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Cover Essay My Field Study Process I had a profound experience as a college freshman in an African dance workshop that influenced

my desire to study dance and its spiritual purposes in Africa (details in my biography following this essay). However, pondering the African culture and its dance traditions has been a continual topic of personal interest throughout my dance training since junior high. I had heard many ideas about the purposes and significance of dance in Africa. I had heard about the cathartic release, the spiritual worship of gods of the earth, the rituals and sacrifices, its place in rites of passage and in preparing for war. As many people introduced me to the basic sensibilities of African dance, I found a wonder and need inside me to experience these things for myself and to see if these ancient purposes are still substantial and relevant today in African culture. This led me enroll in a BYU Field Study experience in rural Ghana. I found the structure and focus of this study abroad program to be holistic and individual, therefore attractive in its combining of the academic and cultural aspects of planning a cross-cultural experience. It catered perfectly to my desire to learn about African culture by authentically living a Ghanaian lifestyle and being intellectually stimulated through the inquiry-based focus and individually designed research project I would create. Therefore, prior to traveling to do my field work in Ghana, I researched what I could to know more about spirituality, African dance, and more specifically, the combination of the two. The following paragraphs will be an introduction to dance and spirituality and will explain what research I found to help me with my field work. I will then conclude my essay with the core of what I learned in the field. This section will answer how individual Ghanaians and I view spirituality within their dance traditions. Introduction to African Dance and Spirituality

I found much written on the significance of African dance. Many articles on this topic were written by dance ethnographer Judith Lynne Hanna. She writes that African dance is physical, artistic, cultural, social, psychological, economical, political and communicative behavior (Hanna, 169). However, after reading her literature and others, I was astounded to see she did not list African dance as spiritual behavior as well. Perhaps she did not include it in this list because spirituality is a thread that weaves through and is manifested in all the behaviors she listed. My dance professor Pat Debenham and his wife wrote an article Experiencing the Sacred in Dance Education and wrote that by its very nature, the sacred defies definition and is difficult to capture in words because it resides in the dance experience itself (Debenham, 44). This commentary on the sacred or spiritual may be a reason why Hanna did not include spiritual behavior in her list because it is an esoteric part of the experience of all the human behaviors she did identify. This realization helped me see the challenge of studying spirituality-that the topic is incredibly individual and esoteric. But, after more research, I found confidence that aspects of spirituality, those real parts of life experience that cannot be quantitatively recorded, were of value. In addition, I found that I believed that I would find qualitative ways to record the data I found, and the data would be just as meaningful and relevant as the work already offered to the discussion of spirituality and African dance in academia today. Judith Hanna also wrote in African Dance: The Continuity of Change that African dance contributes to a societys needs by maintaining cultural patterns, managing tensions, attaining goals, adapting to the environment, and integrating members of the community (Hanna 167). I found this statement useful in the organization of my research. It helped me recognize three main aspects of African dance that I could use as frameworks for recording the

evidences of spirituality in an individuals dance experiences: a sense of community unity, individual identity and health. African dance is majorly used within these areas; so much so that I cannot produce such an exhaustive list here but will mention a few in the following paragraphs. In regards to community unity, Hanna writes that African dance is used to help communities cope with death, stimulate individual involvement within a group, make work less of a chore, and display feelings of friendship or grow close to kin (Hanna 169). Katharina Shramm has also described that in a local setting in Ghana there was little distinction between performers and audience and that complete community participation and improvisation were central features of the dance (Shramm 8). Researchers who write about African dance always mention the community aspects of it. African dance as a tool for forming personal identity is discussed by dance ethnographers as well. Hanna writes how dance honors those in higher positions, mimics or repeats occupational behavior, emphasizes physical maturity and brings individuals through their societys rite of passage rituals (Hanna 166-169). These dance purposes have an impact on the way Africans build their identity. As mentioned previously, dance has been encouraged by African governments to revive national pride and has specifically been used in Ghana within politics. These types of dances centered on nationalism facilitate a personal pride for being Ghanaian or part of the Ashanti tribe. Ashanti people are very proud and believe they are the most powerful tribe in Ghana. Much research has been done that connects African dance to mental and physical health. A study done on the effects of Hatha Yoga in comparison to African dance showed that African dance, though increasing cortisol (stress hormone) levels, did give participants a perceivable amount of stress and tension reduction (West 114). Nigerian psychiatrist Dr. T. Lambo argues

that a function of African dance is the prevention of depression (Hanna 169). And, as we mentioned under community unity, dance helps communities cope with the psychological distress caused by crisis or trauma such as death. African dance is cathartic and provides a safety valve to express emotion in a harmless way (Hanna 169). In some instances, the stress of being married into a new family or being separated from loved ones can be dealt with by participating in possession dance (Hanna 168). Thus, we see that dance contributes to feelings of health in African culture along with creating community unity and building personal identity. After learning about these significant aspects, I sought to find how spirituality was manifest in African dance or dance in general and how spirituality affected my three frameworks, health, identity and community. Judith Hanna wrote that dance is used as a form of worship in many African communities and that worship often goes beyond prayer, quiet and solemn contemplation, to include bodily action as well (Hanna, 169). The dancing of a tribes cosmology, or supernatural origins, creates an identity for community members and brings unity to the group as they identify their personal place in society. Hanna also states that African dance attributes to a sense of solidarity within a community, and I argue that spirituality does as well (Hanna 170). Hill and Pargament, who primarily studied spirituality in relation to western religion, show how community affects spirituality by stating that relationships are conduits through which people express their spirituality and come to know the transcendent (Hill 69). In the William A. Wilson Folklore Archives, one dancers thoughts are recorded in a folklore project on Christian symbolism in folkdance. She says, I dance because it gives me identity. When you are surrounded by something you become it. (Loveless). This sense of identity is a spiritually felt aspect of her lived human experience. David Loveless, who worked on this collection of folklore, also quoted LaMothe who said, Dance is the greatest gift that ever

was made for the purification of the soul. (Loveless). Who can argue that the purification of the soul is not spiritual? He also stated his own personal view on the spiritual significance of dance on his identity and sense of community. He said, I truly believe that my dancing influences myself and those around me to have a greater relationship and harmony with the world and God. Additionally, dancing is often used for rituals and ancestor worship. Also from the Folklore Archives, Mike Poleman writes about the Haka dance performed by Highland Highs rugby team. He says, Haka is not just a war dance or chant, but that is has major spiritual connections. To the team it is a reminder that their ancestors are with them in full support (Poleman). An expert on Ghanaian culture, Edith Clarke, writes, The cult of ancestral spirits, and we might say all religious cult in Ashanti, 'is intimately bound up with the predominating desire for the fertility of man and of nature (Clarke 464). Thus we see that the spirituality of ancestor worship and its influence on the perpetuation of culture affects identity and community. All these ideas I had running through my mind and body made me very excited to find my own evidences of spirituality in dance affecting individuals sense of community, own identity and personal health in Ghana. Some research I found discouraged me or caused me to feel that what I was trying to accomplish was impossible; but, I found a few things that assured me there were profound things to be learned in Ghana. One fear I had was that with the African diaspora and strong western influence in West Africa there would be little preservation left of the ancient spiritual purposes nuanced in African dance. Katrina Hazzard-Gordon, however, who studied the transformation of African dance from its inextricable connection to religion into forms which are quite secular, assured her readers that the traditional ceremonial dances have been revived under the influence

of new African governments and that entertainment dances have incorporated aspects of the sacred and ceremonial dances (Cox 110). I found comfort that though there would be new dances and new contexts, African dance is still alive and well with its traditional religious intentions. Another fear I had was that coming from an LDS background, I verbalized and spoke of spirituality with a different vocabulary and perspective than Africans probably did. I understood that spirituality could be experienced uniquely by everyone, and it could often be very hard to verbalize for an individual. I also struggled to define what spirituality was and realized that culturally it may be defined differently. David C. Baker helps clarify what is meant by spirituality by stating that spirituality focuses on a belief in, or a relationship with a higher power; it is the aspect of life that gives purpose, meaning, and direction and which may encompass religion (Baker 51). Reading this, I felt confident I would be able to hear about beliefs in a higher power and see how it was manifest in ones life and even in ones dancing in Ghana. I also knew that as I would participate in dance experiences in Ghana, I would be able to understand and see how spirituality plays a part in individuals lives as they are dancing because movement never lies as modern dance pioneer Martha Graham says. Therefore, I prepared to learn about spirituality not just verbally but by observing and participating as well. In respect to the words used to describe and verbalize spirituality, I found this thought from Jeffrey Mishlove, a psychologist who was interested in spiritual folklore: Many cultural traditions contain an esoteric thread describing what might be referred to as the anatomy of the human soulThe deeper truth embedded within cultures that emphasize mythological systems of spiritual anatomy is that the divine is within us. This idea taught me that spirituality is a discussion of the undefinable that occurs within our soul that we feel is very real within the

framework of our daily lives. Pat and Kathie Debenham share some words that can be used to verbalize a discussion of the spiritual such as wonder, compassion, wisdom, and wholeness (Debenham). I brainstormed more ways to verbalize spirituality and will add that creativity, gratitude, peace of mind, balance in life and purpose in life are also direct evidences of spirituality present in ones life. These are the type of words and ideas I will use to describe the spirituality I found in Ghana. The rest of this paper will discuss how the three genres of dance I studied in Ghana taught me about spirituality in Ghanaian dance. I will share what I learned about how individuals perceived spirituality in Ghanaian dance. I will show how dancing affected their sense of community, personal health and self-identity in spiritual ways as well as other aspects of spirituality that I did not expect to hear about or discover. I will start with popular dance, followed with a discussion of cultural dances, and finally the genre of spiritual dance. Popular Dance My main informant for learning about popular dance in Ghana was Kingsley Agyekum, my Ghanaian brother. Living in the same home made it convenient for us to practice Azonto and high-life dance and gave us abundant time to discuss and talk about these two contemporary dance styles in Ghana. When I first arrived, he was reluctant to teach me and didnt know how to answer my questions on spirituality. The first time I asked him directly whether he believed his dancing held spiritual implications or not, he answered no. He did not believe spirituality had anything to do with dancing. King told me many stories about his experiences on a dance team at his all boys senior high school. He told me of how he had loved to dance since junior high but never felt comfortable displaying his talent. Friends who knew about his talent revealed him to others

highly involved in dance who then pressured King to sign up to perform a solo at a school variety show. King gave in, performed superbly, and as a result was chosen by a dance team to become their newest member. They would practice only when they had a performance to prepare for. They would spend 4-6 weeks before their performance practicing about twice a week to polish their hip-hop and Azonto routines together. Each member of the team had a nickname, and the seniors danced in front while the junior members were properly placed in back. After hearing extensively about Kings experiences dancing, I could recognize a number of ways spirituality played a part in his/their dance experience. I felt I understood King because I had experienced similar feelings and experiences as a member of a dance team when I was in high school as well. In regards to health, one could consider the physical well being usually requisite to be able to open ones heart and mind to receive inspiration or revelation from a higher power. One has greater control over their emotions and actions when they are in a healthy physical and mental state. This healthy state allows one to keep commandments required of their deity and also helps them stay pure in thought and mind, often a requirement of some religions to perform ordinances and to receive blessings from their higher power. Therefore, being a part of a dance team and engaging in this physical activity can produce spiritual benefits. Kings stories expressed a pride and deep devotion to his team and the members on it. He loved to tell me about the nicknames he and his buddies had. This act of naming each other based on the talents and personality of each individual shows the tightness of the groups unity. King showed me he loved his team and performing as a dancer because he always loved to share about his experiences not just on the team but at the school as well. Being a member of the team did not serve just to create a close group of friends for King, but it unified him with his entire

school. He felt influential and a part of something bigger than himself because he represented the school at variety shows and multi-school entertainment events. This feeling of being a part, and a significant part at that, of something bigger than you is a spiritual one that being a member of a dance team created for King. This naming ritual I just discussed also shows a detailed step in the process of selfidentification these boys and especially King went through as performing members of the team. Kings name was Slow and he wore the name on most of his clothing and handmade bracelets. He loved his name. It represented his cool and relaxed personality, something he was proud of. He connected his personality to being a true Ghanaian, another part of his identity that he felt very proud about. He felt Ghanaians are a relaxed people, and they chill-up and have no worries; he knows he is truly Ghanaian because his personality reflects this larger cultural phenomenon. Also, his expertise in Azonto dancing was something he knew made him unique as a Ghanaian. Azonto is a dance that is authentically of Ghanaian creative dance origin and expression. This ability to perform Azonto successfully validates him spiritually with the identity that he perceives of himself as a great Ghanaian who knows and appreciates his culture. Another way I saw Azonto dance manifest spiritually in Kings life was in his sense of well-being and constant enjoyment of life. This was evidenced to me in the faintly perceptible Azonto dance that was always occurring in Kings body. When we would travel, visit a friend in town, take a walk through the bush or just hang around the house, I could see King dancing. He couldnt help himself. His body had to move to the music within him, in his ear bud or in the area. He enjoyed his music and the way it moved his body to the point that it was truly a part of his everyday life. I believe this unseen force that connects ones body to the rhythms and beats of music is a spiritual energy that affects our human experience. I had this epiphany when taking

drumming lessons from a famous drummer in Asamang. The following is a description of the experience that led me to this conclusion from the journal I kept in Africa (see Folklore Item 12), I gained some interesting epiphanies while drumming tonight and it really just amazes me that while trying to concentrate so hard that my mind could veer off and be so enlightened. My thoughts turned to spirituality and whether there was significance in the drumming. I soon discovered that I myself believed it was. They always (shrine people) say things that are spiritual are not seen and the way the drums just make you want to move, the way it conducted all the children to gather around, and to dance, it just cannot be explained. There is an invisible connection between people, the human body and drums, and music, heck to art. Theres an unseen yearning to create, perform and it cant be explained. Though Azonto dance is often performed and learned in a secular setting it still contains, produces and evokes aspects of spirituality. It helped King develop his own identity and connected him to a community of school peers. I have also seen how the health implications can affect ones spirituality by providing for an open state of mind able to receive feelings of spirituality such as peace and joy, or commitment to a deity or higher power. Cultural Dance Cultural dance is the genre of Ghanaian dance that is seen at events where culture and traditions of the Ghanaian ancestors are preserved. Cultural dances include Adowa, Kete and a number of other dances. I was most informed and exposed to Adowa therefore it will be the dance I mainly speak of in this section. Adowa is a dance that contains symbolic meaning in its arm and hand gestures. It is a more gentle and feminine dance and is performed at funerals, festivals, village durburs and fetish shrines. I had a number of informants who helped me see

how Adowa and cultural dance could spiritually affect feelings of community, an individuals sense of identity, and personal health. My Mama Doriss mother, who lived in the neighboring town of Agona, taught me how Adowa and cultural dance creates a national pride and sense of family and community within the Ashanti region in an interview I had with her. (See Folklore Item 5). She described how she believed every Ashanti girl and boy should know the rhythm and steps to the Adowa dance. It is part of their traditional and cultural heritage that brings them together. She spoke of her doubts as a younger woman about the traditions of her culture. But as she danced to the songs of her people and in the style unique to her people she felt comforted and assured that her culture was a part of her and something she wanted to be a part of. Adowa is a purely Ashanti dance. Whenever I attempted to learn it or perform it in front of Ashanti people they always cheered loudly, encouraged me with shouts and extended together the pointer and middle fingers out towards me, as is tradition to show appreciation for a dancer. The fact that I, a non-ashanti white girl, was attempting to adopt a part of their culture caused them to feel a kinship with me and wanted me to be a part of their Ghanaian family. I experienced for myself the way dance can bring a sense of unity and community. At every shrine I visited, if I danced in the performance circle with them, then I was openly accepted and loved. By the time I had to leave Ghana I knew I had lived up to my name as an Asantewaa as Mama Doris would call me. Asantewaa is the name of an ancient Ashanti heroine. I felt a part of the Ashanti family. Feeling like a family within the community you live in evokes feelings of gratitude, pride, and acceptance, these are feelings of the soul and certainly spiritual. Being a part of a community naturally entails the development of relationships as well. The formation of

relationships whether familial, friendship or romantic are spiritual in nature. Folklorist Elsie Dunin wrote about lindstrokodancing events in Dubrovnik-area villages and showed how dance in this area of the world served a social purpose for members of the opposite sex to meet and connect with one another (Dunin 99). Forming relationships and the feelings involved in that type of unseen connection between two people is almost unexplainable and spiritual. Adowa dance, Mr. Edu explained to me, is as times a relationship dance and can be seen danced between a man and a woman. The gestures of interlocked fingers or leaning back into a dancing partner communicate a dependence on the other and an intention to connect and stay linked emotionally with that person. These types of dance moves are reflected and seen in the spiritual dance genre as well ( which we will get into in the next section). However these gestures when done towards a god do not mean feelings of romanticism as much as devotion and dedication to the god. This dance gestures is therefore a spiritual act of devotion. The fact that I believed I lived up to my name Asantewaa by the time I left shows how learning and dancing Ghanaian dances helped me form my own identity. By the time I left Ghana I saw myself completely differently then the timewhen I had arrived. I was even identifying myself with Ghanaian names. Dancing lessons in Africa sent me through a wild rollercoaster ride of identity crisis at times. Sometimes I wondered why I wasnt black, why I wasnt a real Ashanti girl and an assortment of related questions. Attempting, succeeding, observing and speaking about dance caused me to raise important questions about myself and now I have found out more about who I am and have had the opportunity to act like the girl I have always wanted to be. I attribute this freedom and clear sense of identity to the dances I performed and learned in Ghana.


At BYU the dance community does not always value extreme movement or flexibility in the hips and waist, nor do they focus on rhythm and connecting with drummers. These aspects of dance are however something I found I personally resonate and achieve at. Therefore being able to succeed within the dancing value system of the Ghanaian society was a highlight to my dancing career and has allowed me to accept myself, my body, and who I am and what I am capable of. It has heightened and healed the way I see myself as a human being and dancer. I believe everyone wants to know who they are and why they are who they are, this journey of self discovery is certainly a spiritual one. It is an unseen, intangible journey but one with lasting implications and effectual power on the path one will take in life. My Adowa dance teacher Sister Akua also offered to me, in an interview I had with her, how knowing Adowa and cultural dances has affected her identity. (See Folklore Item 3). She said because she is a dancer her friends do not call her by her given name but call her by her profession. It makes her feel that she is important and special because she has knowledge of something not many others have; knowledge of the traditions of her ancestors. This sense of importance is a spiritual sentiment that many people search for in life. It is a reason why many people come to shrines or go to church. They go because they want to feel special by identifying themselves with something bigger than themselves. This attachment helps them form a positive sense of self and influences their behavior and characters by making them feel important as an individual. Health is an especially spiritual aspect of dance for me personally. I cannot dance properly or feel connected to God in the way I desire if I am not healthy. I once had a professor tell me that the spirit manifests truth to us first physically, most often through feeling, before we know it in our minds or through cognition that it is true. Therefore it is important to me to have a

fully functioning and healthy body to receive the spirits guidance and to feel close to deity. Therefore dance to me, is a form of exercise and stimulates my blood and cells in my body which I feel is essential for me to feel my own sense of spirituality. Ghanaians I found saw dance, or at least Adowa dance and health in a different way. Most did not think health had spiritual implications. For example Sister Akua, my teacher who taught me Adowa lessons, complained that she would feel pains from dancing Adowa dance. Though she did believe that dancing could heal those who worshipped the gods of the shrines she could not say that Adowa dance made her healthier or that it was spiritually connected in anyway. Adowa dance or cultural dance in Ghana held spiritual implications to health, community and identity for me personally. From what I gathered in my experiences and interviews was that Ghanaians agreed and felt similarly to me in that Adowa did affect an individuals and a communitys sense of unity and self-identity. However there were not many who could think of health being spiritually related to cultural dances such as Adowa. Spiritual Dance It was interesting to find that there was actually a genre of dance titled Spiritual Dance in Ghana. I did not expect to find that as I prepared for my trip, but was extremely fascinated and excited to see its prevalence in rural Ghanaian culture when I arrived. Spiritual dance is the dance done by priests or priestesses at the fetish shrine. The dance usually occurs when they are possessed by the gods of the area that have visited and been worshipped by the people since the time of their ancestors. Although many times when I asked about the meaning behind spiritual dance my informants told me they did not know I did find evidence of the way the spiritual dance affected an individuals spiritual life through health, identity and community.


I knew there was a reason why they called it spiritual dance and even if they didnt think they could verbalize it I knew I would find something. I had many informants tell me and experiences where I saw how dance was used as a form of healing, both physical and spiritual. I mentioned earlier that Sister Akua did not believe cultural dance brought her health but she did believe that in spiritual dancing when a priest was possessed and called a worshipper into the space to dance with him that that individual could be healed. The individual could receive spiritual healing, the removal of wicked spirits or juju (traditional witchcraft and evil magic) for example. Or the person might have a physical healing: their sores would heal while dancing, their strength to walk and mobilize their body would increase, or any other manner of physical ailment could be relieved. I read an article about the health benefits of cathartic dance such as African dance. The article shared results of a certain study that showed that doing African dance reduced stress levels (West). This reduction in stress and the feeling of well-being is an aspect of life that I feel is spiritual. Because peace and release of tension has to do with the whole person, it has the potential to heal and fix physical, emotional, cognitive and social problems a person might be experiencing. For example, when a person is a peace, their heart is open, this may contribute to their ability to form relationships and truly love their fellow men, which in turn makes them feel more aware and connected with the world, which in turn connects them to an ultimate creator or God. Anthropologist and dance ethnographer Judith Hanna wrote in her article about the power of dance in heath and healing said, The literature on dance and healing suggests that through dance, with its physical, emotional, cognitive, and cultural dimensions a person may gain a sense of control related to stress and pain (Hanna, 325). This is an added ethnographic insight on how dance is spiritually healing, and validates what I observed at the shrines in Ghana.

I recognized this type of spiritual healing and benefits at the shrines. It was not solely the priests who could be possessed and dance. I witnessed drummers, singers, worshippers, even nontraditional believers join in the entertainment and dance at the shrines. These dances looked like fun! They were exhilarating and effective in expressing celebration or lifting their spirits if they were sad. Dancing this way connected the dancers with their culture and community around them as they are encouraged and supported by the other observers and participants. My Ghanaian brother often said, Its not easy in Ghana. I found this to be true. Africans work hard even for the necessities they need to survive, therefore dancing as cathartic release is an effective way to lift spirits, to release tension and retain energy and motivation for life. I had some informants and some evidences of how spiritual dance negatively affected health as well. Judith Hanna wrote that Of course, like any physical activity, dance may have positive and negative consequences. For instance, the activity of dance itself may cause injury and induce pain (Hanna, 324). Okomfo Dwomoh was one informant I interviewed who had unbelievable athletic skill in his dancing. I asked him if dancing made him a healthier individual and he responded no because there are sometimes when dancing made him too tired and weak. I also noticed that many of the gods who possessed priests loved to smoke or drink. This I know is harmful to the body and Nana and others did admit that they had to sacrifice their body to the gods to be a priest or priestess. They claimed they only drank or smoked because the god required. Turns out this significantly spiritual aspect of dance in Ghana, spiritual possession, is not always the healthiest thing for the human body. Spiritual dance has an effect on ones identity as well. Especially that of the priest or priestess who predominantly performs spiritual dances when they are possessed. This possession is a huge factor in spiritual identity because with each new god who visits the shrine through

possession, the priests identity has changed. This is a part of dance spiritually affecting identity that I still struggle to understand in the Ghanaian culture. I wanted to know so badly how they felt when possessed and how it affected how they saw themselves. But the answer always given was that they did not know what it was like, because it was the god who possessed them and they were no longer there, just their body was. So I thought to ask the gods about possession but they never gave me a straight answer about how it might feel to possess someone elses body. A priestess could spiritually change identity up to 20 times in a matter of 3 hours. But the creation of a self-image through participating in spiritual dance was not only reflected in the personality and identity changes caused by the visits of different gods. Knowledge of their identity was reflected in the pride the priest and priestesses exhibited in themselves when they werent possessed. During one interview I had with a close priestess friend, Nana Akua Nsuo (Nana, see Folklore Item 9 and 10) she showed me 6 or 7 large framed pictures of her possessed and being greeted by the Asantehene, Chief of the Ashanti Region. Knowing that she is the priestess for a river god is something she is proud of and she informed me that she was actually the child of the river god. This identity I could see affected her spiritual dance. I saw that when the river god visited and the special drums were brought out her dancing became more energetic and concentrated. It was an important act of worship for her because she knew who she was, the daughter and priestess of the river god. At shrines where I could observe spiritual dance I also observed an obvious sense of community between the worshippers, drummers, and priestess. The group at the shrine exhibited unity and oneness in their freeness to express themselves, to correct one another, and to perform and participate. They knew they were a part of the group because they felt important to the gods, to the priestess and shared in the same beliefs as those around them.

I once saw a small old man at Nanas shrine join her in the circle for a dance. He soon began crying as he was dancing. He was weeping because he missed his brother who was away. It was profound the way the group responded. It is extremely shameful to cry in Ghana so I thought the community at the shrine would chastise him for crying but instead the drummers attempted to cheer him up and encouraged him in his dance. This surprised me because of how prevalent I had seen judgment against those who shed tears. This showed the spiritual impact of dance at the shrine by influencing the behavior of people who normally act upon a value of emotional control to giving support and acceptance to one another. It taught me that the sense of community created at the shrine was made by people making their emotions and thoughts vulnerable through dance, and these spiritual dances could create feelings of acceptance and brotherhood. Performing with and creating within a group is a spiritually unifying process. At the shrine there are connections built between dancers and drummers, drummers and drummers, performers and audience, singers and musicians, between the gods and the worshippers. The relationships built as friends and as performers/workers at the shrine are many and an extremely important and revealing aspect of the culture at the fetish shrines. There was large evidence of devotion and respect for one another. I could see the care and attention everyone had for the priest and gods who possessed them. This was exhibited in their eyes; their attention was always focused on the god or individual performing. The drummers were relentless in their energy, always working to cheer up or calm down the individual in the performance space. It was only the assistants that protected dancers and it was not just the god who was protected. Everyone felt a responsibility for the safety of members of the shrine and would throw cowlin (talcum) powder on the ground to keep people from slipping

on a slick tiled space or stand near a wild dancer in case they fell or became possessed and threw themselves into the air and needed to be caught before falling. It was evident when a god would leave because the priest would collapse or throw themselves at the audience. It was everyones responsibility to catch and protect the priest after they were possessed, as well as during the possession. This communal responsibility is an attractive and unifying spiritual aspect in this genre of dance. Spiritual dance and fetish shrines hold many interesting items of folklore that reveal the importance of spirituality in Ghanaian culture and dance. In comparison to the other forms of Ghanaian dance I studied it has evidence more obvious to the spectator or researcher on how the spirituality of the dance impacts a communitys sense of unity, an individuals sense of identity and health. I saw through my experience in the shrines and learning spiritual dance how this genre of dance personally affected my health, self-image and sense of community. I felt at home at the shrines. I easily moved in and out of the choir of shakers, as a drummer or dancer myself. I had friends and good mentors at the shrine. Though my faith is not connected to that of the African fetish tradition I felt grateful to be member of the shrine family. I felt alive as a human being as a participant in this edifying and exciting culture. I know more about myself and spiritual beliefs and how I am spiritually connected to this world due to my experiences at the shrines. Conclusion My hope is that this study can encourage and inspire future students and mentors to consider the spiritual aspects of not only art and dance but life in general. I hope others will appreciate the academic work that is required for preservation of ideas and sentiments such as what I have presented. Like I mentioned in my paper, I did not learn solely about how Ghanaians

perceive spirituality in dance and its effect on their sense of community, their formation of selfidentity or their personal health, but I also learned how dance spiritually pertains to aspects of my own life too. I know myself better now, I see myself completely differently now from the time I entered Ghana. I am grateful for the depth this experience has added to my sense of identity as a human, as an artist, as well as a student and researcher. My experience has given me another place to connect to and call home. Ghana will be my second home now and a place I always long to return to. My mental health and physical health soared during my semester in Ghana. In four years I hadnt had a semester where every day I felt healthy, energetic, motivated, and productive; but that is how I felt in Ghana. I believe my dance studies had a huge part in this product of my trip. The three months I spent in Ghana were the best three of my life. I honestly cannot remember a time I was more invested, more excited or learned so much. I not only grew as a student and increased my academic skills by performing field work and research but I grew as a whole human being; spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally, and culturally. Academics and asking questions were the structure and skeleton to my trip but the cultural experience, the authentic learning and participation in another way of living was the muscle, the meat, and the flavor. Putting my thoughts and a few of my experiences and collection items together has been the skin of my experience. It has been a therapeutic review of a meaningful life experience. Sharing my thoughts and experiences has allowed me to form the experience into one that I can tangibly keep and preserve better than any souvenir I could have purchased. I could never forget Ghana or what it has done for me. My body and heart have been changed and that will reflect in my daily life forever. But the details the discussion, the analysis and academic excitement that went along with my field work will forever be preserved in this small folklore project.

Work Cited Baker, David C. "Studies of the Inner Life: The Impact of Spirituality on Quality of Life." Quality of life research : an international journal of quality of life aspects of treatment, care and rehabilitation. 12 Suppl 1: 51. Clarke, Edith. "The Sociological Significance of Ancestor-Worship in Ashanti." Africa: Journal of the International African Institute 3.4 (1930): pp. 431-471. Cox, James L., and Kariamu Welsh Asante. "African Dance: An Artistic, Historical and Philosophical Inquiry." Dance Research: The Journal of the Society for Dance Research 18.1: 108. Debenham, Pat, and Kathie Debenham. "Experiencing the Sacred in Dance Education: Wonder, Compassion, Wisdom and Wholeness in the Classroom." Journal of Dance Education. 8.2 (2008): 44-55. Print. Dunin, E. I. (2001). Continuities and changes: Interrelationships of ritual and social dance contexts in dubrovnik-area villages.Yearbook for Traditional Music, , 99-99. Retrieved from Hanna, Judith Lynne. "African Dance: The Continuity of Change." Yearbook of the International Folk Music Council 5: 165-74. Hanna, Judith Lynne. The Power of Dance: Health and Healing. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Winter 1995, 1(4): 323-331. doi:10.1089/acm.1995.1.323. Hill, Peter C., and Kenneth I. Pargament. "Advances in the conceptualization and measurement of religion and spirituality: Implications for physical and mental health research." American Psychologist 58.1 (2003): 64-74. PsycARTICLES. EBSCO. Web. 12 June 2011.

Loveless, David. Christian Symbolism in Folkdance. William A. Wilson Folklore Archives. L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library. FA 1 3143. Mishlove, Jeffrey. "Spiritual Anatomy." Roots of Conciousness. The Classic Encyclopedia of Consciousness Studies, Revised and Expanded: . Rev. ed. 1. Web. 13 Jan 2012. <>. Poleman, Mike. Spiritual Roots: Highland Rugby and the Haka. William A. Wilson Folklore Archives. L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library. FA 1 3551. Schramm, Katharina. "The Politics of Dance: Changing Representations of the Nation in Ghana." Africa Spectrum 35.3 (2000): pp. 339-358. West, Jeremy, et al. "Effects of Hatha Yoga and African Dance on Perceived Stress, Affect, and Salivary Cortisol." Annals of Behavioral Medicine 28.2 (2004): 114-8.


Autobiography My name is Heather Gemperline. I am a senior at Brigham Young University in Dance Education and minoring in Mathematics Education. I grew up predominantly in Davis County, Utah where I was blessed to be involved and trained in what I have forever been most excited and passionate about and that is dance. My dance training is heavily founded in classical ballet but I have had experience in contemporary/modern, musical theatre, jazz, tap, clogging, folk and ballroom. I was mostly exposed to this variety of dance training as a member of my high schools dance company. It was while on this company that I was introduced to African dance and found that my body and my psyche really resonated with its energy, purpose and dance principles. After high school I continued my dance education. In winter 2009 I experienced an African dance workshop at BYU. In one large circle the class began, moving and isolating different body parts and stepping to the drumbeat as our instructor taught the traditional meaning behind each movement. This portion of class was entertaining but it was our intense exploration of grounded and rhythmic full-body sequences across the floor that had me truly invested in the class. Our instructor would not let us take a break; she said Africans dance until they are so exhausted their bodies take over. She succeeded in exhausting me but to my astonishment I began to feel rejuvenated by the movement as she described could happen. I was filled with gratitude for the miracle of my body as it became a spiritual experience for me and I danced effortlessly. I felt my mind and body transcend the physical experience. I have wondered since what it is about African movement that resonates so significantly with me. What made this African dance workshop spiritual for me? As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and being encouraged to see dance through a spiritual lens

while training at BYU I could brainstorm a number of my own ideas on the spirituality of African dance. But it was this experience that sparked my desire to study African dance in an authentic setting. I wanted to see through a new perspective, from a new cultures angle. It made me eager to interview Africans to see if they experienced similar things. I wanted to know if their answers could validate or inform my own ideas and answer my questions. I wanted to learn more about their culture and their dance, but also to learn more about myself.


Individual Collection Item Kingsley Agyekum November 30th, 2011 Asamang, Ashanti Region, Ghana Genre: Customary Folklore Title of Item: Kingsley Agyekum performing Azonto Dance Informant Data Name: Kingsley Agyekum Gender: Male Birthplace: Agona, Ashanti Region, Ghana Home Region: Ashanti Region, Ghana Age:19 Relation to Collector: Ghanaian Brother, Host, Translator, Dance Teacher,
Drumming Teacher, Guide, Twi Teacher Occupation: Recent Senior High School graduate, helps out at family bar. Avocation: Dancing, reading, walking. Ethnic: Ghanaian Religion: Christian, Seventh Day Adventist


King danced on a team at his all boys Senior High School the past two years. They predominantly performed hip-hop but danced Azonto as well.

Social Data:

I filmed King dancing Azonto and instructing me on a few dance moves at our home in Asamang Ghana. We danced on the cement portion of the courtyard of our home which was surrounded by a brick wall and accessed through a big metal gate. King hooked his phone up to a small speaker system with a dilapidated cord. He played a variety of hip-life and hip-hop music and we danced in the hot sun. The shady spots were quickly disappearing and our water bottles were in close reach. Mama Doris (my Ghanaian mother) and our cook, Sister Akua were napping. Sister Akua was on the ground near our dance space and her son Kofi (4 years old) entertained himself in our space as well.

Cultural Data:

Popular Dance in Ghana: Westernization has impacted popular dance and popular music in Ghana. Ghanaians enjoy American hip-hip and RB music but have not adopted it completely. They have taken their own dance styles and traditions and meshed them with these Hip-Hop flavors to create their own unique contemporary dance styles. I will discuss the two popular dances I predominantly studied in Africa. I will tell about the music, the movement characteristics, where the dances are performed, who performs the dances, how they are taught and how I learned some of the movement.


Item: I recorded King dancing in our home in Ghana on my digital camera.

The two popular dance forms I was informed on in Ghana are called Azonto Dance and High-life dance. My main informant on these movement styles was my Ghanaian brother Kingsley Agyekum. As a student in an all boys secondary school he danced on a team the included 6-12 boys. They performed at variety shows, parties and mixed school functions. They predominantly danced hip-hop but drove their audiences crazy with the local Azonto dance as well. King taught me that Azonto dance is considered a child of high-life dancing. The progression of high-life dance into the Azonto dance paralleled the development of Twi-Pop or Hip-life music from its parent genre called High-life. High-life music and Hip-life music are both authentic Ghanaian forms of music expression that have unique dance styles that accompany them. High-life music sounds like stereotypical tropical beach vacation music in my opinion. The signature characteristic that allowed me to differentiate this music style from Hip-life was the African percussion that lent to the easy, relaxed, Ghanaian feeling. Hip-life music or popularly called Twi-pop by current star artists has more hip-hop influence and less of the traditional percussion element. These musical differences are easily seen reflected in the bodily performance of the Azonto and High-life dancing. The variety of musical elements affects the movement characteristics of these two dances. High-life dance is gentle and relaxed whereas Azonto, King claims, has more of a punch due to influences from western hip-hop. High-life holds true to the tradition of African dance in displaying weightiness with bended knees. It has an easy swinging energy and an upbeat, sustained energy. The lower body transfers weight from one foot to the other; this allows for traveling possibilities. Footwork can also become syncopated and match the rhythms of the percussion depending on who is performing. I didnt see intricate footwork very often. The arms and hands are based upon personal style as well but are also involved. Sometimes a handkerchief is held in one or both hands and is twirled around to aid in feeling the rhythm. Highlife is focused on the waist. I put this term in quotations because it was used by King and others to refer to the hips, waist, pelvis and buttocks all together. The waist moves from side to side to the beat of the music. Azonto, being the child of High-life dance, is also focused on the waist. The hips however though still alternating side to side move up and down in the frontal plane more and swing less and pop more. Additionally the raising and lowering of the shoulders cross laterally from the hips is also a main focus of Azonto, this makes it unique from High-life. King was right though, Azonto has more of a punch effort. Many accents are made and different rhythms displayed in the body when performing Azonto. The footwork can become tricky and quick in which you would see little to no traveling through the space. The dance is often stationary also because of the focus on the arms and hands. The arms and hand gestures communicate to the audience or dance partner what to watch for; a performer is always looking to impress their audience. The tradition of communicating through hand gestures can be seen in the cultural dance found in Ghana that I speak of in the next section. There is also quite a bit of detail in the face when performing Azonto. I saw King make many funny faces. He used it as part of the entertainment factor involved in Azonto dance. It is highly entertaining and that is why it is seen 26

performed frequently on Ghanaian TV. I saw Azonto most often performed on television, but I also saw it on the streets, in my home and in the city. I saw High-life on TV as well but it resonated with a different crowd than Azonto. Azonto is a dance very popular with the younger generation. High-life is a dance style popular among middle aged Ghanaians. The gentler energy and movement is more appealing to them. Azonto however has a complexity and energy that resonates with the rising generation. High-life could be seen performed at local bars or social spots or at churches during musical breaks when church members would stand up and move for a break from sitting. There was a program on television every Saturday night called Music Music where you could see majorly Azonto dance but High-life and gospel music and performance as well. High-life and Ghanaian gospel music are very similar. Dance competitions would occur on this show as well as on other programs such as Boogie Down which focused on battles between dance crews. Azonto was very popular and I heard the Hip-life music played every day when Asamang had electricity and I had many opportunities to learn and observe Azonto movement. My lessons began across the street at the home of Kings friends. I knew King was a dancer and hoped he would teach me to dance but he was very reluctant the first month. He was afraid that he would make me feel bad when he tried to teach me moves that I wouldnt be able to do. I thought this was a lame reason, and honestly didnt think he could be that good, or I could be that awful at learning new dance moves. However his buddies across the street were not afraid to help me out. The moment they found out I came to Ghana to study dance they wanted to help and organized miniature dance parties, nothing really serious but a great learning experience for me and great introduction to popular Ghanaian dance. It wasnt until I threw a surprise birthday dance party at our compound for Kings birthday and I went full out and bust a move with my friends that King realized I was serious about the lessons and capable. The weekend after his birthday he pulled me aside and told me we were going to work hard and practice Azonto every day until I left. This made me so happy. I knew he was a great dancer and teacher and this was a perfect and very accessible opportunity for me. We didnt dance everyday unfortunately. I really wanted to. I fell in love with Azonto dance but there were days it was too hot, no power, raining, or other plans had been made that kept us from accomplishing our goal to practice every day. However we did have a satisfactory amount of lessons while I was there. The lessons would usually begin with King playing music from his phone through some speakers for some time and then instructing me to just dance. I was uncomfortable with this charge, I wanted to dance along with him because I had no idea what I was supposed to do. I would indulge him though, he was the teacher, and would move however I felt the music conducted me to. He would watch and laugh and I do not know if it is because he was uncomfortable or laughing at me. But I ignored him and pressed him to give me an Azonto move to work on. He would then perform a move and I would try to repeat it. If it was too difficult for me he would stop and think about how to break the step down for me. This was the best dance experience I had in Ghana because of Kings ability to simplify the steps and qualitatively describe the Azonto movement. He used imagery and step by step processes to help me grab ahold of the Azonto movement. He often wanted to 27

watch me perform solo so he could assess my understanding but I generally needed him to perform the moves with me because I would lose the rhythm. However, after 2 or 3 lessons practicing a specific move I would be able to do it on my own. I not only interviewed King but also a few of the boys across the street about how they learned Azonto. One boy said he learned as he spent time schooling in Accra. King said he learned by observation and by being a part of the hip hop dance crew at his school. He said the team would learn new moves by watching the stars on television and watching music videos. They used the videos as inspiration for their own choreography. To me it seemed that any African could move to the Azonto rhythm naturally, that they didnt need to be taught that its an alternating lift in the hips and shoulders with many hand gestures. They all seemed to know what to do and also every time I watched someone dance Azonto it was different than the last performance I saw. Azonto has a lot of personal creativity and style. This is what King always tried to encourage me to do better, add my own style. But I was too concerned about performing it exactly the way King was so I could be sure what I was doing was correct. Other feedback that King often gave me was to relax and not be stiff, to put more energy into the movement, allow the music to kill me or take me over, to find the beat and stay on it, to add more of a punch in the waist and to create my own moves more often. I am not a master of Azonto dance, and when I watch the videos of myself dancing with King I realize that I look a million times different than my teacher. But I feel that my experience learning this new dance style has expanded my personal movement vocabulary in an exciting way. It has helped me find control and awareness of muscles I had neglected in the past (obliques to be precise) and it was a great way to have fun and experience Ghanaian culture. King was an excellent teacher and he didnt treat me like the priests and priestesses who taught me dance at the shrines, or the other people in town who taught me cultural dances. To those people any movement I produced was something to applaud, but King knew I could progress and do better and he always challenged me, treated me like a human being, like a dancer, and encouraged me to work hard and believe in myself. King and I knew I wasnt perfect but if I believed in myself I could come a long way, and we both agree that is exactly what I did.

Heather Gemperline Female, 21 English 391: Introduction to Folklore Fall Semester 2011 Jacqueline Thursby BYU


Individual Collection Item Kingsley Agyekum November 30th, 2011 Asamang, Ashanti Region, Ghana Genre: Oral and Belief Folklore Title of Item: Kingsley Agyekums perceptions of spirituality and dance. Informant Data Name: Kingsley Agyekum Gender: Male Birthplace: Agona, Ashanti Region, Ghana Home Region: Ashanti Region, Ghana Age:19 Relation to Collector: Ghanaian Brother, Host, Translator, Dance Teacher,
Drumming Teacher, Guide, Twi Teacher Occupation: Recent Senior High School graduate, helps out at family bar. Avocation: Dancing, reading, walking. Ethnic: Ghanaian Religion: Christian, Seventh Day Adventist


King accompanied me to my appointments at shrines and to interview other dancers in the village. He was my translator and my partner in research. We would have discussions on dance and the implications of spirituality in Ghanaian culture when exhibited through dance in late night conversations as well as when we returned home from interviews or dance experiences. He had a lot to share and many opinions. He loved to dance and was very passionate about it. He felt the same way about his culture and always expressed his desire to learn more and explore and investigate about dance and his culture with me. He frequently told me he would one day meet the Asantehene (King) of the Ashanti region and he would be a great drummer. This told me he wanted to be involved in his culture and planned to be a part of the preservation of his culture as well.


Social Data:

Information for this item was collected in several places. (1) In King and Is home in Asamang. We would sit together either inside the hall in front of the TV. on the chairs or couches, or on the veranda on a wooden bench or plastic chairs. (2) Informal conversations while walking home from an interview or experience observing and participating in dance at a shrine, funeral, or dance lesson in Asamang. (3) King responded to interview questions I emailed him once I had returned home. He responded to my questions either on his small cell phone, or traveled to a neighboring village to use an internet caf.

Cultural Data:

Popular Dance in Ghana: The two modern dance forms I studied in Ghana are contemporaries to Western Hip-Hop and are called Azonto Dance and High-life dance. My main informant on these movement styles was my Ghanaian brother Kingsley Agyekum. As a student in an all-boys secondary school he danced on a team the included 6-12 boys. They performed at variety shows, parties and mixed school functions. They predominantly danced hip-hop but drove their audiences crazy with the local Azonto dance as well. King taught me that Azonto dance is considered a child of high-life dancing. The progression of high-life dance into the Azonto dance paralleled the development of Twi-Pop or Hip-life music from its parent genre called High-life. I saw Azonto most often performed on television, but I also saw it on the streets, in my home and in the city. I saw High-life on TV as well but it resonated with a different crowd than Azonto. Azonto is a dance very popular with the younger generation. High-life is a dance style popular among middle aged Ghanaians. The gentler energy and movement is more appealing to them. Azonto however has a complexity and energy that resonates with the rising generation. High-life could be seen performed at local bars or social spots or at churches during musical breaks when church members would stand up and move for a break from sitting.


Kings views were expressed to me gradually. When I first arrived in Ghana he was reserved and not very talkative, maybe because he was not yet comfortable with my project. He was hesitant to visit shrines with me because he was Christian and should not be seen there as it was a false/evil form of worship from the Christians point of view. But as I invited him and he did attend his interest peaked and his ideas were expressed more and more often. I recall the first late night conversation King and I had about dance and spirituality and he confidently told me that there was nothing spiritual about his type of dancing at all. The Hip-hop and Azonto dancing he did on his team at the senior high school was strictly for performance at parties, variety shows, concerts etc. I asked him if he believed creativity was a spiritual idea and after I explained my views on this he agreed with me that it was but still believed that dancing was not creative because the acquisition of dance skill only requires that one watch and learn; one just copies anothers movement of the body. Thus dancing required no creativity, and thus no spirituality was involved. But as King and I were introduced to a lot of dancing and new information about spiritual dance at the shrines we attended King became more personally interested 30

and invested in my research question and project. He translated for my interviews and confessed to me that he didnt really know what I meant by spirituality and he didnt think my informants did either. He encouraged me and brainstormed with me what spirituality meant and how we could formulate questions that would facilitate my informants to disclose ideas of spirituality without directly asking them using the word spirituality because it was not understood the same between us. As King helped me with these things and analyzed the data I received for my project with me I believe he began to see dance in a different light. His mind was opened to what spirituality was, how it was manifest and felt in the human experience. He discovered its significance in the traditions of his ancestors and found how dance spiritually impacted his personal life and dancing as well. That is why I emailed him the same questions I had asked him at the beginning of my stay once I had returned home. I had felt before I left that perhaps his ideas had grown or changed and I needed to know. From: Heather Gemperline Date: Wed, Dec 14, 2011 at 8:43 PM Subject: Mr. Adu's Adowa Dance Info and questions for you Hey Brother! Thanks so much for being the best assistant a boss could ask for! . here are some of the questions I'd like you to answer honestly :) which you always do. and I apologize that I didn't audio record or write down some of these things you've already told me, it just seemed like such natural conversation for us sometimes, not a research interview :) and I appreciated that a lot to! I miss talking to ya. QUESTIONS 1. How did the guys at school discover you were a great dancer? How did you get on the dancing team? 2. Tell me about the members of your team? Tell me about your performances? What was important when performing? 3. Do you think dance can be spiritual? Why or Why not? If so what is spiritual about dancing? 4. How do you see spiritual dance at the shrine? What are your opinions of it? (Broad question i know but I just want you to tell me anything you like about what you feel about the dancing you see at the shrine?) 5. Does dancing give you an identity? 6. Do you think dance relates to health? and anything else you want to tell me about dance! I know what a chatter box you are :) You always have lots to say :) so just share share share my friend! MISS YA TONZ! Have fun in my favorite places for me :) and watch out for tigers. Afia Heather


From: Brynt Agyekum Date: Tue, Jan 3, 2012 at 7:36 AM Subject: ANSWERS 2 QUESTION 1,2,5 nd 6. yeellllooo! am gonna answer d 1st,2nd,5th nd 6th question.i wll answer d otherS lata in d day. 1. in school we had programe cald variety show on our entertainment calendar where students get d chance 2 show their talent.I knew some of seniors in school nd they knew i no hw 2 dance so they tld oda seniors abt me nd i was forced 2 dance arond in school cos i cldnt say no.They forced me 2 regista ma name 4 d variety show bt i didnt cos i wntd 2 do it by ma free will.Dancing around created som awareness abt me nd pple cldnt w8t 2 c me per4om,so i finnaly registed ma name.All d dance groups were there cos that's how they pick out their members.i danced nd they picked me up!We have different kinds of dance nd different dance groups. 2. The name of my dance group was mennerz.we had a maximum of 12 members nd a minimum of 6 bt we usually bperformed with d minimum which is 6.when our seniors left, the group bcame ours cos we bcame d d group was slow,lil flip, amazing, atmosphere, shaker, sketches, bullet,pope gee,ice berg,labista,fabio nd west syd. We usualy performed wid d 1st 6. 3. (Answer to number 5) yep! i think dance really gives an identity cos pple are sometimes known nd cald by d kind of work they do nd dancing can be classified as a profession.It counts when it comes name.Dance also gives an identity when it comes 2 nationality nd culture.How dancers dress when they aa performing,how they dance,d kind of song they dance 2,the moves etc can tell u where d dance is from nd who d dancer is.Dance has an origin nd we have different kinds of origins so automatically,we have different types of dance.

4. (Answer to number 6) Dance relates 2 health both positively nd negatively.The positive part abt dance when it comes 2 health is how pple become strong nd healthy when they usually dance cos dancing is great exercise 4 body.There is some kind of dance we cal spiritual is believed that those who blive in d dance,do it wid all their might nd try 2 do it no matter what,gets healed 4rm any sickness they have before dancing. It"s happening,thats what i have heard.The negative part abt dance is barriers it creates when it comes 2 strength nd health.There aa dances which require some sort energy nd strength b4 it can b done.MISS YA! From: Brynt Agyekum Date: Thu, Jan 5, 2012 at 7:15 AM Subject: work 4. (Answer to Question 3) I tnk spiritual dance is a sort of worship nd also ntertainment.i noticed 4rm d festival that the priests do unbelievable things while they dance jux 2 prove 2 pple dat indeed,d spirits aa powerful and also 2 make them happy.Its also a way hw d spirits show their appretiation 2 d worshipers thru d gesture they use when they dance.its d same at shrines. 32

3. ( Answer to Question 4)I blieve dance dat has origins have a connection wid spirituality nt d once we create ourslfs.dances dat hav origins aa cald traditional dances cos it was performd by our ancestors nd if its danced in high spirit,d connection b/n us nd our ancestors wil automatically exist.i noticd dat d only difference b/n priests nd ordinary pple is their state of mind.priests blieve in spirits,they like wat they do at shrines,they think solely abt wat they cn do 4 d spirits when they aa in their shrines.they like d songs they sing,they get carid away by d songs nd dat is wy they get possesd during worships,any one who can do this can b possesd.its belivd dat d spirits aa our ancestors.they see things ahead nd try 2 protect nd warn us,they wnt tlk 2 us,entertain us etc. Bt b4 they can do this,they need a body nd dats wy they posses pple bt those with d same state of mind as the priests.the body reponds by dancing 2 rythms cos its being controled.

Heather Gemperline Female, 21 English 391: Introduction to Folklore Fall Semester 2011 Jacqueline Thursby BYU

Individual Collection Item Akua Forkuo November 17, 2011 Asamang, Ashanti Region, Ghana Genre: Oral and Belief Folklore Title of Item: Akuas ideas on spirituality and Ghanaian dance. Informant Data Name: Akua Forkuo Gender: Female Birthplace: Adukrom Home Region: Ashanti Region Age: 32 Relation to Collector: Akua was my fellow church members sister and my
dance instructor Occupation: Dancer, shopkeeper Avocation: Dancing, and singing Ethnic: Ghanaian, Aduana Clan 33

Religion: Other:

Traditional Worship

Sister Akua worships traditionally at a fetish shrine. She often attended the Gadawu shrine in Asamang with her husband to worship. Her husband is a drummer and excellent singer and will participate in the drumming and singing involved in the worship of the gods that come to possess the priest. Sister Akua involves her singing talent here as well but is also hired for work at other shrines too. She is a member of a cultural group that performs for secular and spiritual events. Adowa dance and spiritual dance are a huge part of Sister Akuas daily life and are further described in Cultural Data.

Social Data:

I interviewed Sister Akua verbally. I asked my Ghanaian brother King to translate for me. I would tell him my questions and then he would ask them to Sister Akua in Twi, listen to her response in Twi and then translate her answer to me in English while I took notes in my notebook.

Cultural Data:

Cultural groups in Ghana whom often perform Adowa dance and the spiritual dancing of priests at their fetish shrines are two major parts of Ghanaian dance culture. The following are descriptions and explanations of each aspect. Cultural Groups in Ghana Cultural groups in Ghana are hired to perform for events such as Durburs (village gatherings hosted by the village Chief) or funerals, parties and festivals, and priests will hire drummers to play at their shrines on sacred days. Sister Akua gave me the most cultural background information about these groups by describing her own participation in these cultural groups. She says her group does not need many people, maybe 6 drummers (a bell player included), 1 lead vocalist and at least 2 other singers. This makes a total of 9-10 people. The dancers of a cultural group are usually the singers of the group as well. Groups may have more people and at a funeral I attended I recognized more than 10 people but in these cases the performers take turns performing and resting so they can last the entire day or event without losing energy or motivation. As a singer and dancer Sister Akua is a part of her brothers group. But sometimes she is hired to join other groups in need of her services. Her husband even directs a group that she sometimes performs with. Because dancing seems to be a tradition passed down through families Sister Akua mentioned that her son now performs as a dancer with her husband and brothers groups. His job is to dance at the event and sit on audience members laps. This is a funding strategy that dancers are usualy responsible for at a performance. Dancers, especially children dancers, will sit on someones lap as they dance and not move until they receive money from that person. The dancers dance only one style of dance and that is Adowa. Adowa Dance Adowa is a traditional cultural dance of the Ashanti region of Ghana. It is considered a feminine dance and is predominantly performed by women. But Adowa is not 34

isolated to solely female performers. It is intended to be a partner dance between a man and a woman at certain activities so Ashanti men and women were allowed and expected to know the dance. Adowa is generally a gentle dance. It may look simple to an observer because of the grace and smooth energy required to perform the movement but it is really quite difficult. Like most African dance it involves a deep bend in the knees to bring the body nearer to the earth. The complexity of the dance occurs in the hand gestures though the feet do become more involved and tricky at times. (A detailed description of the hand gestures will occur in Item 7.) The foot work in its simplest form is just a transfer of weight from one foot to the other, usually with a dig in the heel on one foot before the weight is completely placed on it. But this touch of the heel to the ground is not far from the body but small and almost imperceptible. The Adowa rhythm, played by at least 4-5 percussionists, is essential for the dance. No one would show me Adowa dance moves unless there was the proper accompaniment either in live ensemble or tape recording form. The Adowa rhythm was played by an ensemble of drummers that included a bell, a talking drum, a smaller version of the talking drum called an apentima drum (both played with sticks), and a taller drum played with bare hands. This was the minimum requirement for an ensemble, a donno drum played under the armpit, shakers and additional apentima or hand drums were optional but preferable. The talking drum speaks to a dancer and directs their movement and energy. The drummer/dancer relationship is essential to a successful performance of Adowa. Spiritual Dance Ghanaians who believe and worship in the tradition of their Ashanti ancestors participate in what they term traditional or fetish worship. They believe in an ultimate creator and supreme God. But the lesser gods that they believe in, such as river gods, wind gods, rich gods, drunk gods, that are local to their area are, to them, the way to communicate with the supreme God. They believe because he is supreme he will never visit a shrine by possession of a priest but will send the lesser gods to help him with his work. Traditional believers therefore believe the ultimate God gave them lesser gods to help them with their problems, protect kings and their villages, warn them of calamity and catch evil spirits and witches. Every shrine has its unique set of gods that possess the priest, some have only 8 or 9, and others have up to 76 different gods. Each shrine has one main god, all the rest of the gods support the main god and these sub-gods are considered to be the main gods children. A shrine is a space designated for the worship of gods. This usually occurred in two places at a shrine, the stool house and the performance space. The stool house is where the priest pours libations to call gods to visit and become possessed. The performance space is set aside for the drummers, singers and dancing gods. This space is different at each shrine. Some have a large awning over it that covers the performers and observers, some have a cemented floor, and others are just a space set aside in the dirt ground with no clear boundaries to designate the space. The stool house is used as storage and holds many artifacts. These artifacts hold the gods power in them, help the priest see revelations and keep record of the 35

power and greatness of the gods at the shrine. Artifacts included sea shells and foggy mirrors for seeing revelations, beaded necklaces that represent how many witches had been caught, animal bones from sacrifices, incense, eggs, and smocks worn to designate the different gods when they come to visit and perform. There are cutlasses, spears, drums, knives, and sticks with feathers on them, chicken feathers, and other odd items covered in animal blood. The most common artifact I saw in the stool house was a cauldron covered in dried alcohol and animal blood. Blood from animal sacrifices is considered food for the gods and the cauldron was usually the place libations were poured. Many of these artifacts are held by the priest or god when they are performing in the performance space. A shrine is found deep in the bush or inside a priests compound. Each shrine has a number of days each week that the gods are expected to visit. A visit from a god means that the priest will become possessed by the gods spirit and they will actually become the physical form for the god to work and communicate to people through. The gods do consultations at the shrine. A consultation is when traditional worshippers come and pour libation as respect for the god and then petition their concerns to the god for help. The god will listen to their issues and then decide if they will help the individuals or not. If the god decides he or she can help then he or she instructs them on what to do, whether to pay a donation to the god or the shrine or provide a fowl or ram for animal sacrifice. Shrines also designate one or two days a week for gods to come and relax from their labors and have fun. They possess the priest and then dance and entertain the worshippers. On these days around 3-15 gods will visit. Priests often dance for fun at the beginning or end of a ritual and in between visits from different gods. A priest does not have to be possessed to dance, but they always have to do what the gods want them to do. If a god wants to dance for 3 days straight then the priest has to dance for 3 days and because it is the god that is dancing and not them they have the power and are capacity to do so. Some priests mentioned to me though that it takes a toll on their body physically and it is a sacrifice to be a priest because after the god leaves their body they feel the aching and exhaustion a human should expect to feel after such activity. However they do not feel these pains while they are possessed because it is the god who is in charge of their body. There are also times when the priest has control of their body and are not currently possessed when the dancing can cause them to see visions. They see things such as witches, future calamity or things pertaining to the issues of the worshippers of the shrine. Also not all priests think they know how to dance. One priest, Okomfo Boakyie, whom I met only danced when he was possessed and when the god commanded him to because the god was in charge and it wasnt considered to be the priest. This was very different from Okomfo Dwomo who took every opportunity to impress people with his athletic and fantastic dancing skills. The most common response I received to questions about the purpose of spiritual dance was that they did not know the purpose. They told me they didnt ask those questions, they didnt need to know. It was their tradition and they just accepted it that way. I did however receive some different ideas on the purpose of spiritual dance, some purposes were spiritual others were in my opinion more commercial. 36

The spiritual purposes I recognized myself and learned from my informants were: for the gods to relax from their work, to produce visions for priests, to show obedience to the gods wishes, sometimes a priest could call a worshipper up to dance with them and this could heal the physical infirmities of the worshipper, dancing also preserved cultural tradition and created a connection with the Ashanti ancestors. Other reasons why the priests danced include: to entertain their worshippers, to provide a time that the worshippers can come together and participate and unite with each other and create a sense of community, to impress worshippers in hopes that they will receive more monetary support from them. I call these reasons the commercial reasons because they were necessary to keeping the shrine alive and profitable. Each god has their own dance and their own rhythm to perform to and so each priest danced differently. The gods use symbolic gestures in their movement that communicate to their linguist and worshippers certain ideas and reinforce community values through them. The pelvis and center of gravity is brought close to the ground, the feet move subtly and intricately to the beat of the talking drum. The shoulders and hips are coordinated at the same time as the feet and legs to all move simultaneously to however the rhythm of the drums makes them feel like dancing. Some gods have characteristic moves that express which type of god they are. For instance a slapping god danced with flailing arms and elbows, the drunk god danced on his feet and partly in the laps of observers or on the ground, the main god has the most vivacious dance that is full of turns and jumps, jolts, and sharp and strong movements, a rich woman god was delicate and quaint in her movement. When a new god would arrive to perform or consult the priests assistants would see signs that told them which god was currently visiting. The signs would be in the way the god talked, moved, gestured or danced. The cues told them which costume to outfit the priest in and which props to give them. Most gods wore a traditional African smock that was worn like a poncho and came down just past the waist. It was wide and tailored with Adinkra symbols and designs. Often times the costume was just a simple white sheet tied above one shoulder or wrapped around like a towel. There were a variety of head dresses as well including a traditional womens wrap, or a crown for a king. Props included carved wooden staffs, lit incense, candles, steaming kettles, traditional knifes, and objects that looked like paintbrushes made with feathers, the priests stool (a chair specially carved in the manner of the Ashanti Kings) and hand crafted beaded necklaces. Drums play a huge role in the dance performance of the gods. The drums responsibility is to cheer up the gods when they are sad, and calm them down when they are angry. They dictate the dance of the god as well. This requires a good connection between the drummer and the dancer. The drums are important enough that libation had to be poured on them before they could be played for the gods or the drummers said they would experience physical pains as punishment for forgetting. Priestess or priests reported having no formal dance training. They did not have to learn the dances of the gods because when the god possessed their body it was 37

no longer the priest or priestess performing. But I saw young women follow a priestess in her dances at a shrine once that showed me that the dance training occurred from mirroring, shadowing, observing and being around it most of your life.

Item: I arrived to Sister Akuas shop for an Adowa dance lesson. Either the power
was out our someone was borrowing her tape with the Adowa drumming rhythm on it, either way we didnt have a way of providing music accompaniment so we were unable to have a dance lesson. I decided to take the opportunity to interview Akua instead. We sat in plastic chairs outside of her little shop where she sold candies, food, eggs etc. She sat on a wooden bench against the wooden wall of the hut she used to store her store goods. Chickens were running around, her little boy would come and lean in her lap and whisper things in her ear occasionally and a group of older men drinking their traditional palm wine out of a cup made of a dried gourd, called a calabash, sat behind us. I took notes in my notebook. Therefore the following interview is a paraphrase of what was said and is not an exact translation. Heather: What do you believe is the connection between dance and spiritualism? Sister Akua: Adowa dance is something our forefathers did so that is why we continue to do it. All we understand is the gestures and what they mean. The priests dance is different, it isnt always for entertainment. Sometimes the dance becomes too serious. The priest can beat people and that isnt entertainment, theres a different purpose behind that behavior. But I dont understand what that is because they are possessed and if I ask what the purpose is they (the priest or shrine keepers) will just say that they do not know. There are signs given by the possessed priest though that communicates if they are complaining about the drummers or singers performance. The gods that possess the priest need these performers to play with all their might or they become angry for some reason and beat people. Heather: Do you perform spiritual dance? Sister Akua: Yes Heather: What are the differences between Adowa and Spiritual dance? Sister Akua (with some of Kings personal input): Spiritual dance revolves around Adowa. In spiritual dance I know there are gestures I do but I dont always know what they mean. I have asked for myself what they mean and have received the same answer that the priest and his assistants dont know what they mean either. If you can dance Adowa however, you can dance spiritual dance. In Adowa dance you spin, very slowly, but in spiritual dance the priests spin very fast and its difficult. The spiritual dance also involves the tapping of the toe on the floor.


Heather: What do you mean tapping of the toe on the floor? Can you demonstrate for me? Sister Akua: Sister Akua stood up from her bench and showed some dance movement that was done on the very tip-top of her toes, such as a ballerina in pointe shoes would dance. She also produced some movements where she did lift her foot up and point her toes to the ground and tap them on the floor. Dancing like this gives me pains and I cant understand how the priests can do it so hard, sometimes they even leave dents in the floor. Spiritual dancers, possessed dancers, can spin for an hour while dancing, and they can become angry from what they see because they can have visions while dancing. Or the dancers can begin to feel that people are trying to harm them and that makes them angry as well. Heather: Do you need a specific mindset to dance spiritually? (Other than for a priest needing to be possessed) Sister Akua: You dont need a specific mindset to do spiritual dance but you do have to be aware of the gestures that you are making because some you may need to refrain from because they are insulting. If you are not a priest and are not possessed then the spiritual style of dancing is done by other dancers as entertainment. The main purpose for someone to dance in the style of spiritual dancing at a shrine is to impress other people and to try and receive money from spectators. This especially occurs at durburs and festivals because usually money is not given to other dancers at a shrine that are not the priest. Heather: Do people get something else out of dancing besides entertainment? Sister Akua: At durburs you want to really impress people so that more people will hire you. Dances change depending on where you are and what your purpose is. Heather: What about dancing for health or exercise? Sister Akua: Dancing doesnt give someone health, but someone can just use it to stretch themselves. Sometimes you can really feel pains after dancing. I think it is a way of curing people spiritually. Worshippers go to shrines just to watch the priest perform but then he or she may call them up to the dance space to dance and then the person feels relieved they feel better after dancing. But you cant see how the healing occurs because it is spiritually done. I dont dance everyday so I cant say that I am health because of dance. Heather: How does being a dancer affect your identity or ones identity? How do you see yourself within the community? Sister Akua: There is some difference between me and ordinary people like my friends, because of what I do, I am a dancer and singer. I am respected. Dancing and singing actually helps me, it gives me some sort of identity. People call me by my profession instead of my name.

Heather Gemperline

Female, 21 English 391: Introduction to Folklore Fall Semester 2011 Jacqueline Thursby BYU

Individual Collection Item Akua Forkuo October 13, 2011 Asamang, Ashanti Region, Ghana Genre: Customary Folklore Title of Item: Adowa dance lesson with Sister Akua. Informant Data Name: Akua Forkuo Gender: Female Birthplace: Adukrom Home Region: Ashanti Region Age: 32 Relation to Collector: Akua was my fellow church members sister and my
dance instructor Occupation: Dancer, shopkeeper Avocation: Dancing, and singing Ethnic: Ghanaian, Aduana Clan Religion: Traditional Worship


Sis Akua was a member of a cultural group and performed at funerals, shrines, festivals and was hired for other events.

Social Data:

Michael filmed Sister Akua teaching me Adowa movement. I mirrored and shadowed her to participate.

Cultural Data:

Cultural groups in Ghana are hired to perform for events such as Durburs (village gatherings hosted by the village Chief) or funerals, parties and festivals, and priests will hire drummers to play at their shrines on sacred days. Sister Akua gave me the most cultural background information about these groups by describing her own participation in these cultural groups. She says her group does not need many people, maybe 6 drummers (a bell player included), 1 lead vocalist and at least 2 other singers. This makes a total of 9-10 people. The dancers of a cultural group are usually the singers of the group as well. Groups may have more people and at a funeral I attended I recognized more than 10 people but in 40

these cases the performers take turns performing and resting so they can last the entire day or event without losing energy or motivation. As a singer and dancer Sister Akua is a part of her brothers group. But sometimes she is hired to join other groups in need of her services. Her husband even directs a group that she sometimes performs with. Because dancing seems to be a tradition passed down through families Sister Akua mentioned that her son now performs as a dancer with her husband and brothers groups. His job is to dance at the event and sit on audience members laps. This is a funding strategy that dancers are usualy responsible for at a performance. Dancers, especially children dancers, will sit on someones lap as they dance and not move until they receive money from that person. The dancers dance only one style of dance and that is Adowa. Cultural Information on Adowa Dance Adowa is a traditional cultural dance of the Ashanti region of Ghana. It is considered a feminine dance and is predominantly seen performed by women. But Adowa was not isolated to solely female performers, I saw many talented men perform it and in fact it is intended to be a partner dance between a man and a woman at certain activities so Ashanti men and women were allowed and expected to know the dance. Adowa is generally a gentle dance. It may look simple to an observer because of the grace and smooth energy required to perform the movement but it is really quite difficult. Like most African dance it involves a deep bend in the knees to bring the body nearer to the earth. The complexity of the dance occurs in the hand gestures though the feet do become more involved and tricky at times. (A detailed description of the hand gestures will occur in Item 7.) The foot work in its simplest form is just a transfer of weight from one foot to the other, usually with a dig in the heel on one foot before the weight is completely placed on it. But this touch of the heel to the ground is not far from the body but small and almost imperceptible. The Adowa rhythm, played by at least 4-5 percussionists, is essential for the dance. No one would show me Adowa dance moves unless there was the proper accompaniment. They would not dance without the proper rhythms, preferably played by a live ensemble but a cd or tape recording was needed at least. (This became a problem when the power frequently quit on us for hours or even days at a time.) The Adowa rhythm was played by an ensemble of drummers that included a bell, a talking drum, a smaller version of the talking drum called an apentima drum (both played with sticks), and a taller drum played with bare hands. This was the minimum requirement for an ensemble, a donno drum played under the armpit, shakers and additional apentima or hand drums were optional but preferable. Learning to play these drums from Appiah, especially the master drum or the talking drum, really helped me understand the Adowa rhythm better in my body. I was taught how to communicate and control the movement of an Adowa dancer with the drum and how the dancer and the drum should relate so I understand both sides of the music/dancer relationship. Thus when I was given the opportunity to dance Adowa I was prepared and better informed on what I was expected to do because I could somewhat perceive the mind of the drummer having been one myself. The drummer/dancer relationship is essential to a successful performance of 41



I was introduced to Sister Akua by Brother Boakyi. Brother Boakyi was a member of the Branch Presidency at the local branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and brother to Sister Akua. After our introduction we set up a time for me to come to her shop and learn Adowa dance from her. We set up appointments several times but they often fell through due to her busy schedule, power outages or lack of music accompaniment. It finally worked out on October 13th, 2011. It was an inconvenient time for me as I was planning a surprise party for my brother and I had a visitor from Accra coming an hour but I was determined to have my lesson so I took the 20 minute walk and arrived at Sister Akuas shop. I unfortunately didnt have King as my guide or translator. My friend from across the street, Michael, did accompany me however. He filmed the experience and communicated with Sister Akua the best he could for me. His English was fairly limited. She put a tape on her large speaker system with an Adowa rhythm for our accompaniment. Then she began dancing and beckoned for me to mirror and shadow her movements. We stayed in a very small space in the middle of the courtyard behind her shop. It was the only space with some shade left from the morning. The two of us danced while 10-15 adult men and some children sat in an adjacent room watching a futbol match. A teenage girl and adult man stood against the wall next to Michael who sat in a plastic chair to observe Sister Akua and I dance. In my interview with Sister Akua I asked her how long she had been dancing. She told me that her brother was a drummer and that as a little girl she was always in the house with him and he would encourage her to work as a dancer in his group he performed with. She would dance with the dancers in his group and learned the groups songs to sing as well. She eventually learned to dance and sing simultaneously and became well known for her talent. Her success caused her to make being a cultural performer of dance and song her profession. She says being a part of a cultural performance group was just something she was familiar with because it was something her family did.

Heather Gemperline Female, 21 English 391: Introduction to Folklore Fall Semester 2011 Jacqueline Thursby BYU


Individual Collection Item Akusua Koramah November 25, 2011 Agona, Ashanti Region, Ghana Genre: Oral Folklore Title of Item: Kings Grandmothers Dance Experience Informant Data Name: Akusua Koramah Gender: Female Birthplace: Agona, Ashanti Region, Ghana Home Region: Ashanti Region, Ghana Age: approximately 80 years Relation to Collector: Ghanaian Brothers Grandmother (Kings Grandmother) Occupation: Farmer, works at family bar as well Avocation: N/A Ethnic: Ghanaian, Asona Clan Religion: Christian Other:
Akusua Koramah is the Queen Mother of her clan in the town of Agona, this means she is regal and respected in town. She was born in the palace in Agona and grew up there. It was in the palace that she learned Adowa, Kete, and other cultural dances.

Social Data:

This interview was conducted at Kings Grandmothers bar in Agona. 43

Cultural Data:

Every town, village, and suburb in Ghana has a royal family. The royal family is the Chiefs family and they all reside together in the palace. The Chiefs mother is the queen mother of the town and is respected just as highly as the Chief. The royal family has a responsibility to uphold their ancestors traditions and preserve their culture. They continue to practice ancient ritual and are obligated to uphold all responsibilities as a royal family member. Adowa Dance and Kete Dance are two traditional Ghanaian cultural dances passed down from their ancestors. Though they may appear similar in drum accompaniment and movement they are two separate dances. Adowa and Kete are performed at royal palaces, durburs, festivals and funerals in Ghana.

Item: King and I interviewed Akusua Koramah at the family bar. It was in the
afternoon and very sunny. We sat in the sitting area of the bar on plastic chairs and Akusua Koramah rested one elbow on the plastic table that partnered her chair. We each had a satchel of purified water to help with the heat. About half way through our interview Akusua began to fall asleep in between questions when King was explaining what she had just said to me. After a time Kings small boy cousin, Ivan, arrived home from school and ate some grilled corn on the cob while he sat on his grandmothers lap. We also took a break to eat some dried mango at one point in the interview. Kings Grandmother didnt speak any English so I would ask King the questions, he would translate it into Twi, then Akusua would respond in Twi and King would interpret it back to me in English and I took notes in my notebook. Therefore the interview below is not an exact transcription of what was said but a paraphrase of she said in Kings words. Question 1: How did Akusua learn to dance? Answer: Akusua didnt learn. She saw enough at the palace as she grew up. She would practice with the men at the palace that she saw dancing. She doesnt really know how but she practiced it and saw it enough. She became perfect because she could do it anywhere, anytime, she isnt shy. Sometimes she gets carried away from the rhythm. So she just needed to know how to move her feet and know the gestures (so she doesnt offend others). But then she would add her own style. She has been dancing for many years, since infancy, and cant exactly explain what she does when she dances because it always changes. But she is sure of the gestures. Her style changes according to how she feels while dancing. She has created an impact on her children. They can impress people because they have knowledge of the gestures that she has taught them. Shes very happy she could do that. Every Ashanti man or women she believes should know something about Adowa. She says a real dancer can distinguish between Adowa and Kete rhythms. Theres also another dance, and a rhythm played with a local guitar called Adenkum. She 44

can differentiate between the 3 because she stayed at the palace, the Agona palace. She believes boldness and courage, and creativity make up a good dancer. Question 2: What are some of the ways Akusua feels when she dances? Answer: A dancer must always be happy. Your dancing mood depends on what you think or do. If you are sad you cannot do your best because youre thinking of it. To give out your best you have to clear your mind. People applaud, shout, give gifts and because of that she tries to do her best to impress. It encouraged her and motivated her to bring out more of her styles because she likes to be applauded. Akusua says that what you need to think about is what youre doing. Question 3: What about at funerals? Ever dance when youre sad? Answer: At a funeral you dance after gifts are given, to console the grieving family and to be happy. What I (Heather) saw at the funeral in Konya when they danced was a celebration. Need to think about what youre doing, not the crowd or impressing them, you go cray and mess up if youre always thinking about the crowd, that sometimes makes a bad dancer. First think of what youre doing and afterwards the crowd. Dancers were sometimes off because they thought a lot about the people watching. Dancers watch other people dance and then try to learn from watching them. We should take every opportunity as dancers to watch even if were not invited. Dancers always take advantage of the opportunities they get. They pick opportunities and take something and learn from every situation. A real dancer takes advantage of what she/he sees and feels. Dancing is a process, it doesnt end. So a dancer should always be learning, even if youre good at it keep learning and youll learn more by seeing it and feeling it. Question 4: Tell me more about the palace? What was it like to grow up there? Answer: Most of the people around at the palace were guys. There were not many girls around. The Queen Mother lived there but the majority of the girls around were servants under the direction of the Queen Mother. The servants werent slaves they were from the family and wanted to serve the Chief. Men are really good at the Kete dance. It needs much energy. Adowa is faint and relaxed but Kete is very quick and active. Akusua learned from the guy sometimes but she had a difficult time because she couldnt do it exactly the same way and always though she was doing it wrong. They were good at displaying the differences in the different dances and which rhythms attach to which dance. They went to lots of durburs, festival and funerals. The guys wanted to teach her so she could come along with them to dance Adowa. Question 5: Does dance function spiritually? In religion? 45

Answer: The 3 dances mentioned were passed down from ancestors and it will continue to be passed on. Akusua believes there is a spiritual connection between the dances and spirituality, the priest especially because they cant dance unless theyre possessed. Ashanti dancers are connected to spirituality. She wonders why people dance the 3 dances or learn them easily but then find the priests dances more difficult. The spiritual dance of the priests revolves around Adowa dance. That is where it came from. Adowa came before spiritual dance she thinks. Question 6: Is there a spiritual connection to the ancestors? Answer: The dances are part of their tradition and culture. A real Ashanti girl or boy will always like the rhythms. There is some connection to the ancestors when performing. You feel very happy to see people dance. Ashanti people can even cry sometimes when they hear the drum or somebody singing. Some people are gifted to see things when they dance too. Ancestors can talk to them through the dance. They communicate and talk to them when they hear and see the dance. Singers can sing something that inspires dancers and Ashanti people too. Once she was thinking about what her really meant to her and if it was supposed to be the way it was or if her culture was just framed up. Then she heard a song and it just happened to answer the questions that she had going on in her mind. Real Ashanti people cant hate the Ghanaian dances, a real native cannot dislike Adowa or Kete. That creates a connection to the ancestors. It has to be spiritual connection also because the ancestors are dead, so how else would you connect with them unless it was a spiritual connection. Questions 7: Does dancing together with people build connections between people? Answer: Akusua at first thought that only Ashanti people could feel carried away by the Adowa or Kete dance. But she learned eventually that other people like the dances and want to learn them too. It will always bring about unity and happiness. But you can never impress people if you dont feel it. You cant give it your best when you think of that. Some people dance just for fun because they can. Akusua thinks that you really need to think about it and bear in mind that it is not just a dance but something that has impact on everything around you. It unites people. Not just Ashanti people but everyone around. Question 8: How does your knowledge of cultural dances affect your identity? Answer: Akusua said that for her as a woman she thinks she isnt just a woman, but shes created an impact on other people by dancing and not just living at the palace. She impacted people by being their teacher because she was perfect. Dance gave her an identity she thought she would never have. Questions 9: Why not? Answer: She saw great dancers and thought she could never be like them. But thought of them and how she could get a name and identity like theirs because she saw that people really liked them. She found that her identity came when she 46

focused on doing the dance right and being creative, rather than on her name, because then naturally she acquired the identity she wanted. Question 10: How does spirituality and religion play a part in your dancing? Answer: Akusua is the Queen Mother of her clan not of the town of Agona. And sometimes she would have to do things that went against the teaching in the Bible. Such as pour libations to other gods, but she would never forget about God. She would pray to God when she went to do sacrifices or libations to let him know where her faith really was. But she had to do what they wanted her to do because participating makes them stronger and unified as a kingdom. She wasnt going to give her faith to the traditional ideas or gods but needed to perform in the rituals because of her culture and it was her responsibility. It is important to know something about your clan, culture and to really be a part of it. Doesnt mean you have to do it, just know it. For her she had to keep in mind there is only one God. So Ashanti people become a bit different because of their beliefs and this can cause arguments and contention but it shouldnt be that way in Akusuas opinion. People should never talk ill about what people believe, everyone is different because of the way they are raised up and what they are taught. Just believe what you believe but when it comes to culture- just do it. If you are from a certain clan you have to contribute. Rules are set down to control people, and others believe they come from the spiritual world to scare them and keep them from doing bad things.

Heather Gemperline Female, 21 English 391: Introduction to Folklore Fall Semester 2011 Jacqueline Thursby BYU Individual Collection Item Konya Residents November 19, 2011 Konya-Asamang, Ashanti Region, Ghana Genre: Customary Folklore Title of Item: Funeral Dance Informant Data Name: Konya Residents Home Region: Ashanti Region

Age: 5-80 years Ethnic: Ghanaian Religion: Traditional and Christian Other:
The people filmed in this item are participants in the funeral for the sister of one of Konyas elders.

Social Data:

This video was filmed by my Ghanaian brother Kingsley Agyekum. The funeral was held under some old large trees for shade in the area where the Konya market usually was.

Cultural Data:

Funerals are a big part of Ghanaian culture. They are large and expensive. Extended family and friends are invited and expected to attend. The funeral last several days including different activities each day such as a worship service, a laying in state period (like a viewing), the burial and the family gather afterwards. The family of the deceased is expected to provide and pay for their guests who attend the funeral to have a place to stay, to sit, and things to eat and drink. They provide the entertainment and emcee who run the funeral activities as well. This is an expensive venture so guests are expected to donate a sum of money to the family to help with costs. Donations are usually received by a number of friends of the immediate family. Those who donate have their name and the amount of their donation read aloud to all at the funeral. In between the reading of donations and the giving of gifts to the family of the deceased the cultural group hired for entertainment sings songs and performs dances. At times it is just the master singer singing with backup singers and the drum accompaniment. Other times the backup singers come out to dance with the leader of the group and sing simultaneously. But from what I observed it seemed anyone was invited to dance anytime. The video which is this particular item is a demonstration of when any of the guests are invited to participate in the dancing. This dancing happened at the end of the funeral and was more of a celebratory dance. A way to help the family of deceased feel happy despite their loss. In the video there are family friends, immediate family members and funeral guests involved in the dancing.


The funeral was held in the area where the Konya market was under some old large trees for shade. There were tents or canopies put up for shade as well. The space for dancing and performing was a square area designated by plastic chairs being set up on all four sides of the space for guests to sit in. The cultural group providing the music and dance performers were on one side of the rectangle, the church members of the deceased sat under a tent in uniform on another side, the deceaseds family sat on another side and then guests sat behind the family and on the final side left. As people came to the funeral, as is customary they would form a large single file line and travel in turn greeting the elders and family members before taking a seat. In the middle of the square there was also a table decorated and left as a tribute to the deceased. She had already been buried earlier in the morning. 48

Heather Gemperline Female, 21 English 391: Introduction to Folklore Fall Semester 2011 Jacqueline Thursby BYU

Individual Collection Item Edward Edu Barffour November 30, 2011 Asamang, Ashanti Region, Ghana Genre: Customary and Oral Folklore Title of Item: Symbolic meaning of the Adowa dance hand gestures. Informant Data Name: Edward Edu barfoour

Gender: Male Birthplace: Asamang, Ashanti Region, Ghana Home Region: Ashanti Region, Ghana Age: 60 years Relation to Collector: Teacher Occupation: Teacher (now in pension), Farmer, Author Avocation: Ashanti Cultural Studies, Study of English an Twi Languages Ethnic: Ghanaian Religion: Christian Other:
Mr. Edu wrote a book about Ashanti culture. It was written in Twi and was meant to educate Twi speakers and help them with their reading literacy. However in this attempt the book also teaches a lot about Ashanti culture. Mr. Edu used to be a school teacher and taught English and cultural studies but is now retired. He was the first person the elders of the village referred me to when I told them my intention in Ghana was to study the culture, especially the dancing. They felt he was the most knowledgeable in town on the ancient purpose and meaning behind the cultural dances.

Social Data:

I collected this information from Mr. Edu in written form as I mentioned in the Social Data section of this form. Mr. Edu wrote gave me a hand written document explaining the gestures and their meaning.

Cultural Data:

The cultural dance Adowa which is performed by Ashanti men and women has a large number of hand gestures that are employed in the movement. These hand gestures communicate meaning to the Ashanti people. Traditionally all Ashanti people knew the gestures, which were appropriate and which were offensive. Now there seem to only be a handful of people who understand the meaning behind the gestures.

The Adowa Dance Symbolic Gestures (Expressions) in the Adowa Dance. Asking for permission to dance. 1. Before an Adowa dancer begins to dance, he asks for permission by putting the right palm on top of the left palm and dances in a circular form. or The Adowa dancer salutes with the hand by asking for a permission to dance. 2. Before an Adowa dancer dances he makes a knob, with the two hands around, signifies that he is tighting round to make a complete performance of whatever 50

activities that will go on that day. (Two fisted hands placed together or the revolving of the two hands around each other in front of the body.) 3. A dancer opens the two palms upwards to give thanks to God. 4. When the Adowa dance is in its highest peak or when the beat of the drums and songs are high the dancer while dancing jumps round beating the tips of his fingers. This means that the dancer is very happy or the dancer is in a good mood. 5. When a man's father dies and he is dancing and puts the finger in his mouth it means he is very sad. His eyes are red. 6. When a dancer is dancing and the tune of the drums is in its highest peak he opens the two legs, wide apart and dances. The people around greet in a loud voice, (Mo Od33foc). 7. When a dancer is a logger-head with his fellow dancer, and the two are dancing, one makes a cling of the two thumbs which signifies that one is abusing the other. 8. When a dancer is dancing and he beats the side of his thighs with the two hands and later on puts them on his stomach this signifies that the dancer is hungry and therefore needs food, drink or money. 9. When a dancer is dancing and he puts the right palm inside the left palm this signifies that the dancer wants money. 10. When a dancer is dancing and taps his right leg on the ground while dancing, it indicates that the dancer needs money. 11. When a dancer folds his two arms on his chest or puts the two arms on his head it signifies that he is in a bad mood or unhappy. But when he puts the two arms on his chest and raises them upwards in the sky, its means he is alone and depends on only God. 12. When a dancer is dancing with his fellow dancer and uses the two second fingers (pointer fingers) crossed the other or linked, to show signs of love between the fellow dancer. 13. When a dancer is dancing and he puts the right elbow inside the palm of the left hand and approaches an elderly person or sits on the thighs of that person it signifies that the dancer wants a bottle of wine (schnapps) or money. 14. When a dancer, especially a chief, is dancing twisting the right hand on the right side and the left hand on the left side, and again raises the two hands upwards in the sky and puts both the two arms on the chest it signifies that everything both on the right and left all belong to him and the raising of the hands upwards in the sky means he fears nobody then God. 51

15. When a dancer is dancing and puts the right palm on top of the left palm, raises his head upwards in the sky, it means he is begging God for forgiveness or asking God's power as a sort of help to enable him to perform the duty he is to perform. 16. When a dancer is dancing and he sits on the two thighs of an elderly person or any important man, folds his two arms on his chest, and leans his back on the chest of the person, it signifies that his whole life depends on the person and therefore his sitting on his thighs indicates that he wants money from that person. He will sit there until that person gives him money. 17. When a dancer is dancing and puts his right arm or hand on his right thigh using the right hand as a cutlass, cutting the right thigh, this signifies that he will cut the head of anybody who comes on his own. 18. When a dancer is performing a dance, and uses his right hand as a cutlass to cut the throat, by moving the hand in and out around the throat, this signifies that anybody who comes his way's head will be chopped off (cut off) this is performed by the (executionist).

Heather Gemperline Female, 21 English 391: Introduction to Folklore Fall Semester 2011 Jacqueline Thursby BYU

Individual Collection Item Komfo Akua Nsuo November 18, 2011 Asamang, Ashanti Region, Ghana Genre:
Customary Folklore 52

Title of Item:

River god communicating with Frontonfrom Drum.

Informant Data Name: Komfo Akua Nsuo Gender: Female Birthplace: Asamang, Ashanti Region, Ghana Home Region: Ashanti Region, Ghana Age: 50 Years Relation to Collector: Friend and informant Occupation: Priestess Avocation: Runs hotels, shops, bars and social spots Ethnic: Ghanaian Religion: Traditional Worship Other:
Nana, or Akua Nsuo, is the priestess of the Obene Ne Bene shrine in Konya, Asamang, Ashanti Region, Ghana. The shrine is dedicated to a river god and Nanas house and the shrine sit on top of and beside the river this god comes from.

Social Data:

I asked permission from Nanas linguist if I could video and he said he would ask permission from the gods. Once he obtained permission for me I was able to video on my digital camera while the god/priestess and drummers performed. This item shows the attention and communication between the god and the drum.

Cultural Data:

River gods are the most powerful gods in Ashanti traditional fetish religion. This is because the river gods have always protected the Asantehene, or King of the Ashanti Kingdom. Therefore the river gods are highly favored by the Asantehene. The Asantehene goes to great effort to take care of and give attention to his river gods and the priest or priestesses that they possess. The frontonfrom drum used in this clip is a sacred drum. Only certain people are allowed to play this drum or even be in possession of it. This drum communicates with the river god and dictates their dancing as well as calms it down, raises its spirits, and motivates its dancing and blessings upon the present worshippers. The dancing the priest or priestess does it the gods dance. It is a spiritual dance and is unique to this god. No other god dresses, communicates or dances like it. The spiritual dance is influenced by other cultural and secular dances such as Adowa but employs more artistic license for each god. More creativity and individuality is used in the movement and the vocabulary of movement cannot be defined. The energy displayed by the dance can often communicate to the priests assistants and worshippers what the god wants and what they are feeling. For more information on Spiritual Dance see Item 3. 53


This video was taken on a Friday. The gods that possessed Nana and visited the Obene Ne Bene shrine visited on Fridays and Sundays. Nana had been possessed by many lesser gods already on this day and in this video presently possessed by the main river god of the shrine. That is why the frontonfrom drum is being used. It has to be held up by two other men and the drummer who commands it sits high upon the wall that designates the performance space in order to play the drum efficiently. There are a large number of spectators and worshippers around 3 sides of the performance space. Some worshippers are on the inside of the space against the wall, others on the outside. Those on the inside either have the appropriate regal Ashanti footwear or have removed their slippers as a sign of respect before entering the sacred space. The drummers and singers are placed against the wall the frontonfrom drummer is sitting on and they are accompanying the dance as well.

Heather Gemperline Female, 21 English 391: Introduction to Folklore Fall Semester 2011 Jacqueline Thursby BYU

Individual Collection Item Komfo Akua Nsuo November 14, 2011 Asamang, Ashanti Region, Ghana Genre:
Oral and Belief Folklore 54

Title of Item:

Nanas view on dance and spirituality.

Informant Data Name: Komfo Akua Nsuo Gender: Female Birthplace: Asamang, Ashanti Region, Ghana Home Region: Ashanti Region, Ghana Age: 50 Years Relation to Collector: Friend and informant Occupation: Priestess Avocation: Runs hotels, shops, bars and social spots Ethnic: Ghanaian- Aduana Clan Religion: Traditional Worship Other:
Nana, or Akua Nsuo, is the priestess of the Obene Ne Bene shrine in Konya, Asamang, Ashanti Region, Ghana. The shrine is dedicated to a river god and Nanas house and the shrine sit on top of and beside the river this god comes from.

Social Data:

I told King my questions and then he would translate them and ask them to Nana in Twi. Nana would reply to King with her answer in Twi and then King would explain her answers to me in English and I would take notes and paraphrase her ideas in my research notebook. Not all questions pertain to dance but give relevant background information on Nanas religion that I believe are essential to understanding the importance of dance in Ghanaian culture.

Cultural Data:
Traditional festivals in Ghana. Priests and priestesses have a responsibility to hold festivals for the gods that they worship. They also hold festivals to celebrate the harvest of certain crops. There is also a holiday that traditional fetish worshippers celebrate every 40 days. This is the Adae festival. My good friend George who taught creative arts at the primary school in Konya and drummed for Nana at the Obene Ne Bene shrine wrote a great document for me that told me what the Adae festival is and why its significant to fetish worship. He wrote: Adae festival is the national festival of Akans. They celebrate it to remember their ancestors who were once their chiefs. The festival is celebrated twice every 42 days. There are two adaes in this period. One falls on Sunday and the other falls on Wednesday. The Adae which falls on Sunday is called Akwasidae and that of Wednesday is called Awukudae.


I interviewed Nana several times at her home. King and I would arrive at time previously decided upon with Nana. We would sit in plastic chairs in the space in her compound where she kept her 4-5 cars. King would translate my questions and Nanas answers to the both of us. Sometimes there was one more attendee to 55

our interview sessions, either one of Nanas assistants, drivers, or linguist. They would put their input into Nanas stories and ideas and also help us know what the right questions were to ask Nana. The interviews generally took place midday, but occurred in the evening after dinner once as well. Summary of Interviews I asked Nana to tell me about the river that the shrine was built for. I asked if we could visit the river. She told me that there is a festival every December and that is the only time one can wash in the river, put their petitions before the river and receive promises from the river god. This festival is called the Bene Bene Festival. I was told by Nanas linguist to ask Nana about the bridge outside the gate of her shrine entrance. It had apparently been rebuilt and moved farther up the river as the river extended past the compound. She replied saying that the river had told her she needed to move the bridge. I asked Nana to tell me about the inside part that I had seen extracted from a ram sacrificed at the Akwasidae festival. The ram was slit down its middle and then Nana, possessed by the river god, and her assistants stretched the belly of the ram over a silver bowl to catch the blood in. After the collection of the blood Nana reached into the ram and pulled out a wad of what looked like a bundle of gut covered ropes or weeds. The color of the moist wad was a green and orange mixture. Nana took this item from out of the ram and had brought it to the performance space. She danced with it in her hand for a while and then rubbed the wad down her face starting at the top of her forehead. She then proceeded to use her finger, wet from the wad of unknown substance, and drew a wet line down the front of her linguists face starting at the forehead, down his nose an ending at his chin. He was kneeling in submission with two fingers on each hand extended out (like a peace sign) and watching the god perform. It was his ram that he had given for sacrificial purposes and it appeared this dance and extraction of the green wad was part of the ritual of giving a personal animal sacrifice. Nana told me that she had never seen an object like the wad before. She has only ever seen something like that in that ram. She told me that the wad was given to the linguist as a gift but it was a spiritual gift so she doesnt understand exactly why the god instructed her to give it to him as a gift. She also mentioned that only things like that happen at her shrine because her shrine is exceptional. I asked Nana how she got the images for the statues placed around her shrine and compound. I figured they represented the gods. She told me that one of them was a statue of her and that it appeared white because she has fairer skin then some Ghanaians. The image of the river god was given to her in her mind. I asked Nana to tell me about her relationship with the drummers. I wanted to know how many she had what she expected from them and what the connection between the dancing and drumming was for her. (To me drumming was also a spiritual aspect of a dance performance, see Item 12). Nana told me that the gods give the drummers money. Every song has a way the drummer should play and every god has their own rhythm. Drummers need to know what gods like. The frontonfrom 56

drum is solely reserved to be played for the river god. If the drummers dont play right then the gods can get angry. The drummers talk with the drums and praise the god through their music and that is why they get money from the gods. Usually the talking drum drummer or the donno drum player receives the money because these drums are most communicative with the gods. In response to these questions about drums Nana also told me how everything in life, all creatures on earth respond and dance to the rhythms of drums. She gave the example that even snakes dance. She told me that someone once went out to farm and took a cassette with him so he could listen to some music. As he played the music some snakes gathered around the cassette and danced to the music as he performed. Nana said this story illustrates how music is important to every living thing and every living thing dances. I next asked how she felt dance aided in worship or spirituality. Her reply to this answer was the most interesting and meaningful one I think I collected from her. She said that dance is part of her worship. Dance is not a kind of worship but part of their worship. It enables them to see things while they dance but sometimes it is for entertainment too. However she then went into a longer answer about how even the fishes in rivers dance so why shouldnt we? She told me there are creatures in the sea who are humans and every flower is dancing, everything dances. It is a part of us and we cant do anything without dance, even when we walk. This was the most pertinent part of our interview because it was directed specifically about dance. As you can see most of the questions that I asked Nana were not specific about dance but about the culture and rituals of the shrine, which are essential to understanding spiritual dance and Ghanaians perspectives on it, but not directly focused on dance. Speaking about dance and spirituality was a difficult thing to extrapolate from peoples beliefs but I saw it manifest in her dancing and in discussion on fetish worship and traditional African religion. Nana also shared more stories about her shrine and the happenings that have gone on there but I feel I have listed the information most pertinent to this project.

Heather Gemperline Female, 21 English 391: Introduction to Folklore Fall Semester 2011 Jacqueline Thursby BYU

Individual Collection Item


Komfo Akua Nsuo October 20, 2011 Effiduase, Ashanti Region, Ghana Genre: Customary Folklore Title of Item: Komfo Akua Nsuo at the Asuo Efiefi Festival. Informant Data Name: Komfo Akua Nsuo Gender: Female Birthplace: Asamang, Ashanti Region, Ghana Home Region: Ashanti Region, Ghana Age: 50 Years Relation to Collector: Friend and informant Occupation: Priestess Avocation: Runs hotels, shops, bars and social spots Ethnic: Ghanaian- Aduana Clan Religion: Traditional Worship Other: Nana, or Akua Nsuo, is the priestess of the Obene Ne Bene shrine in Konya,
Asamang, Ashanti Region, Ghana. She is a prominent and powerful priestess in the Ashanti region because she is the human conduit for a river god which her shrine sits next to in Asamang.

Social Data:

My Ghanaian brother King and I took turns filming with my digital camera and my flip video camera at a Traditional Festival in Effiduase, Ghana.

Cultural Data:

There was little opportunity to ask questions about the festival while I was there so I took the opportunity in later days after the festival to ask a number of individuals about the purpose of the festival. Nana told me it was called the Asuo Efiefi Festival. She shared some history with me. The neighboring town near Effiduase is called Juaben. There was once a war between the two towns over ownership of land. When the warriors of each town came to battle at the Effiduase river the Juaben warriors were swallowed up by it so Effiduase won the war. This festival was put in place to show gratitude to the river god for this victory which they attribute to him. It occurs every year. She said it was her job as a river god priestess to support this neighboring river god and she is a very powerful and prominent priestess in Ashanti region and the festivities could not officially start without her there at the shrine at the festival. I witnessed her importance at the festival personally. She was always at the front of the caravan lines. She always had the largest crowd of spectators around her and her drum ensemble. Other gods and priests wanted to dance to her ensemble because of their energy and professional skill. She introduced me to the chiefs and priests of other parts of the Ashanti region and they shook her hand and treated her with great respect. She was also the one who led the parade that escorted the Chief of Effiduase back to his palace as part of the festivities rituals. She was a very powerful and important priestess. 58


I traveled with Nanas drummers and singers in their tro-tro (popular form of public transportation, a bus/van type vehicle) to the neighboring town of Effiduase. While there I took descriptive notes, observed, videoed and participated in the dancing. When we arrived I traveled in the single file line behind Nana as she guided our troop to the festival grounds outside the District Police Headquarters. Once we arrived there we merged our line with others similar to ours, other shrines from different parts of Ashanti region were gathering all together, and then our line fed into a greeting line. In this line I got to shake all the hands of the chiefs, priests and important elders of the Effiduase and Ashanti community that were in attendance at the festival. Then our group took a place in the shade under a large tree and created a circle for Nana to perform in because she had become possessed by a god who wanted to attend the festival. Her drummers played and she performed, then she encouraged her priestesses in training to dance as well. Then other possessed priests and gods came to our space to enjoy the drumming and to dance. After this introduction to the festival everyone on the fairground traveled like a herd of cattle back into the bush behind the police headquarters. We all traveled back to visit the river the festival was for. As we got deep into the bush we were instructed to remove our shoes because it was sacred ground. The wet mud was slimy and cold and felt very good on the feet. Once back in the bush many gods performed in isolated and many groups in a tiny area cleared away for people to visit. Nana introduced me to the keeper of the river shrine and we offered libation to the god. The priest in charge of libations prayed to the god for me and told me to pray to my god as well to thank him for everything African has done for me. Then Nana brought me to the chiefs circle to shake his hand again. Here Nana and I performed a dance together for those in that vicinity, they were very pleased but Nana was especially happy about the dance. Then I wandered around with my Ghanaian brother viewing and videoing a variety spiritual dances performed my different gods. I was then offered the opportunity to visit the river. There was a path for the men and a path for the women to go down and visit the river so I went down on my own since my guides were all men. When I got to the river, which appeared more like a small pond or puddle, I saw women writhing around in the water, bathing in the water or standing in and around the water. I observed women put their petitions up to the river god as they washed in the river. They soon instructed me to do the same. They took it upon themselves to discover what my needs were and ask the god for it for me. Somehow they figured out I needed a husband and shouted blessing of husband to the god as they splashed me with water. After that exciting experience we followed the festival participants as they created a parade through the town of Effiduase to escort the chief back to his Palace. Then everyone took a break to eat and in the evening they continued the festival with a large common circle where multiple drum ensembles had set up to play for the gods who came to attend the festival. The same thing was repeated the next day but I did not attend.

Heather Gemperline Female, 21 English 391: Introduction to Folklore


Fall Semester 2011 Jacqueline Thursby BYU Individual Collection Item Nana Dwomoh October 20, 2011 and November 23, 2010 Effiduase and Asamang, Ashanti Region, Ghana Genre: Customary Folklore Title of Item: Komfo Dwomoh dancing. Informant Data Name: Nana Dwomoh Gender: Male Birthplace: Asamang, Ashanti Region, Ghana Home Region: Ashanti Region Age: 32 years Relation to Collector: Research informant and dance teacher Occupation: Fetish Priest Ethnic: Ghanaian- Daknii Clan Religion: Traditional Worhip- Akm Other:
I saw Komfo Dwomoh perform at the Effiduase festival in October. His dancing was very impressive and I wanted to learn dance from him. I recognized him at the Agona market at the beginning of November and set up a time to come to his shrine to meet his gods and take some dance lessons.

Social Data:

My Ghanaian brother filmed these clips on my digital camera and flip video camera at the Effiduase Festival.

Cultural Data:

Priests have certain days that gods come to possess them. This provides times that the worshippers can expect to speak and consult with the gods. Every shrine is different. I felt the main purpose of consultation and performance at this shrine was to make money. But Komfo Dwomohs dancing was fantastic and his performance showed me that he really enjoyed performing so I felt that I wanted to know more from him. But I soon learned that it was the priests who didnt care to impress others or make money but cared only to be obedient and do what the gods told them to that were more believable and real to me. Komfo Dwomoh was a very talented dancer but the authenticity of his shrine is debatable. But I still believed there were spiritual aspects he must believe in, even if his dance performances are more presentational then true possession as I had seen at other shrines such as Nana Akua Nsuos. 60


The dancing Komfo Dwomoh did at the Effiduase festival was in the large circle that all spectators created for the performance of the priests and gods. Because he is wearing jeans in this dance I am led to believe that he was not possessed by a god during this dance. He was just performing as a priest, and probably with the intention to impress. The video of him dancing with me is him teaching me spiritual dancing. He is possessed by a god in this video. We are dancing outside in the sun at his shrine that is deep into the bush outside Asamang. There was a small number of worshippers and spectators. This dance is much simpler than what he exhibited in Effiduase, but that is probably because it was all I could handle to learn.

Heather Gemperline Female, 21 English 391: Introduction to Folklore Fall Semester 2011 Jacqueline Thursby BYU


Individual Collection Item Heather Gemperline October 25, 2011 Asamang, Ashanti Region, Ghana Genre: Oral and Belief Folklore Title of Item: Personal reflection on spirituality and drumming. Informant Data Name: Heather Gemperline Gender: Female Birthplace: Salt Lake City, Utah, USA Home Region: Davis County, Utah Age: 21 years Relation to Collector: Informant is Collector Occupation: Student Avocation: Dancer Ethnic: USA Religion: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Other:
Part of my project was to ask questions for myself, to discover what spirituality meant to me and compare it with the beliefs of the Ghanaian people.

Social Data:

This item is a portion of a drumming journal reflection that I prepared for my dance accompaniment/drumming course I was taking while in Ghana.

Cultural Data:

Drumming is a huge part of the dancing in Ghana. The drums have a responsibility to call and invite gods, to make them happy, calm them down and communicate with them.

Item: In interviews I had with my drumming teacher Appiah he taught me how the
talking drum or master drum dictates the dance of a dancer. He said that the rhythm of a drum speaks to a dancer and tells them what to do and talks or communicates with them. A good friend of mine from the Obene Ne Bene shrine, George, gave me a written document about a traditional festish festival that occurs every 42 days. In this document he talks about the importance of the drums in the worship of ancestors who used to be village chiefs. He says,


The talking drum is usually made from Cedar tree. The Akans believe that cedar contains spirits. It is therefore important to call upon its name first. This is how the drummer addresses the cedar: Wood of the drum, Tweneboah Akwa Wood of the drum, Tweneboah kodua Wood of the drum, Kodua tweneduro I am calling you to come I am learning, let me succeed. I took drumming lessons while I was in Ghana from a drummer at the Obene ne Bene Shrine. His name was Appiah. He came over 3 times a week for lessons in the evening. Sometimes he would bring other drummers with him so we could have an ensemble and maybe dance some. Other times it was a one-on-one lesson. The first few lessons were short and simple. Appiah brought a different drum to teach me on to each lesson. First we started with a small drum with a small head and slender body they called an adedemma drum. It required two slender sticks to be played. He taught me a simple rhythm on this drum and then he let me practice playing the rhythm with an ensemble that included the bell, a larger version of the drum I was playing and a donno drum. A donno drum is a cylindrical drum with two heads attached by leather strings played under the armpit that produces a different sound when squeezed against the body then when released; it is played with a curved stick to reach the head. Though the rhythm was simple I felt overwhelmed during my first lesson. The next lesson he taught me to play a simple rhythm with my hands on a drum with a larger head that had a round body below the head that changed into a skinny cylinder shape at the bottom to rest on the ground. They taught me that the name of this drum was the apentima drum. You held this drum on a slant away from your body and between your legs just as you do a djembe drum. The next lesson I was taught two simple rhythms on the donno drum. One rhythm was identical to the first rhythm I learned on the adedemma drum and this drum worked my arm muscles in an entirely new and exhausting way. In order to teach me the rhythms Appiah would play the rhythm on the drum over and over for me. I would mimic the rhythm on my legs along with Appiah once I felt comfortable joining. Then he would turn the drum or the sticks over to me and I would replicate what he was just doing. If I was doing it wrong I would see it in his face or know because of the shake of his head. Then he would take the stick or drum from me and hit the drum harder to make a corrective point to me which I had to guess at. I was doing a lot of guessing because Appiah didnt speak English and couldnt verbally instruct or correct me. The first few lessons were short because Appiahs plan was to start with the simple rhythms and to focus on one drum at a time at each lesson until we got to the Master/Talking drum where he would go deeper into the rhythms and improvisation. This worked well for me because I was scared I wasnt going to be able to pick up the rhythms without written music to read in front of me. I was not confident I had 63

enough auditory intelligence that would allow me to fit in the ensemble and listen to all the other parts and hold my own as well. The first few lessons were overwhelming but exhilarating. I really struggled to concentrate and keep my own rhythm, to stay on tempo and to hit with the energy that Appiah wanted me to. But I grew more confident as the lessons came and went and I realized that I was not only keeping up with the drummer but I was picking up new rhythms more quickly than I thought I would. Drumming in the end became a very empowering experience for me. My feelings during drumming lessons. Anticipating my first drumming lesson in October I began to feel anxious and scared. I didnt know what to expect and I didnt know how my drumming lessons were going to be taught and how I would get along with the teacher. I didnt know how quick I would catch on, if I would at all or if it would be too difficult for me. There is much I could describe about my feelings of anxiety leading up to the lessons, but I feel these are common feelings anyone can imagine and understand since feelings of inadequacy are common to feel at some point in ones life. Therefore, I want to focus this paper on the thoughts and feelings that I felt during my lessons once they started because I feel they are more valuable to expand upon due to their uniqueness. At least to me personally I rarely feel so enlightened by an artistic experience and while drumming I had epiphanies about ideas on spirituality and repetition that have really affected my life, I think for the better. My main purpose to be in Ghana was to research the way individual Ghanaians perceive spirituality in dance. So the topic of spirituality was always at the forefront of my brain and the question I most asked myself in regards to this topic was How do Ghanaians define spirituality? It seemed their ideas were a world away from what my ideas were. Drumming one night is what led me, I believe, to understand the way Ghanaians define spirituality a little better. When I spoke with different priests and priestesses in town about spirituality and what their job was at the shrines they took care of I was often given the idea that spirituality was what was unseen. They would talk about juju - the use of evil spirits and evil power to harm someone- and witchcraft and also about river gods and wind gods helping people out with what they petitioned to the gods that they needed help with. The work that the gods and witches do is real to the Ghanaians who believe in these traditional beliefs but the power and methods the gods and witches use to do their work is unseen because it is spiritual in nature. This idea of spirituality really helped me see how drumming and dance could be viewed as a spiritual experience or activity. This is what I wrote in my journal: I gained some interesting epiphanies while drumming tonight and it really just amazes me that while trying to concentrate so hard that my mind could veer off and be so enlightened. My thoughts turned to spirituality and whether there was significance in the drumming. I soon discovered that I myself believed it was. They always (shrine people) say things that are spiritual are not seen and the way the drums just make you want to move, the way it conducted all the children to gather around, and to dance, it just cannot be explained. There is an 64

invisible connection between people, the human body and drums, and music, heck to art. Theres an unseen yearning to create, perform and it cant be explained. Thanks to the way the drumming led me to free my mind and open up to new ideas I was able to make some interesting conclusions about the definition of spirituality in Ghana and for myself. I concluded that spirituality could be defined as energy, a power source that affects people, that unites people, that causes us to act and feel certain ways. In relation to art, dance and drumming, spirituality is found in that energy source that causes us to want to move to the rhythms we hear and allows us to build connections and relationships with those we share in performing with and in performing for. I do not know if it was just that my mindset was right for thinking these thoughts but I think the act of drumming had something to do with the way my mind was opened to these new thoughts because of this next experience I am going to share regarding the repetition involved in drumming. Ill let my journal entry tell the story. Another spiritual notion came in my repetition. I couldnt believe how long I could hold on to a rhythm, especially as my mind would wander or Id become distracted I just had to let my hands take over! I couldnt understand it. As I would allow the rhythm to come naturally my mind would wander and ponder, sometimes the strangest things, very random and other times I would have an epiphany. But always I would try to regain conscious control, and come back to concentrating on just the rhythm, Id try to concentrate and count out the pattern as I had organized it in my head when I first started playing the rhythm. But always when I came back to it the rhythm sounded different, like it had changed. No one told me it was wrong I just heard and saw it from a new perspective. This experience gave me new insight on life. It taught me that as we repeat things in life such as Sunday school lessons, dance routines, we can gain new perspectives and understandings. Because as the experience or activity becomes natural it can begin to appear fresh and new as we continue to pay attention to it. Sometimes what is required is a break, a brief time when we relinquish control just as I did when I allowed my mind to wander and for my hands to do their thing naturally, so that we can return to our concentration with a fresh perspective. I feel this was a spiritual epiphany because it opened my mind to see things from a new perspective that has motivated me to respond differently to repetitive experiences, instead of becoming impatient and annoyed an a repeated experience I will now try to learn something new and glean more from the experience then I did the last time. Or I will choose to take a step back and refresh myself from the repetition so I can gain a different perspective on the situation or activity when I come back to concentrate on it after the break. This experience also really helped validate my entire experience in Ghana. I really needed the break from school, from sitting in a desk or dancing in a studio. I had been at BYU for three years and it was beginning to seem that the next two years to graduation would be the same old thing as the previous three. But studying abroad in a new culture has provided me the break I needed. And it wasnt a complete 65

break either, I was still working hard and learning and earning credit, it was just a break from the normal way college is accomplished. And now that I am home I hope I can find a new perspective towards school to help motivate me to finish my undergraduate work strong and with as much interest and life as I felt I had when I first came to college, when it was new and exciting and non-repetitive. Drum lessons were often the best part of my day in Ghana. Especially at the beginning when everything was new and exciting, as most all experiences are from the scratch(a Ghanaian way of saying from the beginning). I looked forward to them so much and was very disappointed when they were cancelled. It was awesome to play in a real authentic Ghanaian ensemble. It felt like a dream many times when I looked up at the dark, starry African sky and just felt and listened to the rhythms of the music we were making. It felt so good to be a part of the group and even with the frustrations of learning I really grew to love Appiah and his drumming buddies because of the time they spent helping me learn their culture and drumming traditions. But eventually the lessons too became the norm, and sometimes a repetition of the lesson given previously. This is when things became frustrating and I began to lose motivation and concentration because I wasnt being taught new material but was struggling with the same rhythms over and over with the talking drum. This is when Appiah started to introduce dance parties to the end of my lessons. I think this was a wise choice that matched the principles in my epiphany about repetition. I needed a break from drumming, I needed to dance like my body wanted to when it heard the whole ensemble play together, and even this experience informed me more about the responsibility of drummers. I can recall one particularly frustrating night and Appiah suggested I dance however I want to the drum he was playing. This release was just the break I needed and when I came back the next day to our lesson I felt motivated and more interested in working hard to get the rhythm I was struggling with. I think part of the reason was I wanted to please Appiah even more because I was grateful for what he had done for my emotions the night before by allowing me to dance and release my tension physically. There were many times that it was reaffirmed to me that taking a break is important in gaining a new perspective, and sometimes the new perspective is the key to moving forward and progressing. I learned over and over that spirituality has a lot to do with the energies that are unseen that dictate the activities of our universe. I am grateful for these drumming lessons because it helped me stay sane in Ghana, it helped me learn the life lessons I hoped to learn on my cultural adventure, and it informed my research in such a way that I was better able to glean constructive answers from Ghanaians about spirituality in my interviews. Who thought a simple drumming lesson would benefit me in so many ways.

Heather Gemperline Female, 21 English 391: Introduction to Folklore


Fall Semester 2011 Jacqueline Thursby BYU

Individual Collection Item Heather Gemperline and Boateng September-December 2011 Gadawu Shrine, Asamang, Ashanti Region, Ghana Genre: Customary, Oral, and Belief Folklore Title of Item: What I learned from the Gadawu shrine Informant Data Name: Heather Gemperline; Boateng Gender: Female; Male Birthplace: Salt Lake City, UT; Asamang Home Region: Utah; Ashanti Region Age: 21; N/A Relation to Collector: Collector; Research informant Occupation: Dance Education Student; Shrine owner Avocation: Dancer, Drummer, Reseacher, Traveler; N/A Ethnic: USA; Ghanaian Religion: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Traditional Fetish


I participated and observed the Gadawu priest be possessed and dance. I interviewed the priest and the shrine owner and other assistants at the shrine and 67

participated in dancing at the Gadawu shrine myself. I needed to include Boateng on this item as well because it is only by his permission that I am granted to share this video and information.

Social Data:

My Ghanaian brother King filmed me the video of me dancing at the Gadawu shrine on the flip video camera. We were given permission by the gods to record in that manner. The other information listed below is a summary of what I learned and heard from the shrine owner, the priests linguist and the priest himself about their religion and beliefs and about my dance performance. I kept a journal and reflections on my own personal findings and feelings about spirituality in my research process and they are included as well. These reflections show how my experience with African dance affected my sense of community, identity and health spiritually.

Cultural Data:

The priest had his linguist and the shrine owner speak to me for him. He was always present in conversations but did not often speak directly to me but would go through his assistants. I was allowed to perform at the Akwasidae festival they were having because the opportunity to dance in the circle to the drums, to praise the god, and to entertain and have fun is an invitation open to everyone, even the me, the white girls.


The Gadawu Shrine was located downtown Asamang. It was a compound that house many individuals but also had a room set aside as the stool house where the priests smocks and props were stored and where worshippers of the gods at the Gadawu shrine could enter for consultations. The performance area was a square. The dirt was red and dry. The drummers and choir supporting the ensemble stood around and behind the drummers on one side of the compound. There were stairs on the side of the compound adjacent to the drummers where children danced and hung around. The side across from the drummers had benches where I and my Ghanaian brother King sat with the other spectators and worshippers at the shrine. The last side of this square performance area was where the elders of the community and other priests sat and the entrance to the stool house was. By the time the priest called me up to dance with him it was dark and the evening had come. There were many spectators from town and regular worshippers who had formed a large circle around the performance space. The priest called me up and gestured for me to follow him in his dance. I followed and copied him. The crowd roared when I spun quickly around as the priest did. The priest at times would step back into the crowd of drummers and singers and allow me to do my own dance. I used my own creativity, tried to move to the way the drums made me feel, and replicated some of the dancing I had seen another priestess perform at another shrine. This made the crowd very happy and they cheered loudly for me. After I was finished dancing the shrine keeper and priest invited me into the stool house to share some thoughts with me about my performance and my purpose in studying dance in Ghana. These comments and what I learned from them in consequent visits and interviews are listed in this item.


Journal Excerpt #1:The priest, the shrine owner, and another man they call Mr. Accra and some other men were in the stool house. We visited them for a while I began some interview questions and Mr. Accra mostly answered them, maybe because he was the one with the best English or maybe he was the linguist. I asked him about dance, to tell me more about it. In his response he kept referring to the dance the priest does and what occurs @ the shrine to be natural dance. I loved this term because that is what I am feeling spiritual dance is here. Every shrine has different gods, drummers, and rhythms and dancers so it seems those dancing with a spiritual purpose really are just following what feels natural in their body to do and to move. I feel this as I am watching the dances and hearing the music. I naturally want to move, I naturally want to join and when I have joined it has felt natural and I think thats because the natural course of dance here in the community allows anyone to freely move and perform and be supported. I felt very comfortable dancing when everyone was cheering and supporting me. It is very natural when it makes you feel more a part of the community. And thats what Mr. Accra said about being a spectator of the dance. He said watching it can help you; it brings joy to the human being and is very unifying like being part of a family. I asked if they thought the priest, though 58 years old, was still so lively and health because of dancing and they agreed he did. I wonder if I was looking for my own answer by asking this pointed of a question. They said also though that the priest couldnt dance 30 minutes on his own but when he is possessed he can dance for 3 hours! I asked about the choir and the shakers at the Gadawu events. I wondered if these individuals were specially called to perform. They said no, anyone was invited to join in the singing and accompaniment. I asked whether those who worshipped at the shrine did because of tradition as their parents did, or if people came from Christianity. They said adults make their own choices. So some follow their parents, and some come from Christianity. They accept anyone. It seems they are or there is a large amount of acceptance within different belief systems here. There are no hard feelings to those who change faiths from what I have observed thus far. They just allow people to act however they wish and dont feel they really judge them, at least outwardly. When I began to question more about the dance I got the comment from the priest htat he couldnt really talk about the dance because it was the gods that possessed him. I asked Mr. Accra if he knew what the dance meant and he said he didnt know what the priest was doing. They didnt need to know what anything meant. I asked about some specific actions I had observed the priest do last time I saw him possessed and Mr. Accra couldnt explain why. Does the priest know why? I asked whether others asked these questions about the meaning I was asking about and they said no because they were the same people, with same understanding. Does that mean that it is just understood that you dont question what occurs? Is it even criticized to be blind belief? 69

Journal Excerpt #2: I feel so sick!! I just danced with the priest and O my! The spinning and cardio! They called King up to ask if I was a runner because I looked like I was getting tired and should rest! I was grateful because I had done one dance and then they figured out how to video in the very end and told me to dance again. But I was already so tired! But, that African dance boy, it just makes you go, go, go. Afterwards the priest and director wanted to congratulate me. They gave me the best compliments. They said I was the best dancer of them all! That dance was my talent and I needed to work to prove it to everyone. Aw, I was just so moved and felt so accomplished! It felt so good to have everyone clapping and supporting me, to close in and surround me. And as we walked out people yelled Good job! or You did great! and Kwadwo and King and Rebecka were so awesome and complimentary too! King took my hand and showered me with praises! He was so sweet, especially when I was feeling so sick!

Heather Gemperline Female, 21 English 391: Introduction to Folklore Fall Semester 2011 Jacqueline Thursby BYU

Individual Collection Item Kwaku Appiah November 16, 2011 Konya, Asamang, Ashanti Region, Ghana Genre: Customary Folklore Title of Item: Dance and drumming of the master drummer. Informant Data Name: K. Appiah Gender: Male Birthplace: Asamang Home Region: Ashanti region Age: 27

Relation to Collector: Drumming teacher Occupation: Mason and drummer Avocation: Drumming in a cultural group and at fetish shrine Ethnic: Ghanaian- Aduana Clan Religion: Traditional Fetish Worship Other:
Appiah was a talented and professional drummer who was also well trained in spiritual and cultural dance.

Social Data:

I recorded Appiah drumming and dancing at the Obene Ne Bene Shrine on my flip video camera.

Cultural Data:

The setting is at the Obene Ne Bene Shrine. Nana is in the stool house closer to her home and the river and is preparing to be possessed. The drummers, singers, and other worshippers are congregating around the performance space set aside for the performance of the gods. The drummers are warming up and playing their drums as they wait for the gods. The drumming gradually becomes more focused and is soon intended as a call to the gods to come and perform for them. While the drums are being played and people are waiting people begin dancing for fun and entertainment. Appiah, usually the master drummer, took the opportunity to perform on this occasion. He left the other drummers to accompany him and took the floor.


Appiah probably felt like dancing because I had my camera out. He wanted to impress me, being a white girl and a student of Ghanaian cultural studies. But I could witness in his face that his focus and concentration was not just only on entertainment and impressing those watching. His energy and attention to the dance and the drums was a sign of devotion and belief to me. His dance taught me that he truly believes in spiritual power found in the rhythm of the drums and he connects physically to the spiritual world through dance. Ive included footage of him drumming as well as dancing because I feel in order to understand spiritual dance you cannot leave out the drummer or drumming aspect. When Appiah plays the drums he is very focused on the needs, commands and desires of the visiting gods. He evidences this in his concentrated face on the dance and performance, his direction and leadership to the other drummers to do what the gods ask of them, and his skill, passion, and professional knowledge of drumming, song, and dance that exhibited to me in lessons, performances and interviews.

Heather Gemperline Female, 21 English 391: Introduction to Folklore Fall Semester 2011 Jacqueline Thursby


Individual Collection Item Osei- Owusu Godwin October 28, 2012 Asamang, Ashanti Region, Ghana Genre: Oral Folklore Title of Item: A Linguists view on spirituality and dance. Informant Data Name: Godwin Gender: Male Birthplace: Asamang Home Region: Ashanti Region

Age: 27 Relation to Collector: Research participant Occupation: Shop Owner Avocation: Linguist for priestess of Obene Ne Bene Shrine Ethnic: Ghanaian Religion: Traditional Fetish Worship Social Data:
I interviewed Godwin at the Obene Ne Bene shrine one Friday morning before the gods came to possess Nana, the priestess. Godwin and I sat with my Ghanaian brother King on plastic chairs beneath the canopy built to protect Nanas cars. Godwin spoke English fairly well but King also helped Godwin say what he was trying to explain to me. I took notes by paraphrasing Godwins answers in my field note journal. Note that he did not always directly answer my questions, but he always had something to share in response to my questions prompts.

Cultural Data:

A linguist is the translator of the gods. Linguists are required to understand what the different bodily gestures, languages or other means of communication that the gods use are. They report back to the priest when she/he is not possessed about what the god communicated to the worshippers. He is expected to stay at the side of any god that visits the shrine through possession and assist them in whatever they need. The linguist can distinguish between each individual god. This allows him to know what outfits the current god possessing the priest needs, this tells in turn lets the worshippers know which god is presently before them.


A linguist of a shrine can be seen dressing the possessed priest/priestess in different outfits, translating words for the gods to those consulting with them, pouring and covering the possessed priest in cowlin powder, participating and assisting in animal sacrifices and directing other assistants of the priest/priestess at the shrine.

Interview with Nanas Linguist 1. Describe your job. a. He is required to communicate what the gods want to the worshippers and the priest when they are no longer possessed. b. Godwin is required to know the signs of which god is present. For example he knows when Nana becomes possessed by her body behavior and then if she starts shaking her foot as she is sitting in the traditional stool then he knows a certain female god has possessed her and in turn knows which outfit to dress her in. 2. Why are you in this responsibility? Could someone else do your job? a. Nana is his grandmother, so it could be a family responsibility. 73

b. He is seeking assistance from the gods and therefore he worships them every Friday and Sunday. He believes they will help him with his shop. c. A linguist must be chosen by the gods. If another linguist came along it would be his responsibility to train them, but it is possible for someone else to do, but it is only him at the moment. d. He slaughters a sheep every 40 days because of a covenant that he has made with the gods. e. He became the linguist when the priestess took notice of his devotion and consistent worship at the shrine and called to ask him if he would become the linguist and be trained at the shrine. Hes been a linguist for 10 years. 3. What do you like about your job at the shrine? a. Playing music, the drummers and dance. b. Knowing things that are going on in the spiritual world and hearing the advice of the gods. c. He likes the entertainment aspects as well as the care and direction he receives spiritually from the gods. d. Spiritual World= wizards and witches. He described that all things are created spiritually then physically. He gave the example of a car, saying it is first created in the spiritual world and then physically in our world. e. He compared worshipping gods to being similar to the Roman Catholic tradition of praying to saints. 4. What is difficult about your job? a. The competition and jealousy between priests is difficult. At the festival in Effiduase which we attended together he mentioned that the priests try to disgrace other priests because of envy. b. Other priests are especially envious of Nana because she was a special guest at the festival because of what a powerful and prominent priestess she is in Ashanti Region. The festival did not begin until she arrived. This made his job difficult because he is required to always protect her and people want to harm her. c. Sometimes dwarves come to the shrine and it is hard to know how to dress them. Dwarves are short, bearded spiritual creatures that are believed to live in virgin forests. They are beings to be feared and often seen as possessing dark magic. They can possess the priest instead of gods sometimes and it is difficult to understand and please them and you have to just patiently wait for them to leave. d. Hard to interpret sometimes. The Twi dialect spoken in the Brongahafo region of Ghana is different and is hard to understand. Sometimes he is not prepared with the proper clothes for the gods and has to quickly run to the storage place to retrieve them. This could make the gods angry and that would make his job harder. 5. Is traditional belief a part of your identity? Does it affect how you see yourself? a. Apart from those who attend the shrine with him he does not describe himself as a linguist to people. He fears and doesnt want people to tell him to go to church (Christian). He says that everyone gets to choose 74

their own religion, because he was raised by a father who was a pastor in a Christian church. 6. Would you believe in these things if you didnt have the linguist responsibility? a. He said he would still worship at the shrine. b. But no one is abandoned from going to a Christian church who also worships at the shrine. He and Nana still pay tithes to the Catholic Church. 7. What is the purpose of festivals like the one I attended in Effiduase? a. The festival we went to in Effiduase was one of the largest ones in Ashanti region. b. It was for one of the biggest river gods. c. The festival was performed by their ancestors so they must continue to perform the festival every year as tradition. 8. Do you train to be a linguist? a. Becoming a linguist is a gradual process. He is of no relation to Nana (I know this contradicts his response to question 2, I decided for myself that he saw Nana as a grandmother figure.) b. He was once sick and was brought to the shrine for medicine. He was sick for 3 years so he was diligently at the shrine for 3 years and over that course of time he learned everything he needed to know because he was around it so much. Most only come to the shrine for holidays. c. He received an item from inside of a ram he sacrificed last Akwasidae and it serves him as protection. He pours libation on it every day before going to work because he believes this gift from the gods aids his business. 9. Can you ask gods to speak to you about the purpose or style of their dance? Why their dance is how it is and why they do what they do? a. Most of the dances he didnt know the meaning for. But many of the meanings in the Adowa dance are the same for the gestures and movements in the gods dances. b. He knows that the other gods are daughters and songs of the main river god. And the frontonfrom should only be played for the river god. 10. How do you think dance aids in spirituality and worship at the shrine? a. He agreed that dance is a form of worship. b. If you offend the river you have to put one hand in the palm of the other hand while dancing to ask forgiveness. If you lean your body on the river god it symbolizes that all of you, your arms, and legs are for the god. Its a dance act of devotion. c. Can see if god is angry by way they dance and only some worshippers can discern it. d. He was born at a palace so not everybody can know like he does what the gods dance communicates. He wants to know more and does dance to the drums sometimes. But he wont dance on the Akwasidae festival because he is too busy taking care of the gods. Our interview was concluded with his advice to us. He gave us some sample questions that we might like to ask Nana about when we finally got to interview her. 75

Below are the questions he suggested and they were very useful for my interview with Nana (see Item 9). Why dont you drink from the river? Why do you need a well? What are the statues at the shrine representative of? Why did she stretch the bridge outside the entrance gate to her compound over the river? What was the ram object she gave the linguist at the last Akwasidae festival? How did she get the image of what the river god looks like? Can you visit the river?

Heather Gemperline Female, 21 English 391: Introduction to Folklore Fall Semester 2011 Jacqueline Thursby BYU