4pm, December 1: Angele Kingue, Leanne Trout Chair, Bucknell University

venusPresented by the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies.

Venus of Khala-Kanti
is a tale of life-altering loss and mystical recovery. Set in an imaginary West African village that becomes a charming cul-de-sac, the unintended consequence of a national roadwork project gone awry, the story follows characters drawn with humor, irony, and empathy. The heart of the story beats with the laughter and tears of three women. Having faced incredible hardship, they come together to build their lives anew, armed with the age-old spirit of human resilience, understanding, and tenderness. Tapping into the very soil of Khala-Kanti, Bella, AngeleAssumta, and Clarisse construct spaces, both internal and external, where they and others can rejuvenate their bodies, minds, and spirits. They build the Good Hope Center, which embraces both the physical and the mystical landscape of the story. The Center fuels the restoration and growth of the village’s inhabitants, and offers sanctuary for those who visit and those who stay.


Seeding Labs Seeking Applicants and Reviewers for Instrumental Access

Instrumental Access is now open for applications.

We are looking for university departments located in low- and middle-income countries where the faculty are conducting strong scientific research and teaching the next generation, but need equipment to fully realize their work. The deadline for applications has been extended to 2 August 2015. Applications that are received by the original deadline of 15 July 2015 will be reviewed for completeness and can be resubmitted by the new deadline if necessary. Interested applicants can view the full Request for Applications on our website: seedinglabs.org/2015-rfa-instrumental-access/

Seeding Labs is also seeking volunteer reviewers to help us assess these applications later this fall.

Serving as a reviewer will give you a window into the diversity of research projects, the successes and the needs of global scientists and their students. By reviewing, you”ll have the chance to connect them with the equipment to continue pursuing their important work. Read our reviewer guidelines and sign up here: seedinglabs.org/reviewer-registration/

Please direct questions about applying or reviewing to: application@seedinglabs.org

Seeding Labs is a US-based nonprofit whose mission is to catalyze science research and education in developing countries. Our flagship program, Instrumental Access, provides high-quality scientific equipment for research and education to university departments in low- and middle-income countries at an affordable price. Since 2008 we have equipped labs in 13 countries with nearly $3M of equipment and supplies.

5 pm – Monday, February 16- Dr. Frank Anderson presents to the MichiGhana-Net Student Group

5:00-6:00 pm | 1080 S. University, Ann Arbor 48109 | International Institute Gallery School of Social Work | Room 1644

It’s an honor to have Dr. Anderson speak with us. He has extensive research experience in Ghana in maternal health and mortality. He is the director of the Global Initiatives program in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology and engages with several committees regarding maternal health including the Maternal Mortality Review Committee and the Michigan Maternal Accident Committee.

For more information on MichiGhana-Net : https://maizepages.umich.edu/organization/michighana/about

3 pm – Thursday, February 19, 2015 -Sanyu Amimo Mojola: Love, Money and HIV: Becoming a Modern African Woman in the Age of AIDS

500 S. State Street |  LSA Building Room 4154 | Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Sponsored by the Department of Sociology

Sanyu A Mojola is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Her research examines social structural processes underlying health disparities in a variety of settings including Kenya, South Africa, and Washington DC. Her current work uses mixed methods to examine gender disparities in HIV rates among African youth, the HIV epidemic among older adults in rural South Africa, and the HIV epidemic among African Americans in Washington DC. Her methodological specialty is combining qualitative methods (such as focus group and life history interviews) with quantitative methods (survey analysis) to answer research questions. She has published a book entitled Love, Money and HIV: Becoming a Modern African Woman in the Age of AIDS (University of California Press) which explores the question of how modern women in developing countries experience sexuality and love. She draws on interview, ethnographic, and survey data from her native country of Kenya to examine how young African women, who suffer disproportionate rates of HIV infection compared to young African men, navigate their relationships, schooling, employment, and finances in the context of economic inequality and a devastating HIV epidemic.  She has published articles in Signs, Social Science and Medicine, Studies in Family Planning, andPopulation and Development Review. Mojola received her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, where her dissertation was awarded the 2009 Richard Saller Dissertation Prize for the dissertation considered to be the most distinguished piece of scholarship across the Social Science Division of the University of Chicago in a given year.

Tuesday, February 17,2015 “Songs for Khwesi” with Refilwe Nkomo and special guest Antonio David Lyons

4:30-5:30 p.m. 5511 Haven Hall (DAAS Lemuel Johnson Center)

Please join us for a special performance of a work-in-progress choreopoem by visiting artist Refilwe Nkomo which will be followed by a discussion/dialogue. The piece deals with the issues surrounding the South African case of President Jacob Zuma accused of rape by “Khwesi” a young woman who tested positive for HIV, that ended with an acquittal for Zuma. We will discuss violence against women and men’s roles in preventing rape culture. The discussion will be facilitated by Refilwe Nkomo, who has worked with NGOs in South Africa focusing on gender and health,  and Antonio David Lyons, who is performing “We Are Here” across campus throughout the month. http://www.pambazuka.net/en/category/letters/33434

Final Discussions and Writing a Declaration

Yesterday was our last intensive day of site visits. Today’s sessions in Legon marked the culmination of the week’s visits and workshop’s goal to write a declaration about Ghana’s archaeology and cultural heritage sties. Our activities today were held at the University of Ghana’s (UGL) International House. Workshop organizers, Ray Silverman (University of Michigan, History of Art) and Kodzo Gavua (University of Ghana, Archaeology and Heritage Studies), led the discussions for the morning and afternoon sessions.

In the morning, three graduate students from the University of Michigan (Andrew Gurstelle, Travis Williams. and Allison Martino), summarized the week’s activities and began making connections between the site visits and some of the critical questions we began discussion at the start of the workshop. Next, William Gblerkpor continued yesterday’s discussion with a short presentation about the dissertation research he conducted at Krobo mountain. Following, the current director of the Ghana National Museum, Zagba Nahr Oyortey, shared his insights about the relationships between archaeology and museums, and his anticipated plans for new partnerships and future collaboration. We ended the morning session with campus visits to the bookshop and the Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies. Workshop participants visited the department’s archaeology museum, which currently features an exhibition on Ghana’s glass beads organized by Gertrude Aba Mansah Eyifa-Dzidzienyo, workshop participant and lecturer in the Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies at the University of Ghana.

After our break for lunch, we resumed our discussion with an intensive afternoon session to address major issues arising from our site visits. Some of the themes emerging from our discussion included: integrative approaches and attention to local community engagement, alternative museum spaces and conceptualizing museum as process, education and modes of communication, management practices, and the roles of heritage sites in cultivating social cohesion. The conversation then shifted to focusing on the goals and objectives for the declaration.

A five-person committee was formed to draft the declaration in the afternoon. After the committee met to draft the declaration, the session resumed as they presented the document to the group. The workshop participants then worked together to refine the declaration. By the close of the day’s activities, the participants successfully produced a declaration about Ghana’s archaeology and cultural heritage sites. It will soon be disseminated to important individuals and institutions in Ghana. The declaration represents the culmination of the workshop’s week-long activities and site visits, and participants hope that its recommendations will make a significant contribution to Ghana’s heritage sites.

To celebrate the workshop’s successes and our last evening in Ghana, we went to Chez Afrique, a popular restaurant in East Legon, for a dinner filled with delicious Ghanaian entrees and live music to enjoy on the outdoor patio. Tomorrow, the visiting participants from the UK, South Africa and the United States will return home. The completed declaration represents a significant accomplishment from the workshop. But the conversations with one another arising from our site visits were equally valuable experiences as workshop participants look ahead to future collaboration and continued discussion about the critical issues surrounding archaeology and cultural heritage sites in Ghana.

*Blog entry by Allison Martino, University of Michigan

Parks, Beads, and Coffins: Visiting Heritage Sites in Ghana’s Eastern Region

After visiting Elmina and other heritage sites in Ghana’s central region, the workshop participants returned to Accra. On Thursday, our last day of site visits, we traveled to Ghana’s eastern region and visited Shai Hills resource reserve, Krobo mountain, the Cedi bead factory in Odumase, and a “fancy” coffin workshop in Akuse.

Shai Hills Resource Reserve

Our first stop on Thursday morning was to the Shai Hills Resource Reserve. Located northeast of Accra, the site became a reserve a few years after Ghana’s independence from Great Britain in 1962. Ghana’s forestry commission currently manages the reserve. A family of baboons greeted us at the entrance area near the roadside. Many families of baboons make their home at the reserve, along with monkeys, antelopes, ostriches, and other animals. A guide from the reserve introduced workshop participants to the site at a reception area and joined us for our tour.


Shai Hills consists of grasslands, quarries, and hills where the Dangme organized settlements around the foothills and hilltops. We drove through the park, stopping in an open area near one of the hills where William Gblerkpor, lecturer in the Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies at the University of Ghana, shared more about the site’s archaeological importance: the site’s history dates to at least the 14th century; radio carbon tests suggests that the site dates to the 11th century. The Dangme first built settlements around the foothills. But during the 1300s, the settlements expanded upward on the hilltops where some terrace structures remain. The archaeological record at the site indicates a continuity of ceramic traditions used at the court or for puberty rites, in addition to burials and shrines dedicated to the gods. In 1892, the settlements were relocated from these ancient sites to an area 8km away, but some rites continued to be held at the ancient sites.

Next, we visited an area of the reserve that features a large open-air building. The World Bank built this structure as a “museum” in the mid-1990s. But the building has to yet to be realized as a functioning museum or to serve any other purpose. Instead, it is unfortunately an example of an unsuccessful heritage site. In its current state, the building is in poor condition from not serving any function other than a home to some of the animals living in the reserve. Consequently, this sparked an important conversation among participants about the factors and decisions that have resulted in the building’s current state. Additionally, it led to discussion about the site’s potential and possible ways to start using the building. This discussion centered on three important issues: first, this building exemplifies a common problem when outside companies take action without local involvement. Second, it also indicates the problem of maintenance at heritage sites when business plans are not made or upheld. For example, the World Bank did not seek local collaboration to build the structure or to develop a management plan, which prevented the community from using the space after it was constructed. Lastly, the building’s open-air plan and layout raises important conceptual issues regarding its intended function as a “museum.”

Krobo Mountain

After leaving Shai Hills, the workshop participants continued north to visit Krobo mountain. But en route to Krobo, maintenance problems with the bus returned and we were forced again to make impromptu arrangements. Luckily, two tro-tro buses came by that were nearly empty with only a few passengers. Tro-tros are refurbished minivans that are independently run and form the main bus system and the most affordable transportation option for Ghanaians. Instead of waiting for the bus to be repaired before we continued, we requested to have the tro-tros take us to Krobo mountain before they resume their normal route. After leaving our bus behind and boarding the tro-tros, we continued our journey to krobo mountain.


Arriving at Krobo mountain, we drove into the park along a winding gravel road. We soon reached an open clearing at the base of the mountain. William Gblerkpor introduced us to Krobo Mountain, the primary site of his PhD dissertation field research. Some of the workshop participants then hiked up the mountain to view the terraces that William described in his discussion of the site’s archaeological record. But the mid-day heat and steep, rocky terrain kept other participants from joining the hike, as they opted to explore the area surrounding the base of the mountain.

Cedi Bead Factory in Odumase

Our bus was still being repaired when we completed our visit at Krobo mountain. So we continued our travels in the tro-tro buses to Odumase, a town in Krobo known for glass bead making. Odumase features a large market selling glass beads and a bead festival (since 2009) that draws customers and visitors from throughout the country and abroad. Glass beads are important objects in Ghana’s archaeological record and have a long history as trade commodities in exchanges between Africa and Europe. In Krobo society, beads are important family heirlooms as they symbolize status and are often used in dipo puberty rites for girls entering womanhood.


During our visit to Odumase, we stopped at the Cedi Bead Factory to meet bead maker Cedi. He learned the trade at a young age from his family, and has since continued the family business. Cedi is actively involved in the economic and cultural dimensions of Krobo’s bead making industry: he serves as president of the Manya Korbo Bead Association and is a founding member of the Ghana Bead Society. During our visit, Cedi explained the processes involved to make glass beads. He demonstrated how to make five different types of beads: recycled antique beads, recycled transparent beads, recycled glass powder beads, glazed painted beads, and bodom beads.

The Royal Senchi Hotel

Following, we took a break for lunch at the Royal Senchi Hotel, a luxury hotel recently built in 2011 along the Volta River near Somanya and Denkyenyam. The hotel’s serene environment and upscale appeal as one of only a few four-star hotels in Ghana sharply contrasts daily life outside the hotel’s entrance gate. Its architectural design suggests broader reference to “African” design and its interior décor seeks to celebrate Ghana’s heritage as it features adinkra symbols, woven kente cloths, carved Akan wood stools, and wall hangings referencing akua’ba dolls. While we enjoyed the gourmet buffet lunch, we also discussed important issues that the hotel raises regarding heritage tourism in Ghana, including: the “invisible boundary” that separates access and involvement from the local community, and how heritage is visualized and commodified through reference to Ghanaian and African cultural practices.


“Fancy” Coffin workshop in Akuse

Following our lunch, we stopped at Cedi’s bead shop located separately from the bead factory along the roadside before traveling to our last site visit: a “fancy” coffin workshop in Akuse, a small town near Odumase-Krobo. “Fancy” coffins, sometimes referred to as “fantasy” coffins, are painted wood caskets carved to depict the deceased’s occupation or aspirations. At the “fancy” coffin workshop, participants had the opportunity to speak individually with the carpenters to learn more about the trade and view examples of their work on display. For example, some of the completed “fancy” coffins on display included: a bible, car and taxi, and a two-story white painted house. Other popular examples include cocoa pods and sugarcane for farmers, cameras for photographers, airplanes and other animals. Funerals are important religious and social events in Ghana, but the expensive costs associated with “fancy” coffins limits their use to elite families. The workshop we visited also manufactures plain wood caskets, a more affordable option for local customers.

IMG_0446 IMG_0449

“Fancy” coffins have also garnered international recognition for their creativity and imaginative designs. Consequently, these objects have gained additional roles as they are displayed in museum exhibitions and attract tourist visitors to their workshop. In addition to Akuse, “fancy coffin” workshops are especially prevalent along Accra’s coastal towns of Teshie and Nungua (notable carpenters include Kane Kwei and Paa Joe).

After visiting Akuse, we concluded our site visits for the day and returned to Legon. The range of our visits today – from natural, environmental heritage sites at Shai Hill and Krobo, to artistic cultural heritage practices at Odumase and Akuse, and lunch at the new Royal Senchi hotel – provided workshop participants with dynamic experiences to consider how heritage manifests in different forms.

*Blog entry by Allison Martino, University of Michigan