Thursday, October 19, 2006

STANDing in Tamale

Engineers Without Borders had our STAND UP Against Poverty event this past Sunday in Tamale. It was a success, with over 300 people coming out as part of a global effort to set a Guinness Record for the most people standing in support of one cause on the same day. But it didn’t go off without a hitch.

The event was coordinated by EWBers Christian, Kristy, Gwen and me, in conjunction with Christian’s Ghanaian brother, Rafik, and some other local cultural informants.

What we’d planned out was basically a cultural show at a local outdoor dance bar, made up of two different dance/drumming troupes. We also invited the Regional Gender Desk Officer (a government officer in charge of gender affairs at the regional level) to deliver a speech.

The show was scheduled to begin at 10:00am. By 11:00am, we could still count on our fingers and toes the number of people (mainly children) in attendance. However, our Ghanaian friends tried to reassure us by reminding us that time moves at a different pace here than in the Western world. Indeed, by around 11:30am the crowd had thickened significantly, although our keynote speaker was still nowhere to be seen.

But we declared that the show must go on.

So as the sun beat down (and I cursed having lost my dear Bolga hat – although I suspect it will yet come back to me. It always does) the performers took the stage.

The dance troupes were a huge success with the crowd, performing traditional Dagomba dances (the Dagombas are the principal ethnic tribe here in Tamale). This included five drummers sporting drums slung from shoulder straps, and about 10 smock-wearing dancers who moved in a circle around the drummers (the smocks are elaborate poncho-style garments used in traditional ceremonies and dances). The dancers also held metal rods, which they could clash to add to the thumping of the drums. I’ll post pictures of this soon.

And finally, as it began to look more and more like us EWB volunteers might have to provide an impromptu speech on the state of poverty in Ghana and the world (not something that I, as an outsider, wanted to attempt), our keynote speaker arrived.

She delivered a thoughtful and moving speech, captivating the crowd with a 15-minute oration that incorporated the theme of gender equality in poverty reduction.

At least, I assume that this was the case. The whole speech was in Dagbani (the local language). But from the expressions on the faces of the crowd, I’m pretty sure she did a bang-up job.

After that was the most important moment of the event: the time for the whole crowd to stand up while a pledge was read out over the sound system. This pledge was designed to send a clear message to the leaders of both the developed and developing worlds that we won’t stand for global poverty. The crowd was primed, ready for the climax of the show.
Then the power went off.

After a brief argument with the manager of the dance bar (complications arose over the use of their generator), she recommended I make a mad dash to the customer complaints office for the electricity company. We had nothing to lose, so I went to the office, just down the street from the venue. Almost immediately after entering the complaints office, the power came back on. I had no idea it was that easy.

So the pledge happened, more dancing ensued, and the event ended around 1:30pm. The organizing committee was exhausted and sunburnt but satisfied. And hopefully the world is one more small step towards the end of poverty.

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Kyle said...


Congratulations on the successful Giddipass event.

I hope that afterwards you set the speakers to 'static' and enjoyed a raunchy dance party the likes of which even Jack Layton has never seen (even with his level of raunchiness).

Say hello to Samed, and the kose lady across from the Bolga Road mosque for me.

Apoorva said...

wahoo!! this sounds fantastic, and holy dinah and louise do i miss being able to be fashionably ultra-late to everything!
how many people did you count? also, awesome, dagomba dancing is the best ever. even all the gonjas readily admitted it: the swirling, the smocks, the talking drums - they got it all dude.

speaking of greeting tamale'rs, can you greet emmanuel from maacos for me sometime? also, if you can find out his address? i'd like to penpal him! :)
also, greetings to your mother, father, sisters, brothers, wives and children. i hope they are all fine.
very, very, fine.

Anonymous said...

Your title is a very clever pun.

Luke Brown said...

Kyle, which Bolga Road mosque is that? The big fancy one, or the smaller one that's further north?

Apoorva, we counted roughly 300 people. And I went and greeted Emmanuel yesterday. Also, he was at the STAND UP event! I'll try to get his address for you.