Tamale, in the center of Ghana’s Northern Region, is one of those cities that it’s really easy to fall in love with. At between 250,000 and 500,000 people, it’s just the right size that it’s easy to get to know the feel of the place, and to become very familiar with a couple of neighborhoods, but still feel like there is plenty left to explore. The people here are very kind and polite; even the dominant local language, Dagbani, sounds friendly. Part of the greeting etiquette is the word “N-naa,” which is said as one syllable with a heavy, elongated accent on the “aa” sound. It is impossible to be angry at someone when you say “N-naa” to them. The genial demeanor of the people, the small-town feel the city achieves despite its size, and the fact that is the economic center of the northern half of the country, dealing primarily in agribusiness, make it a popular home base for ex-patriots overwhelmed by the intense, sprawling rush of the national capitol, Accra, on the country’s southern coast, and for international NGOs that deal with more rural populations.
Upon settling into my apartment in Amman, I pasted a somewhat crumpled ﬂashcard in the upper-right corner of my bedroom mirror. In my messy, child-like Arabic script, the card reads “كل تأخيره فيها خيره” “, or “every delay has its beneﬁt,” a traditional Jordanian phrase used to encourage patience. I have taken these wise words to heart since arriving in Jordan as I eagerly await the delayed start of my Fulbright-mtvU project. For the next three months, I will be studying Arabic at the Qasid Arabic Institute with the support of a Critical Language Enhancement Award (CLEA). The CLEA program, which is funded by the National Language Security Initiative, is a supplemental scholarship available to US Fulbright Scholars. Come December, I will be researching the use of music education and community music therapy as a means for promoting psychosocial health among child refugees. Primarily, my work will focus on establishing music outreach programs for displaced youth through a collaboration with students from the Jordanian National Music Conservatory.
While I am excited for winter to arrive and for my project to begin, I am grateful for the opportunity to further my language skills. It is, after all, the beneﬁt of my scheduled delay. See you in December!
The Event for dance4life was on Saturday, March 30th! The four steps of the dance4life program were incorporated into The Event: Inspire, educate, activate, and celebrate. All youth who have been a part of the dance4life program were invited to attend which means there will be up to 1,300 students present! We worked tirelessly to make sure The Event was not only educational and engaging, but also a true celebration for the achievements of the youth in the program.
When I first came to Botswana in 2008, I felt like poetry was everywhere. You just had to reach up and pick it out of the sky to hear it. Now, after immersing myself even more into the hip-hop and poetry scenes, I see that yes, it is everywhere, but even if you don’t look for it, it will find you, hit you like a sandstorm and knock you flat.
Let me say it again. Poetry in Gaborone is everywhere. It’s in the late night cipher sessions around braai stands loaded with meat, the hip-hop stations on the radio, the open mics that seem to happen every night somewhere in the city.
While I realize focusing on poetry is somewhat a departure from the hip-hop that is my focus here, it is not such a stretch. The two creative worlds are always intermingled, but even more so in Botswana. Here, many poets are also emcees and vice versa. At poetry nights there will be at least one or two performers who will ask the DJ for a beat and spit verses in Setswana and English. Poets judge rap battles and emcees host poetry shows.
In exploring the world of poetry here and its relationship to hip-hop and society at large, I decided to focus on three poets that I have interacted with extensively. All three recently served as teachers for a series of creative arts workshops for youth in the low-income neighborhood of Old Naledi for a project I have been part of starting called Arts for Change (videos and blogposts on that initiative coming soon). Enjoy what they have to say in the video below and read on for more information on them and full performances of their poems.
If the fashion centers of the world had a baby sister, Prishtina might be it. Fashion is expression, a form of art, and people here love to play with style. Edona Reshitaj, an actress and musician, looks like she could be a duchess or a heroin from your favorite film noir – but the fact of the matter is she works hard, juggles multiple obligations and talents in order to maintain a steady life that allows her to be creative and incorporate her passions as part of her career. Edona and I were introduced to one another by Albulena Jashari from my last post. Communities here are pretty tight nit, which I love, and Reshitaj often plays in collaboration with Jashari, a testament of how supportive Kosovoans are of one another’s artforms.
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