Africa, the cradle of civilization, isn’t known for her rich cultural history or her many contributions to science.
Instead she is perceived as “the dark continent,” a place void of all modernity, home only to plague, war and poverty.
“Some people don’t even think that there are houses in Africa because all they see on screen are safaris and animals,” said UM’s only African Studies professor, Dr.Abaka. “The media doesn’t show urban centers, or university students. One must go there to see that.”
Even in our centers of higher learning, Africa is often overlooked, deemed irrelevant with respect to history and world affairs. Many institutions who pride themselves in the study abroad programs they provide for students interested in experiencing the international experience hands-on fail to include Africa all together.
But here at Miami, such is about to change.
Though the UM was founded in 1928, it wasn’t until 1996 that an African Studies curriculum was created.
Abaka invites all who are interested to join him in the newly created summer abroad program that will leave for Ghana in the summer of 2003.
“This program is an opportunity for students to experience first hand the socio-cultural goals,” Abaka said. “It gives them a chance to experience the ancient and richly textured traditional and economic life of Ghana, to enhance their personal academic or professional culture of Ghana and to enjoy the warm and hospitable welcome of the people.”
We forget that Africa is home to one of the world’s first universities (Timbuktu), and that she is home to one of the Seven Wonders of the World (the Pyramids).
Abaka, a native of Cape Coast, Ghana, attended the University of Cape Coast for his Bachelor’s degree and the University of Guelph (Toronto, Canada) for his M.A. in European History, and then went on to pursue his doctorate at York University (Toronto, Canada) in African History. He currently teaches courses in African History and Diaspora.
“Images on television about Africa are usually negative. There is a fear that if you go to Africa you will not come back. There is a security factor,” Abaka said. “There’s an information gap, and this program is an attempt to bridge that gap.”
Chris Tingue, Study Abroad Advisor and International Exchange Program Coordinator, who assisted Abaka in the creation of this program, encourages students to participate and stresses the uniqueness of the opportunity.
“Typical study abroad programs have been in Western Europe,” Tingue said, “This particular program will help to dispel some of the myths and preconceived notions that people have about what it is like in Africa.”
The goal is to eventually establish a semester or perhaps even a year abroad program by which students and faculty can study/research at an African university, according to Abaka and Tingue. The summer program to Ghana is a stepping-stone in that direction.
Ghana is the birthplace of Panafricanism, sparked by such legendary leaders as Kwame Nkrumah, and was one of the first sub-Saharan countries to achieve independence.
Located on Africa’s west coast, Ghana contains some of the most important relics of the slave trade such as forts and castles, demonstrating the cultural and international connection between the Caribbean and the Americas.
It was also home to one of Africa’s most famous kingdoms, the Asanti Kingdom, has a vibrant cloth weaving industry and is the creator of the Kente Cloth, a cloth commonly worn at the graduation ceremonies of many American universities.
The 2003 summer abroad program to Ghana is a chance to experience West African culture first hand.
“We talk about globalization,” Abaka said. “And on that same note, understanding other people and different cultures is fundamental in achieving the global peace and security that we as a global village seek.”
Those interested in embarking on the cultural voyage to Ghana should contact Dr. Abaka at (305) 284-3702, or e-mail him at E.Abaka@miami.edu.