Glasgow Refugee Asylum and Migration Network (GRAMNet)

Bringing together researchers, practitioners and policy makers working with migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in Scotland

UNESCO Chair series: Reflections from our visit to Ghana and the Noyam African Dance Institute

1 August 2017

In this first post, Prof Alison Phipps reflects on her visit to Ghana and the Noyam African Dance Institute as part of the GCRF Project “Idioms of Distress, Resilience and Well-Being: Enhancing understanding about mental health in multilingual contexts”

Noyam dancers found a new level of artistic precision and energy last night, performing a piece which began with two bucolic folk tales from Bugandan tradition, and followed by Dangbe proverbs for resilience and wellbeing which culminated in two powerful scenes with back projection evoking those who could not join us but bringing their spirit centre stage and larger than life. Zimbabwe and the ‘Caged Bird’ of Gaza, together with Israel’s Apartheid Wall and the poetry of Darwish were recreated in dance, with calabash and wings. The finale took the form of a multilingual rap and a full tilt palogo dance.

It was filmed in its entirety for Ghana TV. It was standing room only in the auditorium.

After the show Nii-Tete Yartey, Gameli Tordzro and myself presented certificates to all participants, from the kitchen staff to the lead dancers. We celebrated Ben’s birthday by cutting a cake together on stage with costume genius Naa Densua Tordzro and then were deeply moved by the tributes on stage to the young people’s work by members of the community and parents. This beautiful presentation of a Calabash women’s Calabash heart was given in thanks for our work.

The post-show party was full of humour, gentle encouragement and then our final circle drew all the threads together into a wild dance of celebration on stage.
The piece was devised by Noyam Dancers with Akwei and Ewaama, music composed by Noyam Dancers lead by Gameli and Roscoe Kasujja with Obed. Costumes by Naa Densua Tordzro, dramaturgy by myself, lighting, tech and film crew Sedom and Eli Tordzro, publicity John Owoo, Jabaru the driver, and with Ross White, Giovanna Fassetta, Maria Grazia Imperiale, Richard Fay, Safar and Yassar, Nazmi Al-Masri, Tawona Sitholé, Rosco Kasujja, Obed, Kofi Agyekum and Kofi Anyidoho, Bella Hoogeveen forming the international research team. All provisioned from our open-air kitchen through the effortless culinary capacities of Naa Densua & her staff team.

The piece was directed by Gameli and myself. Nii Tete Yartey and Noyam Institute for African Dance made it all happen.
Thywill provided the kind of participation and entertainment that only a two year old can, returning to us a gift of a decorated piece of the Calabash given in the performance last year.
We made something together against all the odds, and quite simply put, all saw that it was good.

Alison PhippsProfessor of Languages and Intercultural Studies UNESCO Chair in Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts (Creativity Culture and Faith).



This series will explore the work of Prof Alison Phipps the UNESCO Chair in Refugee Integration Through Languages and the Arts (at the University of Glasgow) and the international team of Artists and Researchers working with her. Making art in intercultural and multilingual groups is a fundamental building block in the ongoing processes of societal integration.


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This entry was posted on August 9, 2017 by in Comment, UNESCO.
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