mo ne yo! The Akrofi-Christaller Institute has been a great help in getting the MA in C-C Ministry started and our sincerest thanks go out to Prof. Bediako, the director, Mr. Joseph Budu, the Registrar, and to all the dedicated ACI staff who have made this exceptional programme possible.
Further refinements to our joint programme have pared it down to 12 months on-campus of which 9 are to be at TICCS and 4 are to be at ACI. Now the programme will start at TICCS the beginning of September and continue until the end of May. The month of June will be a period of transition for participants to move to ACI. This will be followed by 4 months intensive coursework at ACI ending in October. Commencement will be at ACI in December.
This school year (2006-7) marks the third year running that TICCS has offered the MA in Cross-Cultural Ministry. This brings us to the end of our 3-year trial period. Over this period all aspects of the programme have grown and expanded in possibilities and opportunities, but our intake of students has not kept pace. We hope that vigorous recruitment will soon solve this problem.
MISSIO Scholarships for MA in Cross-Cultural Ministry
Representatives from MISSIO send TICCS their greetings and offer enthusiastic support for the new MA in C-C Ministry. However, rather than offer TICCS a given number of scholarships each year—as we had initially asked—they have responded that applicants to the MA in C-C Ministry apply directly to MISSIO for scholarships. TICCS will provide the special application forms and the necessary recommendations to those applicants who qualify.
Seminar for 2006
Announcing: The TICCS Seminar in 2006
“Cultural Beliefs and Attitudes Toward Disabilities in Ghana”
Part I (6-9 Nov): “Implications for Development” Part II (9-12 Nov): “Implications for Christian Ministry”
A CALL FOR PAPERS
TICCS wishes to announce its upcoming “Culture Seminar” for 2006. Anyone interested in these important topics is invited to attend. Anyone who would like to offer an academic paper or act as a discussant is encouraged to contact the organization committee. Contribution summaries of not more than 500 words may be sent to the organizer email@example.com. Those presenting papers will receive free room and board. Registration of those not giving papers or acting as discussants will be at the door.
In Part I (6-9 Nov) papers will be presented and discussed which examine the “Implications for Development”. In Part II (9-12 Nov) papers will be presented and discussed which examine the “Implications for Christian Ministry”. The general topic will be the same for each part.
In his seminal book entitled “African Religion: the moral traditions of abundant life,” Laurenti Magesa redirects our sights to the implicit standard for measuring “success” that is found throughout Africa. This is “fullness of life”. But in the African context “fullness of life” is achieved in becoming an ancestor—along with all that is implied by this—and anything that diminishes, retards or prevents the ancestral quest amounts to a lessening of life, a failure to achieve success.
Here we find the cultural basis for the many attitudes and practices toward the “disabled” which the Western world would term “negative”, namely ifanticide of the malformed, hiding away or maltreating the family cripple, the leper, the insane or the mentally retarded, and now, HIV victims, just to name a few. But there are also attitudes that venerate and honor the old and feeble, as having achieved the apex of human life, which are anything but negative, and which could offer an appropriate model for the West to emulate in their development.
Bearing in mind that we are in Africa, and it is African cultural values and norms that are the basis for any sustained development effort or appropriate ministry, the practices and behavior arising from traditions of abundant life pose many serious questions. At the top of this list would be: is there any serious dialogue at this level at all? Do development or ministerial efforts recognize and acknowledge these cultural values and are they taken seriously into account. Secondly do development or ministerial efforts seek to build upon these values and exert some pressure to offer venues of change so that the quality of life may be improved for all.
Here Christ’s declaration that his coming was so that “they may have life more abundantly” seems a fitting dialogical starting point for both ministry and human development conceived of in its widest possible frame.
Signing of MOU
On March 27th a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed with Dr. Øyvind Øykland, the representative of the Gimlekollen School of Journalism and Communication in Kristiansand, Norway. According to the Memorandum our two institutions have agreed to cooperate in scientific research, mutual participation in seminars and academic meetings, exchange of academic materials, the exchange of faculty and students, and the running of short-term programs. We look forward to a long and enriching relationship with Gimlekollen.
Cross-Cultural Spirituality Workshops
The TICCS Cross-Cultural Spirituality workshops are gaining in popularity. TICCS ran its third 3-day mini-workshop, which was attended by a record 16 persons, in November 2005. The increased numbers and interest have encouraged us to make the workshops a standard TICCS offering. Guided by the comments and suggestions of those who have attended the workshop, TICCS plans to continue the workshop in its entirety over one full week. This year we will offer it the first week of October.
From March 30th to April 1st, 2006 TICCS hosted some 13 students from New York University on a short cultural introduction to the North. The students who are doing a semester abroad program with Adeshi University in Accra and the University of Ghana at Legon were taking advantage of their Easter break to learn a bit about the North. This is the second time that TICCS has hosted this program which was organized by Christa Sanders for the NYU students. We wish the students fair sailing through their cultural straits and narrows.
Xavier University Students
TICCS offered a lecture and cultural input for Dr. Kathleen Smythe and students from Xavier University, Cincinnatti OHIO, who were on a cultural exposure trip to Ghana. The group which had spent all of its time in the South exploring the Akan culture had wished to have at least a day to explore a bit of the North and Northern peoples. We hope that the exposure offered by TICCS has helped them appreciate the North and that they will spend more time in the North on their next tour.
More Mini-Orientation Courses in Accra?
After turning down many requests from various groups to run shorter, more specialized Orientation Courses in Accra, TICCS finally offered a three-day, 18 session course to US Embassy Personnel from 10th to 12th April, 2006. Although the course was organized by the “government section” of the Embassy there were also persons from the consular section and USAID in attendance.
A number of such courses had been offered for the British High Commission in the late 1990s. Although these courses were well attended and appreciated, the TICCS facilitators felt that it would be better to attract the participants up to Tamale than to try to create a semblance of African culture in the Novotel or Golden Tulip.
Credibility is always a top issue when the enemy is our own inbuilt ethnocentrism. When someone is deep down convinced that what we call “African culture” is really just a less-informed version of American or European culture and that “with a little more education they will be just like us” it is impossible for a trainer or workshop facilitator to tell them otherwise. This must be done by in-the-face, undeniable, huge, unmistakeable cultural differences—experienced morning, noon and night. That’s why Tamale is better on every score than Accra. Accra tends to support the illusion that cultural differences don’t really exist.
Serious Cultural Tourism
Is this an oxymoron? Not if John Fanselow, husband of Dr. Kathleen Smythe (anthropologist at Xavier University) has anything to say about it. Recently Mr. Fanselow, who had a taste of our programs at TICCS, contacted us to ask about the possibility of organizing “cultural safaris” for North Americans. He explained that he quit the airline business and that he wanted to get into the business of organizing serious cultural tourism. The idea goes back to his life-altering experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Africa.
For our part, we at TICCS have long felt that the time was ripe for such programs and we have even offered a couple of them on a trial basis—one for relatives of the director and friends of TICCS and the other for a group of retired teachers and principals. The programs never developed into anything regular because there was no one to promote them in North America. Now this problem seems to have been solved and we look forward to what appears to be a fruitful partnership in hosting cultural tourism.
Peace Corps Training
In August and September of 1987 TICCS was hired to train US Peace-Corps in-country language and culture trainers and to facilitate their debut training session with a new group of Peace-Corps Volunteers. Since then, TICCS has had very little engagement with US Peace-Corps Ghana. Now this may be changing as TICCS has begun talks with the current director to consider offering some of its expertise in language and culture training to assist Peace Corps Volunteers. The new leadership at Peace-Corps Ghana is extremely conscious of the importance of culture and has expressed the desire that the PCVs achieve a higher level of cultural understanding and competency than before. TICCS certainly endorses this end and, although we still do not know exactly where this may lead, we are committed to assist them in whatever way we can to achieve this worthy goal.
DKA-Scholarships for MA in C-C Ministry
This should go down as a “first” in Ghanaian history. DKA-Austria has recently advised TICCS that since there were no participants in last year’s MA programme we will be required to return the three un-used MA scholarships. Sending back money is a heartbreaking matter here in Ghana. We hope that they will be used in the future.
February Course 2006
From the 5th to the 11th Feburary 2006 TICCS held an Orientation Course of one week for new missionaries. Altogether there were ten persons attending from all around Ghana including one non-missionary participant from the US Embassy, Ms Josslyn Narayan. Unfortunately none of the participants were could find time to take the full four-week Introduction Program so the course came to an end after the first week. We wish the participants wonderful adventures in cross-cultural living, hoping that some will return later for the “rest of the story”.
NGPLG Research Project
A research project with the Northern Ghana Political Leadership Group (NGPLG) entitled “Conflict Management and Sustainable Peacebuilding for Northern Ghana: Proposal for Initiating the Process Towards Sustainable Peace” has been undertaken and has been moving along very steadily over the past months.
The project was first prepared by the NGPLG following the talks held at Mole National Park in November 2004 and submitted to Development Partner Agencies including USAID, DFID and CIDA.
In March 2006 TICCS was notified that the major Partner Agencies had signed on and that the project was on track. It was safely assumed that TICCS could begin its particular part of the project. As part of Phase I of the Project TICCS has agreed to undertake a detailed study documenting the past, present and pending conflict hotspots and report on the past and present conflict management mechanisms and their effectiveness.
Part of the documentation involves the gathering of all the available reports, articles, and monographs that have been written on the subject. TICCS has prepared a book cabinet in a section of the Library Reading Room for the collection and physical documentation of these resources.
Thusfar TICCS has put together a “Terms of Reference” for the project and has begun the collection of the data and the documentation of the conflicts. As of now we have compiled up to ten bibliographies touching on the subject and as many as 60 reprints of journal articles and reports. These are being itemized and catalogued along side our regular library collection. We have also begun to interview various key parties on the scene concerning the conflicts and the mechanizations for their management.
The Phase 1 of the NGPLG project will continue over the next six months and will lead to Phase 2 of the project. It is our hope that eventually the project will begin to address the systemic base of the conflicts, especially the cultural dimension, which is where we hope to introduce “Culture-Drama”. We would then propose to offer a number of culture-drama workshops of the type which we offered at Nsawam in 2002 and from there go on to offer a program for the training of culture-drama facilitators.
Mini-Orientation for US Embassy
From 10-12 April TICCS ran a three-day, 18 session cultural orientation course for US Embassy staff at the USIS headquarters in Accra. In three short days we managed to cover all the presentation sessions given in a normal 1-week Orientation Course. The big difference, of course, was there was very little discussion time and (aside from a visit with a modern queen mother) virtually no real-life exposure sessions, or field trips.
Nevertheless, there was keen interest, very good interaction, and excellent questions were floored. All in all, the course rated considerably higher in our opinion than any of its predecessors and we are now far less opposed to them than we were before. For those not able to spend a week at Tamale such an intensive exposure is certainly valuable and worthwhile, and the evaluations testified to this.
We would like to offer a big thanks to Mr. Scott Ticknor, the organizer, and to all those attending whose enthusiastic response has encouraged us to continue offering these important exposure programs.
Afua Kuma: Praying in Her Own Words
Jon P. Kirby SVD
During our cultural training programmes participants often ask “why we spend so much time talking about the past.” They want to know how things are now. “Hasn’t Ghana changed? It must have changed a great deal over the last 20 years,” they say. The outside, of course, has changed quite drastically. Especially in the cities, one need only open one’s senses to the familiar, ubiquitous sights and sounds of our global age—the cosmopolitan noises, BMW cars, iPods and packed internet cafes. But beneath that familiar exterior the inner cultural core is as Ghanaian as it always was. It isn’t just something from the past; it is timeless and it continues to direct the present in innumerable ways. This is not as evident to Westerners as are those reminders of their own cultures, and Western focused Ghanaian youth are ever ready to confirm what they think Western strangers want to hear. So it is not easy for strangers to break through this bubble to touch the deeper Ghanaian cultural realities.
There are, however, some iconic nuggets of African truth and beauty, which burst through the wraps from time to time and shine forth resplendent, revealing a glorious African spiritual presence beneath the Western tarnish. Afua Kuma’s prayers are just such an icon.
It is now thirty years since I translated Jesus of the Deep Forest: Prayers and Praises of Afua Kuma from Kwahu-Twi into English. But as I look over the text I find it as timeless and as astonishingly fresh as the first day it resounded in my ears. Once again I am transported to a different world—carried away by its thrilling staccato beat, its brilliant, fresh imagery, its assonance and lingual gymnastics. I am borne aloft along the cool forested paths of Afua Kuma’s world, through quiet villages and shady cocoa farms, and into the heart of the Akan people whose language and ways I learned to love.
I am always amazed at the way callow, young University students are instantly transformed by these sounds and images. There have been many reprints of both the English and Twi versions of this small publication since it first come out, but it is always the Twi version that “gets finished” first. The Twi is courtly language and often archaic so readers don’t always know exactly what the words mean but their hair stands on end nonetheless. For them it is not the past; it is their hidden soul. Listen to a selection of her praise names for Jesus; see for yourself.
Obirâmpôn Yesu a wadi aninsâm
Ôdôfo Gyane a ne ho abirnie (p.7)
Âpo so bômmofo mu ôkatakyi
Abôbôbemmaa a ôpae gu ahunum
Ôbosome mu Ôsanna
The prestigious “Luzbetak Lecture” at CTU on topics in contemporary missiology is to be given this year by none other than our own director, Fr. Jon P. Kirby.
Conference in Frankfurt
In July Fr. Kirby will attend an International conference on communications in Frankfurt. He will deliver a paper on the phenomenon of witch villages in N. Ghana entitled:
“Witch Villages: Prison or Sanctuary?”
Two looked out from prison bars. One saw mud; the other stars.
Earth shrines, which are found throughout Africa, have many capacities—they define and demarcate territories, they nurture and protect those living within their boundaries, they insure the rain and the annual fertility of the soil and seasons, and they are a source of identity linking generations. It was this nurturing and protective capacity, especially in their power to nullify witchcraft, that led to the formation of the so-called “witch villages” of Northern Ghana.
In recent times this capacity to preserve and nurture life has become highly ambiguous. Some now see these villages and their protective shrines as antiquarian vestiges of the past, intolerable markers of ignorance and superstition, or as effective instruments of oppression actively subjugating women. Others see them as a chance, albeit it limited and inhumane, to go on living, a muddy oasis in a barren landscape of hatred and desolation.
Where a decade ago only the local people knew of their existence, these so-called “witch villages” are now a highly profiled part of the Ghanaian political landscape. The eyes of the nation are upon them. They are roundly visited by outraged human rights activists, greedy politicians and heads of local NGOs looking for new projects, news people looking for a juicy story and curious travelers of all sorts.
Today thousands of accused “witches”, mostly old women, eke out their final days in these unbelievably inhuman ‘African concentration camps’. The irony is that they would rather live there than back home. As a local priest pointed out: “it is not as easy as the militants make it out to be. Many of these women are our parishioners and I know them well. If an accused woman is sent back ‘home’ she will be murdered the moment the next person in her village dies.” A perhaps even greater irony is that soon they may be forced to go back “home” by highly placed interest groups. Thus, in the name of nurturing “life” we have nothing less than a death sentence.
Beneath this humanitarian story are opposing systems of knowledge, each vying for power, each preserving its own version and understanding of “life.” The presentation explores how in this way the “witch village” becomes emblematic of the process of development itself as it becomes the contested ground for demonstrating a “developed” vs. “underdeveloped” society.
Fr. Kirby Goes to Gnani
Fr. Kirby recently made a couple of trips to Gnani to gather “life stories” of some of those accused of witchcraft. This is in preparation for papers to be delivered at conferences abroad.
TICCS Team Research in Peacebuilding
The TICCS research team has been involved in gathering research and documentation on all the conflicts of the North. Fr. Kofi is focusing on the Mamprusi-Kusasi scene and on the Upper East, Dr. Salifu is focusing on Gonja, Mr. James is focusing on the Upper West and Fr. Kirby is focusing on Dagbon and Nanun—both the intra- and inter-ethnic conflicts.
Fr. Kofi’s Retreat Work
Fr. Kofi has been busy offering retreats over the last six months. He has assisted with directed retreats at the ICF, Brafo-Yaw near Cape Coast and with a retreat for the Christian Brothers in Tamale.
Dr. Salifu’s Southern Itinerary
Dr. Salifu has been very active lining up interviews with Bishops and Diocesan Administrators around Southern Ghana to introduce TICCS and its programs. We are always suprised to learn that even after 23 years of service very little is known about TICCS in the southern part of the country. There is nothing like first hand contact to put a “face” on this curious name of ours.
TICCS THOUGHTS ABOUT CULTURE
Oral Literature in Ghana
Kofi Ron Lange SVD
Forms of Oral Literature “Oral literature” is a term that is used to describe materials that are not written down in books. In Ghana we have lots of things in many of our languages that are not written down in books. More recently, some of these things, like proverbs, are starting to be written down. But there are still many proverbs and other forms of oral literature that remain in their unwritten form. These include family and tribal histories, genealogies, epics and folk tales; riddles, praise names or “appellations”, tongue twisters, dilemma tales and wise sayings; songs and other forms of musical expression like funeral dirges, hunter songs, victory songs and praise poems; and ritual expressions such as prayers, libations, invocations and the general verbalized wisdom of non-literate peoples.
On the face of it, the compound term “oral literature” is seemingly contradictory since it is composed of “oral”, meaning what is spoken and “literature”, meaning what is written. Nevertheless, the term is now universally accepted, and is used to categorize an enormous variety of unwritten discourse in Africa and in other places around the globe. Perhaps the compound terms “verbal art” or “oral art” might be more precise and consistent, but they have not caught on, and they do not carry the meaning quite so well.
In this short essay I would like to consider just a few of these forms: dilemma tales, praise names and tribal histories. Then I would like to introduce some of the characteristics of such forms including performance, giving the Akan dirge as an example, and stylistic aspects of performance, especially repetition, contrasting images, lexical encodings for effect, reduplication and musical sounds that enhance the performance. Finlly I would like to say a word about two less acknowledged but crucially important aspects: delivery and audience participation.
Dilemma Tales Dilemma tales are best described by simply offering one. Here is an example:
A hunter had two wives whom he loved equally. One day he was going to the farm with his two wives to dig up some cassava and yams to have food for the family to eat. When the hunter and his two wives were on their way to the farm they met a big cobra, lying in the middle of the path. The hunter quickly cut a branch from a nearby tree in order to kill the cobra. But when he raised the stick in the air the cobra spoke saying: “Mr. Hunter, don’t do that!” The Hunter was very surprised because he had never seen a cobra that could speak. He shouted back at the cobra: “You fool, I will kill you right now!” Then the cobra said: “If you kill me, your senior wife will die and if you leave me go, your junior wife will die.” So, what should the hunter do?
This is a dilemma, that is, a situation in which the hunter is offered two or more choices but no matter which one he chooses the results seem to be equally bad. If he chooses to kill the snake his senior wife dies and if he leaves it his junior wife dies. What should the Hunter do?
After some discussion with the cobra the hunter told the snake that it was difficult for him to know what to do, so he should allow him to go and consult his old mother. The snake said: “No! You can’t deceive me like that! I know that if you go, you won’t return.” Then the hunter said: “I will leave my two wives here with you and so I must return.” The snake said: “OK, but don’t keep long.” So, the hunter went and hid behind a big tree and waited quietly. Meanwhile, the snake was lying in the hot sun feeling very hot and sweating very much and he also became very thirsty. So, the snake left the two women to go to the river to get some water to drink. When the hunter saw the snake going to the river he quickly came and took his two wives away.
In conclusion, the hunter didn’t kill the snake and he didn’t allow it to go. The snake went away on his own because he was thirsty.
Here is an example of a typical puzzle tale:
Three young men went on a journey. They had with them three wonderful things: a magic carpet, a medicine that could bring people back to life, and a mirror which could be used to see things that were happening back at your home. After they had traveled for some weeks they looked into the magic mirror and saw that their mother had died at home. One said: “Let’s get on the magic carpet and go home quickly.” They got on the magic carpet and were back at home in an instant. One of them put the medicine under their mother’s nose and she came back to life. Which of them did the most wonderful thing?
The answer is: “The elders are still trying to answer this.”
Praise Names In simple or non-complex societies, where there is little social differentiation among the people, laudatory appellations and praises are often used to establish rank, to set persons apart, to distinguish and honor their recipients. Here are some praise names that we sometimes use for our chiefs or ancestors, and sometimes use for God:
Zallakuduraa Naa – Most High and Merciful Chief, Natitamlana – Almighty God, Faako Naa – Merciful Chief/Savior, Totorobonsu Nyame – God who showers rain on us, Tweduampon Nyame – The God we can lean on and not fall.
Tribal Histories Tribal histories serve in a similar function, although more for the honor and ranking of whole groups than for individuals. The Dagomba recite their histories to the rhythm of drumming. On certain occasions, especially during the celebration of Damba, the lunsi or court drummers recount the great epics of their chiefs and their glorious past to the rhythmic beat of the state drums. In addition to such formal histories various historical elements such as the names and activities of ancient heroes, chiefs or memorable figures or events can be found in folktales, stories, proverbs and other sayings.
Spoken and Written Word Of course, there is a big difference between the spoken and the written word. The spoken word is more immediate, more involving and more personal. It is much more than simply words! It is a person speaking. It is someone in front of you speaking something to you or to a group of people. The spoken word cannot be separated from the speaker. The speaker is alive. He/she is not inert like a book; a book cannot speak to you. It doesn’t stand up and move its hands or do anything. It just lies there. The spoken word is very personal. You see the person speaking and you know him. The person is actually a part of what is spoken.
Characteristics of Oral Literature Now we want to look at some of the characteristics of oral literature. For this we will need some examples. I don’t know all the languages in Ghana, but because I have worked for about 16 years among the Twi speaking people I do have some familiarity with the Twi language. So I am going to give some examples in Twi.
Some typical characteristics include performance, stylistic aspects such as repetition and contrasting metaphors, delivery, and audience participation. We draw some examples from the Twi language but you may recognize some of these characteristics in your own languages as well.
Performance The first thing that stands out about oral literature in Twi is that it is a performance. Oral literature is not just spoken, it is enacted or performed by one or a number of persons. The actual performance makes an important contribution to the impact of the particular form being exhibited. The performers make us of their bodies—their gestures, their hands, their facial expressions, their mouths etc. The audience is also envolved. The people respond by clapping, shouting, heckling, singing, and adding comments. Sometimes the performer gives the first part of a sentence or a proverb and the audience completes it, or the speaker may ask a question and the audience answers it, or the performer may sing a song and the audience joins in or sings a respone. This lively exchange characterizes the performance of a number of oral literature genres including folk tales, especially when they are told at night.
The quality of performance also features quite powerfully in Akan dirges or the songs which are sung at funerals by the women mourners. There are many aspects to the performance of dirges. Let us consider just a few of them. First, the context of the funeral itself. It is a highly charged emotional situation. If somebody close to me dies I will feel it. If my mother or my brother or sister dies, I will feel it very much and I will be expected to show it by crying, weeping or wailing.
In additional to the physical setting, the enactment of this poetic form involves a musical or poetic setting. Here the beauty of the singer’s voice, her sobs and vocal expressiveness, her facial expressions, her bodily movements, her dramatic use of rhythm, of harmonious pause and flow, her expression of passion, of dignity and humor, and her receptivity to the reactions of the audience are all in high focus. All of these indicate the sincerity of her grief. All are an integral and flexible part of the dirge; all lead to its full realization as an Akan work of art. If done well, people will respond by clapping, talking about the performance, and putting money on the forehead or in the dress of the woman performing.
Then there are the performers themselves. There will be mourners of various rankings depending on their relationship to the deceased. The drummers will also be present adding their performance of drumbeats and rhythms appropriate for funerals. Usually one of the women among the mourners will take the lead in the funeral dirge. She will move about aimlessly as she sings. The other women mourners will be walking around with her and they will be waving their cloths at her, or they will be holding their hands up, or they will be weeping together and singing with her. So, the whole thing is in fact one big beautiful performance. If it is done well, the people may put money on the woman’s forehead or they may say, “Well done!” These are just some of the many characteristics of the funeral dirge/song.
Stylistic Aspects Some of the stylistic aspects of oral literature include repetition, contrasting images and metaphors, lexical encoding of affect and affect-connoting acts, reduplication, sounds and musical resources such as ideophones, and the way the poetry is delivered.
Repetition There are different kinds of repetition. The first is that of single sounds in close succession or at distant points. Here is one in Twi: Nsânkyerânne wura, wo na woateâ wo nsa wô sare so ama âho ayâ kwae. In this poetic phrase we can hear the (w) sound repeated many times. Here are other examples: Ahum ne aham ne ahahanhunu. You hear the (h) sound repeated. Âsare so ôserebo a yâresew no so dade akodi aninsâm. Here you hear the (s) sound repeated. There is also the repetition of the same syllable(s) in different words: Tutugyagu, wo na woatutu ôbôre se. Here the word “tutu” is being repeated in the same sentence. There are also identical beginnings: Yâmfa nkrante nnôw kwan mma Yesu. Yâmfa katapira ntutu n’akwan so. There is also the repetition of a word at the end position in one line and at the initial position in the succeeding line or sentence: Yesu na woyâ kwae mu ôbômmôfo; ôbômmôfo a woakô ahayô akokum kakae. All these types of repetitions are part of the reason people say that the language sounds “sweet.”
Contrasting Images and Metaphors Another aspect of style in Ghanaian oral literature is that of contrasting images. Here are some examples used by Afua Kuma in her book, Jesus of the Deep Forest: Okatakyie, wo na woworow wo kawa fa wo mmati so! O Powerful One, you remove your ring over your shoulder! This contrasting image presents the Powerful One as removing his ring, not the ordinary way via his finger, but over his shoulder. That the Powerful One has removed his ring over his shoulder means that there is no wonder that he cannot work. Here is another example: Ônwonwafo, wo na wode kântân asaw nsu asi kwankyân ama akwantemfo anom no nnansa. Wonder Worker, you put water in a basket by the roadside for travelers to drink for three days. If you put water in a basket, it will immediately run out, but “Wonder Worker” can put water in a basket and it will stay there for three days! Contrasting images such as these spark the interest and catch the imagination of people because they speak of things completely out of the ordinary, of things unexpected and unusual.
Lexical Encoding of Affect and Affect-connoting Acts One very common form of style in Ghanaian languages is the use of emotional cues and affect or emotion-connoting acts to encourage a response among the listeners. Some examples of this from Afua Kuma include: Wo ho yâ hu! – You are fearfully wonderful! Ma wo ho repopo – makes you tremble! Resi abôfo di wanim – dancing with joy before you!
Reduplication Another aspect of style is that of reduplication, that is, the doubling of the same form of verbs or adjectives: Kyâre vs. akyerâkyerâkwan – One who shows the way Tia vs. atiatia – step on repeatedly Tuku vs. Tukutukutuku – soft, soft, very soft. Fâ vs. Fâfââfâ or fâfâfâfâfâfâ – very beautiful.
Sounds and Musical Resources Other forms draw fully on musical resources and make use of singing by a soloist, or by a chorus, or in some cases by instruments. One such device that is very common among Ghanaian languages is the use of refrains or choruses that are sung at intervals during the telling of folk tales.
The skilled Ghanaian oral performer also employs vivid ideophones which are the expression of an idea by means of a sound. They are often reduplicated and are meant to create an image of an action or object, or dramatized dialogue. They work by manipulating the audience’s sense of humor or susceptibility to be amazed, or be shocked, or be moved, or enthralled at appropriate moments. Some examples of this include: krikrikri…a small animal scurrying away very quickly. sromsrom… the smearing of a greasy substance on the body sokyee… eating something delicious and oily. Yeiii! Wa! or Uwa! … utter surprise, astonishment.
Every language has its own kinds of sounds and their own specific ways of using these sounds. You will become aware of this when you listen carefully to people who know their language well and to those who use some of these stylistic forms in their proverbs, songs, folktales, prayers, libations, etc.
Delivery In giving praise names or appellations before a Dagomba or an Ashanti chief (bô mmerane or momma), the things that give the performance aesthetic beauty are the dignified bearing of the performer, the emphasis on continuity of delivery, and a delivery that is high pitched, staccato and fast. Drums often accompany the performance. In the olden days if the delivery was faulty in some way the performer might have to face the executioner. The Dagomba drummers perform the histories of the chiefs and their accomplishments and victories, etc. They too must do this very accurately or suffer loss of face. This means drummers need to have good memories.
Audience Participation Members of the audience do not confine their participation to a reserved silence or a mere acceptance of the chief performer’s invitation to participate. They break into the performance with additions, queries, or even criticisms. While a folk tale is being performed someone in the audience may shout out: “You are deceiving us!” The storyteller will playfully shout back: “If I am deceiving you, go to bed!” At the end of a story another person from the audience may say: “Oh, you have told us lies. That is not the way the story goes.” And then he or she will tell another story. Or the performer may ask: “How am I lying?” (Meboa sân?) Or he/she say: “Deceive me1” (Sisisi me!) And the response is: “Ok, I’m deceiving you! Go to bed! (Misisi wo! Kôda!) At end of a story the audience may clap or one person may say: “Let’s congratulate him/her,” and then the whole audience will say: “Hmmm.”
In the telling of folk tales, performers often stop for an interlude of song, or someone from the audience will start a song and the whole audience will join in the chorus. Then the storyteller will continue with the story. In some way the audience is always involved in the performance. This keeps them awake and interested and it makes for the communal performance of a kind of social ritual.
We often find the same quality of interaction when someone is giving a speech or settling a case in the traditional court. One person recites the first line of a well-known proverb and the other person or the audience completes it. For an example of this in Twi, the speaker says, “The animal without a tail …” (Aboa a onni dua . . .), and the audience responds by saying, “it is God who chases the flies away” (Onyame na ôpra ne ho). An example in Dagbani is, “Gradually, gradually…” (Biâla, biâla ...) and the audience continues by saying, “the elephant was created” (n-da nam wôbigu).
TICCS PROGRAMS 2006
Cross-Cultural Spirituality Workshop
Announcing the 2006 Workshop