FOYS Dance Group
During her time in Ghana during Autumn 2017, Patience Gibbs set up the FOYS Dance Group. This entailed arranging for pupils from the Presbyterian JHS to be given an introductory dance session by Dr. Sylvanus Kwashie Kuwor of the School of Performing Arts at Legon, and to ensure this was followed up by a series of classes delivered by SPA students with SPA musicians. Although fired by the hope of making a long-lasting impact through dance, the initial programme was designed to be intensive and self-contained. It covered three weeks of preparation and was rounded off by public performances.
Training sessions were held after school hours and attracted some thirty-five pupils, mostly gills.
After rehearsing, and wearing costumes hired from the School of Performing Arts, the Group put on two 20-minute performances in Abiriw. The completed project showed what could be achieved in a short time
As was anticipated, the innovation ruffled some feathers. For example, one father wanted to withdraw his daughter (‘drag her away’) so she could get on with the family wash. Other areas of uncertainty or tension included the transport from Legon. On 7/10, the instructors travelling along the Ridge found the road blocked at Amanokrom because a durbar was in progress. (At Abiriw, Patience Gibbs stepped in and took the rehearsal!)
The venue for the first public showing had to be altered at the last minute – because the performance area originally selected was required in connection with a funeral. Flexibility and improvisation carried the day and a successful performance was given on the grass in front of the Presbyterian Church.
When news spread about the FOYS Dance Group, an invitation was received to perform at the enstoolment of the Mankrado scheduled for 21 October. Once again there was a last minute glitch since the performers were not reminded at the rehearsal on the 20th that the booking had been confirmed for the 21st. As a result, no dancers turned up for the ‘performance call’ at 8 .00 a.m. Mrs. Gibbs’s house!
Although she had thought her ‘whipping into line’ days all lay in the past, Mrs. Gibbs set off to ‘rustle up’ the dancers and ‘save the day’. In the event, contacts were made and messengers were sent in various directions. Then the dancers assembled relatively easily and the performance was given.
The venue for the enstoolment was the ceremonial centre of the community, the Curve in the middle of Abiriw, and the occasion was well supported. Through their participation, the FOYS Dance Group achieved a greater degree of exposure and public approval than could have been anticipated when the project was initiated.
Patience Gibbs said: ‘The creation of the FOYS Dance Group has special significance for me because I started dancing in Abiriw as a child, and because my first job outside teaching was linked to the Department of African Studies at Legon and the Ghana Dance Ensemble. I watched the performance at the enstoolment on the 21st with a great sense of satisfaction.’
Local History Report
Patience Gibbs writes: ‘On September 26th I went to Dodowa to look for the house built there by my grandfather, known as ‘Tailor Mensah’. After driving around the town trying to get my bearings, a woman wearing red, [see photo], who is called ‘Obenewa’, responded to the name ‘Tailor Mensah’ by pointing to a house nearby and saying ‘That is the house, the one with two shop doors.’ I spoke to the current occupants who asked ‘Why don’t the owners come and repair these buildings .. and the well?’ In one of the rooms there are documents and bits of machinery. A treasure trove.’
Patience Gibbs continued: ’On a subsequent visit to Dodowa I interviewed Mame Ataa, who is over ninety and lives at the edge of Tailor Mensah’s land. She told me she has kept in touch with some of Tailor Mensah’s descendants and has ‘attended all the funerals at Patient Stores’
Bunk-beds for the J G Knol Institute
In the past FOYS has responded to challenges faced by the J G Knol Technical and Vocational Institute in Adukrom by donating equipment to the Fashion Section. On one of her regular visits to the Institute, Mrs. Gibbs became aware of the problems created by the Free Senior High School (SHS) policy that had just been introduced by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government (‘The Akufo-Addo Administration.)
The elimination of fees has meant a marked increase in the number of pupils anxious to follow vocational and technical courses at J G Knol and this had put a great strain on the Institute’s infrastructure.
After discussing the situation, Mrs. Gibbs decided that the point at which a modest grant could make a significant difference was in the improvement of facilities for female students. A carpenter was asked to make two bunk beds and deliver them to the Female Hostel /Girls Dormitory that was being created in one of the teaching rooms.
Because the new ‘no fees’ policy has generated considerable business for all those supplying educational institutions in Ghana, there were delays in making the bunks, but, eventually, the carpenters secured wood, completed their task and arranged for delivery bunks – with mattresses! – to Adukrom.
[For background on the Institute see https://www.hollandghanafoundation.nl/ik-wil-helpen/] 2017 11 10