Imagine waking up every morning for six weeks on the beautiful western coast of Ghana, Africa. During the day, you learn the rich oral traditions of the local Ghanaian elders and visit traditional shrines of gods and goddesses. At night, you enjoy the sights and sounds of vibrant Ghana, one of West Africa’s most prosperous and dynamic cities. Jenny Davison and Flair Martin, undergraduate history students at the Mount, were given this exact opportunity this past spring.
Professor Jonathan Roberts is conducting field research at the major religious institutions of the Ga people in Accra, Ghana. With the help of Jenny and Flair, he interviewed elders to record their experiences conducting witchcraft trials at local shrines. The students also digitally photographed 30 volumes of trial records, which date back several decades, in an effort to preserve the documents for future use.
Flair (shown above), a third year history student, was Roberts’ research assistant. “We have access to our professors here at the Mount, and that’s how I initially got on board with this. The Mount is a place of community and networking and creating these relationships,” Flair says. “This trip was exactly the kind of thing I went to university for.”
Jenny Davison (shown at right) is a recent graduate of the Mount’s history program, and served as the official photographer. “I got to mix my love of photography with my passion for history. This trip was everything I could have asked for and more.”
Aside from academic work, Jenny and Flair noted that the cultural experience they were exposed to was invaluable.
The two were totally immersed in Ghanaian culture, living with a local family, eating local food, and picking up some of the local language: Twi and Ga. Flair also noted that seeing the difference in lifestyle was astounding.
“Every day we ate fresh fish and stews that were made completely from local ingredients. I watched the local men build boats with nothing but handsaws, weave nets by hand, and pan for minerals along the shore. It was a phenomenal experience.”
Professor Roberts’ research is funded by a Mount Faculty Research Grant and an Endangered Archives Grant from the British Library.