Whenever you travel to a different country or meet with people of a different nationality, culture is a topic. Culture is the basis for differences between individuals as well as for characteristics, they have in common. Our program should not just be an opportunity to get to know a new culture, but also to reflect about our own identity. We found out, that German and Ghanaian students have more in common, than we thought, even if they have completely different cultural and traditional roots. We found out that our values depend less on the culture than on the individual itself and we found out, that a transformation process is happening as well in German as in Ghanaian culture, connected with the phenomena of globalisation, which was topic of our program, too. Because we wanted to take a deeper look on this process and the roots and reasons of cultural phenomena, we had a lively and intensive discussion.
It isn’t easy to discuss such an abstract topic without pictures, examples and a graphic structure. And that’s, why we worked out the tree as symbol for every individual and his specific experience of cultural influences. The roots of the tree symbolise the basis of his culture, the traditional roots, with which he grows up. However – being a grown-up – your cultural development isn’t finished. Because you learn your whole life, you will experience cultural influences your whole life. They can be advantages and spend you new energy and experiences that bring you forward in life (symbolized through a water-can). But, they can be disadvantages as well, which are a danger to the achievements, you already achieved (symbolized through a saw). We concentrated on two fields of experiences: One, connected to the traditional culture of every region and the other one, connected to the effects of globalisation. That’s why we used two branches to symbolise the decision, you would take, if you had to give up completely either traditional or modern globalised culture. The sun, which gives the tree energy to live, symbolizes the values, every individual uses as guideline in his lifelong learning-process.
As the motto of our project is “The treasure hunt continues” we should first take a look on the treasure of our traditional cultures. In contrast to their Ghanaian counterparts, who through the homology of our German group just could experience the Swabian culture, the Germans had the opportunity to discover the whole variety of the Ghanaian tribal culture. They did not only got to know something about the tribes of their exchange-partners (Ewe, Fanti and Gha-culture), but also met a Prince of a tribe in the North of Ghana and visited a Krobo-village. Like in Germany, in Ghana every tribe has its traditional region, but mixes up with other tribes in big cities. To reflect about what specific treasures characterises each tribe in Germany and in Ghana, we compared and collected some specific aspects:
While in Germany, the different cultures only speak different – but partly for foreigners not understandable – dialects of German; in Ghana every tribe has its own language. To communicate with other tribes Ghana has theoretical one, practical two linguae francae: The official being English, the informal being Twi, the local language of the Ashanti-Tribe, which is spoken by nearly all Ghanaians: To get an impression of Twi and Swabian, we collected some expressions and translated them in both languages:
English I Twi I Swabian potatoes I abronwoma I äbire
I am hungry I ekomde I Ih han honger I I Me I Ih
No I dabi I Noi garden I mfikyifuo I Gütle Monday I Dwoafa I Mondich
The traditional food is a treasure, whose value both Ghanaians and Germans at least estimated when they stayed in the other country. Especially for the Germans we can say that they never missed grandma´s cooking so much as throughout the 3 weeks they stayed in Ghana. So, we will present 3 traditional meals to you:
Kässpätzle is a special Swabian food which shows us – wherever it is cooked – that we are a little bit at home. You can imagine Kässpätzle as a sort of noodles which are over baked with cheese and onions. That’s what makes the taste out. We normally eat it just with salad.
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Maultaschen mean home for us, too. It is a mixture of spinach, meat and herbs put in little bags made out of noodles like it is used for Italian lasagna. They have a history as well. In former times Swabian monks invented them to cheat on god during fasting because god couldn’t see the meat if it was in the noodle bags.
A traditional food of the Ghas is Kplekpe and palm nut soup, which they cook at the Homowo-festival to inherit the spirits of their forefathers and remember their life.
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Especially the Ghanaian students had an intensive discussion about what tribal festival still mean to them.
The first festival, we want to present, is the Dipo-Festival of the Krobo culture, in which girls, who passed the age of 15, celebrate the transition from childhood to adulthood. The festival is led by a fetish-priest and his secretary, who calls out the names of the girls. The festival sometimes is a kind of wedding market, because the girls through taking part show that they are ready to marry. To give you an impression on how the festival is like, we have chosen some pictures from the Krobo-Ritual:
Although many tribes have a comparable festivity, this festival is loosing its meaning, because young people see it with an increasing distance: They feel ashamed about showing their naked body, and think, that this ritual doesn’t fit to their lifestyle anymore. None of the Ghanaian students took part in the Dipo-Ritual – signs of a cultural transformation process, we will discuss later on this site.
Another example is the Homowo-Festival, celebrated by the Ga to remember their forefathers and celebrate some of their gods and spirits. This festival celebrated on the 24th of August to the 31st of August every year. Even if it doesn’t have any spiritual meaning to the students, they take part, because the whole family comes together in one house. Thus you can meet all members of your family, no matter if they live in your region or country and even meet new people, you didn’t know before. Because of this, even young people appreciate the meaning of this festival, as it brings unity, peace and stability to the family.
Advantages and disadvantages of traditional culture
But what do these traditional roots mean for the daily life of young people today?
The first step to find out this, is to reflect about the advantages and disadvantages of the own roots and traditional culture in general.
While this was quiet difficult for the German students, the Ghanaians were very fast in naming the positive aspects of their tribal culture: Most important being the unity of the family and the tribe. It’s not only the extended-family-system, German students know from their Swabian roots, that gives the young people a feeling of home, safety and belonging, but also the traditional tribal culture. If young people from the same tribe meet in Ghana on the street, in the club or in school/at work, they appreciate each other immediately as brothers or sisters, united through their own local language. Surprisingly the Germans found a similarity to their culture in this point: Most of all the significant Swabian dialect can help you to identify people from your region and gives you – especially, when you stay abroad, a certain feeling of home. We all could agree that the traditional culture always is an important basis for your self-confidence. Further advantages, we found out, are the compulsory days of rest in our joint Christian culture, which give you the opportunity to relax from work and daily life. And as well the respect for nature and the responsibility to protect your environment, rooted as well in German as in Ghanaian traditions. For the Ghanaians the aspect of healing is a special example of unity between men and nature.
But the traditional culture of Ghana has its dark sides as well: There are some superstitious beliefs in black magic or the worship of smaller gods – so called “spirits” – , which don’t fit to the modern lifestyle and the Christian belief of the Ghanaian students. The value of gender justice is growing as well in Ghana as in Germany and thus, traditional role-models are by the time seen as obsolete and as restriction of individual self-fulfilment.
And this is one of the most critical points, young people see in traditional culture: The system of extended family isn’t able to fulfil the growing need for privacy, resulting from the growing individualism in our globalised society. Further, the traditional culture can even be a disadvantage in finding a future employment. For example, members of the Ghanaian Ewe tribe still today have great difficulties with finding a job. Thus, the disadvantage of your local language or accent gets even worse, because you are immediately recognized as member of your culture – and cannot flee from your roots as well in Germany as in Ghana.
Advantages and disadvantages of globalisation
These disadvantages are a reason for a transformation process in Ghana and Germany, in which young people tend towards giving up parts of their parents´ roots and rites in favour of a new globalised a more flexible culture.
But what are the promises and hopes, connected with this “new” culture, which seems to overrun the whole world?
It’s the easy access to information through electronics and media (TV, Internet, and Radio) and the growing mobility, which enable the students as well in Germany as in Ghana to revolutionize their lifestyles and ways of thinking. This results in a growing equality of genders, generations, tribes and even countries, which is rooted in change of the education – especially in developing countries.
And for us, the young people, this means in the first place a new meaning of freedom! It’s easier to find your own way and to challenge decisions of your parents. In Ghana for example, the young people now have the right to marry the person, they love – a privilege, their parents sometimes didn’t have. Thus, even some inhuman rites, like the mutilation of girls, could be finally abolished in Ghana.
But to come back to our picture again: Can a tree survive without its roots? Of course not, because they give him the energy and power to live! Thus, the saw is the right symbol to symbolize the disadvantages of globalisation. Globalisation sometimes means cutting off the individual from its roots and its resources. This point was mostly worked out by the German students, because the Ghanaians didn’t yet experience the radical change that happened already in German society. Though, they also could confirm, that people are moving away from their traditions, rites and roots and thus lose guidelines and safety-tracks for their personal development. The breakdown of the extended-family-system and the growing percentage of single-children in Germany are one of the reasons, why the German students feel less home and safe in their life as Ghanaians do.
But the free market and the worldwide competition, developing within globalisation, has its negative effects also on Ghana: Especially in developing countries not the elected governments decide the political guidelines, but purely-profit-oriented companies, which exploit and destroy human and natural resources, driven by the pressure of worldwide competition. This pressure is a great disadvantage especially for German students, which experience – in contrast to their Ghanaian counterparts – a loss of opportunities to build up a safe future. The social-darwinistic fight of everyone against everyone influences all parts of life – from education to job.
In such a difficult time some Germans look a bit envious at the extended-family-system and the tribal culture of the Ghanaians, which is – especially in difficult situations – a harbour of safety and home for them.
Decision between roots and modern world
However, all students from Ghana and Germany would decide in favour of the modern lifestyle, if they had to decide between their roots and their modern lifestyle. The promise of freedom and economic success has become an unenviable part of their life. But we also met a different example: Our tourist-guide through the rain-forest, Prince Abdallah, who lived a very modern life and visited many foreign countries until he became 25. Then he got to know, that he was chosen to follow his father and become one day the King of his tribe, and in this position he should lead his people in the tradition of his forefathers. Having a German wife, Prince Abdallah had the freedom to decide – and decided to take the responsibilities to guide his tribe. Thus, he gave up his modern life as a tourist guide. But neither Prince Abdallah, nor the students would want to give all parts of the other culture, they experienced. Nobody wants to live in a soulless globalised world, where the humans are just seen as working resources and the only important values are named “flexibility” and “profit” and nobody wants to live back in the cave of his forefathers, with the back turned to the promises of the future.
Our Joint future
But what is the solution. And that’s, how we come back to our picture again: A tree, which just has two branches, is neither pretty nor able to survive at all. Many parts have to join to form a lively and colourful mixture of branches, leaves and fruits. And that’s why we added a second poster, that symbolizes the joint future, we imagine: A full tree with its roots, which takes advantages of each, tribal and globalised culture and minimizes the disadvantages. This combination shall be what makes the tree more pretty and strong than every other tree before.
General human values
But even this tree cannot survive without the light of the sun. Every tree is rising towards the sun, the sun is his source of power and gives him the direction, in which he is growing. The sun is shining over all trees, no matter to which forest or species they belong and gives their existence a deeper meaning. Put on top of our picture, the sun symbolizes general human values, which are guidelines for all cultures. When we discussed about these values, we immediately agreed, that these values and their meanings don’t depend on cultural roots, but on every individual itself. While Ghanaians and Germans could quickly agree on the most important values, we had to concede in a very long discussion that there are different ways of interpretation of what these values exactly mean.
A good example for the diversity of interpretations, a single value can have, is responsibility. It includes not just the responsibility for the people around you, but also to provide a future for the next generation, which is worth living. Through this humans also have the responsibility to preserve the treasures of nature and environment.
The same is with unity, a value, which includes many other values, for example solidarity – the responsibility to help and care for each other. A solidarity, which should not only be practised of the same family, tribe or country, but between all countries and cultures of the world, and thus lay the basis for another important value: peace.
For some of us, peace is the long-time goal and thus has a place above all other values. But here the definition of peace is inevitable: Peace is not just a condition of a society without war, but has to be built up on the basis of freedom and equality.
Two values, by the way, which depend on each other, because real freedom cannot exist without equality, if it’s meant to be more than just the freedom of the market. And real equality needs freedom, if it should be more than economical equality.
But all this values need an emotional basis, which gives the individuals the power to put their values into practise: Love. Love in this context means, that we love other people as a whole, as a kind of empathy of why we are open to them and take responsibilities for their doing as they do for ours. This would lead to peace because no one would harm anybody because of this love. So no hate can be reflected on other people because the human itself is loved because he is a human and not personified by his religion, ethic or education.
The value, we learned most about throughout our program, was respect. If you want to learn from each other, you have to discuss on the same level, no matter to which tribe or nationality your counterpart belongs. And for this you have to show and feel respect for another culture. We – Ghanaians and Germans, Ewe, Fanti and Swabians – learned much from each other in this three weeks, we could reflect about our own culture, and understand and live in diversity. This was only possible, because we were open to new influences and brought enough respect with us, to take a deeper look at the reasons and the background of the other and our own culture. And that’s the greatest profit, we took from this program: to make friends of another culture and reflect about ourselves at the same time.