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© 2003
Center for Black Studies
Updated

William Jones
Visiting Researcher

“MAASAI WARRIOR”
Shepherd from
Maasai Mara, safari region,
Kenya, East Africa
art, photography,
digital media by
William Jones

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ETHNOGRAPHIC EXPERIENCES

MY TRIP TO GHANA
Journal entry: Summer 2001

All is well out here. A year has passed already and my contract is complete. I was supposed to lecture for two semesters and the year is already finished. Time flies. I asked for my assignment to be extended and they (the administration) never responded, but they assigned more classes than I had the other previous two semesters. I am still teaching computer graphics to high school art teachers, but now I am also teaching them how to illustrate.

I feel there is more to learn out here and contribute out here so I decided to stay longer. I have traveled from the south (Christian city atmosphere and western) to the north (Muslim village atmosphere and middle eastern). For the art education department, I brought back books for the library and a computer for my classroom.

I am currently working on a three freelance projects:
promotional publication for the University of Education in Winneba
a freelance brochure for a gold jewelry merchant
the graphic promotional items for Panafest. Panafest is a Pan-African festival held every two years to commemorate Africa’s independence and quest for unity. It is a festival held in July. I expect it to be a lot of fun; there will be visitors and performers from all over the world. I will return to the states after Panafest.

I want to complete these projects in addition to lecturing five new classes and traveling around the country with my camera, mobile phone, and backpack. I am the youngest lecturer in my department, and actually younger than most of my students. My students are returning teachers who are back to upgrade their skills. I do not want to teach only and let my skills get out of shape. So I still do freelance work to stay in creative shape. The other lecturers hardly do art any more; they are content to tell the students what to do. I still have my career ahead of me when I return.

It is not easy out here but I do a lot of traveling. My budget is a little greater than my time so I am trying to use my time wisely and travel often to see and witness as much as possible. In addition to freelance work, which pulls me to different cities, I try to go to different cultural and traditional festivals. Different groups have different events as rituals according to their region’s specific traditions. As the country becomes more and more Christian, and westernized, a lot of these traditions are not being kept alive nor passed down to future generations. Unfortunately, It is called “progress and development.” I feel tradition and culture is what makes people unique and special. But, what can I do? Change a whole cultural transition by myself?

I have met a lot of folks from other places. I know several Liberian refugees (their country is currently having a civil war) who emulate their stereotype of African-Americans. That is not a compliment since their only example of African-American culture is the hip-hop videos. I think it makes the youth feel modern and tough.
At the marketplace, the Ghanaians over-price foreigners, there are no set prices. It is a bartering society where prices fluctuate daily so they all want to charge high prices. They all think Americans have money. The impression comes from U.S. media giving the impression on news and radio that all citizens are wealthy. This is one long adventure and that is how I am treating it.

PART 2

After weighing the pros and cons, I have decided to extend my stay here. I made that decision based on the fact that I am finally adapting to the momentum out here. It has taken a while because everything is so different. But I can stand the time. It is not all bad. The weather is tropical and most of the people are friendly. There is good and bad everywhere, including my home in New York. The university likes my work and I have other opportunities out here. I am meeting a lot of positive African-Americans over here who are trying to uplift the society over here. The nightlife is wonderful, especially the parties in Accra (the capital). Everything is inexpensive here, so you can go to several locations in the same night. No shootouts, no fighting, cold winters, and police harassment. There are also beach parties every Sunday if I feel like staying in Accra the entire weekend.
I am focusing on my art, both graphic and painting It is challenging with the strain on my time from both teaching and traveling. After the summer I will return. I do miss home, but who knows when I will have an opportunity like this to travel again? Once I come home, it is back to the grueling industry rush of trying to do five things in a New York minute. This is good therapy. To work and travel, the perfect combination.