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West Africa: Just like Home?

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Our plane landed in Ghana, West Africa, and we were surprised to find just how different it is from Zimbabwe, yet it is sometimes very similar to the United States! Here we were eating peanut soup and okra, and listening to reggae music. I LOVE peanut soup, Abeja is a big okra fan, and we all love listening to reggae music!

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A Rasta from northern Ghana and Kavitha
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We got to go to a big festival called Panafest that celebrates African people and their civilization, where we saw a lot of these similarities. Our Ghanaian friends Nilboy and Leslie came with us, and they had a lot of friends, people who were at the festival selling artwork, African crafts and t-shirts. It was easy to see the similarities between our cultures here. It was so cool seeing Nilboy and his friends jamming to hip-hop from the States, while some African-Americans from New York got drum lessons from the Ghanaian musicians.

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Hanging out, selling art with Nilboy
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The connections between West Africans and African Americans are due to a terrible history--the slave trade. Slaves didn't come to the New World until after Christopher Columbus discovered it, in 1492. Like the Europeans, millions of Africans went to the Americas. Unlike the Europeans, the Africans didn't want to come to the New World. Most of the slaves brought to the Americas came from West Africa.

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A beautiful work of art - Ghana style!
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Despite slavery, the people of African descent were able to hold on to bits of their culture. To preserve their ways of life, they would sing songs and tell old stories. In the United States, the Caribbean, and Brazil, people of African descent created their own new cultures: with new religions, new foods and new music and dance. The Panafest celebrates all of this.

West Africa is known all over the world for its music and dance. Drums of all shapes and sounds combine with xylophones, string instruments, story telling and dancing.

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 A bead merchant selling his wares from all over
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At the Panafest, Abeja and I were joined by thousands of others from all over the world. West Africans drummed with Brazilians, Jamaicans sold clothes next to jewelry sellers from northern Africa, and Ghanaians cooked yams and fish stews next to the American Ice Cream stand. It was so much fun meeting all the different people and tasting all the different foods.

But the best part by far was the music! Whether it was Jamaican Reggae, American Rock, or Ghanaian High-Life music . . . the music kept us dancing all night long! Let me tell you, when we finally got back to our hotel, we slept really well, happy that the West Africans have so much to share with the world.

Kavitha
 

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