Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Far away street festivals

I do not and  have never lived in Ghana, but I do follow several Ghanaian blogs.  In fact, blogs from Ghana  first made me aware that the blogosphere exists.  Two years ago, my  upper elementary students represented Ghana at the Montessori Model UN . Before they could begin researching to write their position papers, they studied Ghanaian geography, history, and culture for many months.   I tried to bring in some aspects of Ghanaian culture as well.  Students at a Ghanaian  Montessori school became our pen-pals (and almost our guests, but that is another story).  We cooked groundnut soup,  tried carving adinkra symbols (inauthentically, out of balsa wood), and listened to a learning Twi CD each day at lunch (The only language I could find).  While researching indigenous/women's/children's rights, and carbon emissions the boys found a riveting blog about coffins shaped like fish, cell phones, and other things (sorry, don't know the name of that blog..).   Let me just tell you that the CIA World Fact book did not come close to generating as much enthusiasm.  I encouraged the boys to read more Ghana related blogs for different insight than what they got from academic papers.  And, I started following blogs too.

Sometimes a controversial subject hits the blogosphere.  One blogger's response to a street festival in Jamestown  created a small storm recently.    I don't usually share my opinion, because I am an outsider, more than 5000 miles away from the action.  I'm going to go out on a limb and say that it is impossible, impossible, to really get a place without living there for several years, maybe longer. All humans share fundamental needs, yes, but  many jokes, social conventions, and political nuances don't translate cross-culturally.  Sometimes it is better to listen.  But,  I'm in the mood to write tonight.

Chale Wote:   From the descriptions that I read it seemed like the type of interactive, and creative situation that I can believe in. Anyway, one blogger dissed the festival.   She suggests that the money spent on this festival could have been better used to buy food.    She asks, "What is art when you are hungry?"

It is a good question.  What is art when you are hungry?  Another question that I like is: What is food when you are spiritually starved?    Would resources be better used  for bulk foodstuffs?   Or would  the food have been enjoyed, and forgotten?

I will not say that food is not important, or that hunger cannot undermine an individual's desire to create.  It just seems opaque to suggest that a community should not celebrate art until all sewage and hunger issues have been resolved.  Surely, helping people find an opportunity to demonstrate their strength and creativity, will have a positive effect on the community.  Rich or poor, we have the same fundamental needs.  We need food, shelter, water....but aren't abstract needs such as spirituality, communication, and art also important?  I hope there is increased presence of  festivals like Chale Wote.  I always like a good street festival.  And I hope that Chale Wote keeps going.


  1. Hey, I haven't been here in a while. Yours is (I think) a good and sensible view of art and hunger.

  2. Nice to see you and thanks. I kept it impersonal, but the negative article did shock me. From way over here:)