By John Owoo
(In Accra – Ghana)
A team from the University of Glasgow (Scotland) led by Prof Alison Phipps, Chair in Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts at the University of Glasgow alongside affiliates from the University of Ghana and the Islamic University of Gaza are currently in Accra for a series of seminars and workshops.
Dubbed “Idioms of Distress, Wellbeing and Resilience”, the researchers, which include Prof Kofi Anyidoho of the University of Ghana (Legon), will examine the way in which people express their distress and develop ways of coping with anguish in many different languages.
They will examine Arabic from the Gaza Strip and the on-going siege, to the languages of refugees and displaced people / ethnic groups in Northern Uganda, young refugees in Scotland, artists as well as people enduring the loss of their cultural heritage in Zimbabwe and elsewhere.
Words, proverbs and phrases have been collected in these different contexts and the common themes and important differences have been analysed. This will help with more accurate diagnosis of the forms of trauma or distress while providing a vital well of support from indigenous knowledge that are readily available.
As well as publishing academic findings the team are also working with Noyam African Dance Institute (Dodowa), under the leadership of Nii Tete Yartey, to explore sounds, music and languages for expression in dance. These dance pieces help reveal a world of assistance and substances beyond that of the medical or clinical setting.
Gameli Tordzro and Naa Densua Tordzro are leading the artistic work, which includes a production focusing on the distress caused by separation of families and people by borders – not only refugees but also for others caught in the web of entanglements which is the experience of visa application and refusal processes.
In addition, the team will present a documentary about their work with Noyam. This includes recording the experiences of young Noyam dancers who recently visited Scotland to perform as headline acts at the annual Solas Festival, as well as the inaugural lecture of the UNESCO Chair at the University of Glasgow.