By: Gage Smith, Agribusiness and Applied Economics | Racine, OH
I can remember sitting on the fender of my grandfather’s 1855 Oliver tractor as a young boy, the smell of the fresh plowed ground, and the countless stories my grandfather would tell me as we went through the fields. The stories he told seemed to not have any correlation, but they all taught me a lesson and a sense of coming together. The idea of storytelling is universal and I had the opportunity to travel to Ghana, Africa on an education abroad to research the traditional stories that are told in the Volta Region.
The research included working within the communities where the stories have been told for hundreds of years. We listened to storytellers in the villages, the storytellers have been told the same stories by their ancestors. The act of storytelling was much like how my grandfather would have told a story, it was a performance to intrigue you to pay attention and gain a lesson of values, and provided a source of entertainment for the residents of the village. The stories included interludes where the group would begin signing. The stories were almost always full of excitement and offered an opportunity for the individuals present to take part in the storytelling itself.
One of the many stories we listened to was about a young girl who disobeyed her parents and had to live out her life on a stone. The girls’ parents would visit her each day to bring her food and water, but one day the girl on the stone met her fate with a lioness. This story is told to children in the Volta Region to teach them the importance of listening to their parents and to obey authority.
Our education abroad research team was able to visit 5 villages and spoke with over forty storytellers. The importance of documenting the stories in Ghana is crucial for their survival; we saw that the stories are not being told on a regular basis as they once were, and the youth are not as interested and would rather watch television or use their cellphones for entertainment.
The short period of time that I was in Ghana I was able to fully immerse myself in the Ghanaian culture, learning much more than I would be able to from a lecture or a textbook.
Photo Credit: Dr. Nathan Crook