This week was a totally different experience for me. It isn’t very often that we actually get the opportunity to experience first hand some of the things we’ve been studying. We were lucky enough to have Nani Agbeli, an Ewe artist, come and not only give us a demonstration on the art of batiks but also give a presentation on the music and dance of the Ewe people of Ghana.
We spent some time this week looking at adinkra cloths, with their various symbolic designs and patterns. For some reason, when we started studying these I never connected it to the actual process of batiking. I was introduced to batiks in high school where we were asked to draw out a pattern, choose a certain color scheme, and use paintbrushes to apply the wax. It was interesting to see how much of the process is the same, and yet I had no knowledge of the history or meaning behind batiks to some cultures. Nani Agbeli explained a lot about what batiking meant. It was especially interesting to learn more about the various stamps, which we got to use when making our own batiks. That made a more solid connection between the images we have been studying in class and how they are actually used. There are also different aspects we had been touching on in class, in which Nani Agbeli went into more depth on at his presentation in the Center for Multicultural Education later that night, pointing out how integrated music, dance, and the visual arts all are.
His presentation was another example of how witnessing their traditions first hand means so much more than simply reading about it. Actually getting to see Nani Agbeli dance, with his energetic movements and chanting, made it all seems so much more significant. Afterward, he talked about how the dances were a series of movements related to war and how some of the motions were directed towards the spirits, asking them for permission, guidance and protection. Knowing more about the significance of certain movements made it more meaningful as well. I haven’t decided whether joining in on the dancing at the end was my favorite or least favorite part. It was definitely out of my comfort zone, but I feel as if I got a deeper understanding of what he was really doing.
Overall, it was an amazing experience getting to not only learn about the art, music, and dance but to actually get to see and hear first hand some of the traditions of the Ewe people of Ghana.