Located in the village of Kobina Ansa, the Sankofa Eco-Arts Village was established in February 2008 to promote intercultural understanding and community development through arts-based study abroad programs. The Sankofa Center offers month-long cultural immersion programs for high school and University students from around the world. In addition, there are a broad range of classes and services available to “drop-in” visitors. The Sankofa Center hosts a collective of master artisans and musicians that lead classes and also produce quality instruments, jewelry and crafts for sale both in Ghana and abroad. It is a top priority of Sankofa, to meet the highest standards of “Fair Trade” practices. The center is also dedicated to promoting national unity within Ghana, creating employment opportunities, and revitalizing the region’s rich cultural heritage.
To Preserve and Promote the Traditional Arts:
The Colonial era was devastating to traditional African culture. Based on our research and first-hand experience, most Ghanaians still perceive their traditional arts as primitive, barbaric, and even satanic. Since 1999, The Sankofa Center has spearheaded a broad range of privately funded initiatives to preserve and promote traditional Ghanaian arts.
In Kobina Ansa many of our traditional performing groups often are unable to rehearse or perform during ceremonial occasions due to lack of adequate resources. Drums are in need of repair, costumes in need of mending, and training space is in short supply. Revenue from the sale of Sankofa Center products and from our study abroad programs subsidize the region’s performing groups.
To encourage the community’s youth to embrace their rich cultural heritage, another Sankofa initiative is the integration of traditional drumming and dance into the curriculum of the local primary and junior secondary schools. The School of the Performing Arts at the University of Ghana in Legon has agreed to support this effort by providing recent graduates of their academic programs to develop and teach these classes. In addition, the prospect of steady work generated by The Sankofa Center will serve as an incentive for young people to want to learn and teach these traditions.
The Sankofa Center also trains qualified individuals to work as videographers utilizing audio/video recording technology to document the wide array of drumming and dance forms in Ghana’s Central Region. The video clips and audio recordings will be made available to researchers, artists, educators, and others in its Archive for African Arts, housed at the Center.
To Promote National Unity:
Promoting national unity is of critical importance to Ghana, a nation made up of five major ethnic constituencies. The Sankofa Center, which is located in the Central region, has been sending selected artisans/performing artists from our community to various other regions of Ghana to learn the dance, drumming and craft traditions of other ethnic groups. Upon their return to Kobina Ansa, these artists teach other members of the community the new skills and techniques they have acquired. Through this initiative, we have utilized the traditional arts as a vehicle to promote national unity through cross-cultural understanding within Ghana itself. For the past four years we have sponsored a drum maker from Kobina Ansa (see video below), enabling him to study wood carving with a master drum maker in the eastern region. During the same period we have provided a scholarship to a young Ewe artist to learn bead making with the Crobo peoples in the village of Odumase. Both artisans are now qualified to practice their crafts and and teach their newly acquired skills to others at the Sankofa Center as well as visitors from abroad.
To Create Employment Opportunities in Ghana’s Central Region:
Despite relative political and economic stability, individual earnings in Ghana are low. The average annual per capita income in the village of Kobina Ansa, for example, is in under $270, and the unemployment rate exceeds 65%. The manufacturing of quality handicrafts for domestic sale and Fair Trade export will provide many jobs to indigenous craftsmen, raising the standard of living. These experienced individuals will in turn be able to train individuals from the community in their respective crafts (Batiking, weaving, glass-bead making and drum making), providing additional jobs. The center also will employ drummers and dancers as instructors for our programs; and host a resident performing ensemble, to entertain visitors. In collaboration with the Connecticut Folklife Project, these performers will travel to the U.S. and perform in schools to promote intercultural understanding and recruit students for our study abroad programs
Additional Jobs Created:
- Students and visitors have the opportunity to purchase African clothing, creating work for our community’s tailors/seamstresses.
- The center provides classes in basic business and accounting skills to interested individuals who in turn sell our products throughout the country