Sunday, May 31, 2015

Retiring some more travel buddies ... left behind at the University Guest Centre in Accra, Ghana

2015.05.30-DSC01696Afraid that the Brazilian Zoological Conference bag finally had a terminal zipper failure and my first Panama Hat was getting a little grungy and also suffered a bit during the Invasion of the Giant Flying Ants.

Both were left behind at the University Guest Centre in Accra, Ghana.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Corrugated iron is my abomination. I quite understand it has points, and I do not attack from an aesthetic standpoint #QotD

2015.05.30-DSC01684Corrugated iron is my abomination. I quite understand it has points, and I do not attack from an aesthetic standpoint. It really looks well enough when it is painted white. There is, close to Christiansborg Castle, a patch of bungalows and offices for officialdom and wife that from a distance in the hard bright sunshine looks like an encampment of snow-white tents among the coco palms, and pretty enough withal. I am also aware that the cdrrugated-iron roof is an advantage in enabling you to collect and store rain-water, which is the safest kind of water you can get on the Coast, always supposing you have not painted the aforesaid roof with red oxide an hour or two before so collecting, as a friend of mine did once. But the heat inside those iron houses is far greater than inside mud-walled, brick, or wooden ones, and the alterna- tions of temperature more sudden : mornings and evenings they are cold and clammy ; draughty they are always, thereby giving you chill which means fever, and fever in West Africa means more than it does in most places.

Travels in West Africa: Congo Francais, Corisco and Cameroons by Mary Henrietta Kingsley, et al. (1907), p. 30


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Some of the native dishes are particularly palatable, and far preferable to many of the badly cooked European foods that have been introduced #QotD

IMG_20150526_123349798_HDRMany of the Akras and also the Elminas are exceptionally good cooks, the men being much better than the women ... Some of the native dishes are particularly palatable, and far preferable to many of the badly cooked European foods that have been introduced. "Kankie" takes the place of bread, and is made from the flour of native corn, undergoing many operations before being boiled or roasted in plantain leaves and fit to eat. Many people prefer it to the sour English bread that is made on the coast, though this has considerably improved of late years.

"Fou-fou" is a tenacious mass composed of yam, plantain or cassada, which is peeled, boiled and pounded and then made into large balls, to be served up with the various kinds of native soups, in place of the European potato. It is much like boiled batter pudding, but more tenacious, and is very savoury. Freshly baked flour cakes seasoned with the oil of the palm kernel are much relished by the natives, but are far too rich for the visitor. Fish and stews are well prepared, and turtle is good and plentiful during the Harmattan season, but not after March. The fish mostly eaten by the native is a kind of herring, which abounds in the Guinea Gulf in immense numbers, and which, when cured, is carried far into the interior beyond Ashanti. When these fish are opened, cleaned, stuffed with green pepper and fried in the freshest and purest palm oil, it is called "Kinnau," and forms an admirable food. "Palm-oil chop" is another favourite dish on the West Coast of Africa from Sierra Leone to the Congo, some Europeans being very fond of it.

2015.05.26-DSC01440 The ingredients are freshly made palm oil, meat or fowl, well peppered and served up in a native pot with freshly boiled yam or "fou-fou" or rice. It is the curry of Africa, but is too rich a dish for many people. A liqueur of cognac after such a meal generally prevents a recurrence of its flavour. "Ground-nut soup" is a general favourite with most people on the coast, which is prepared in much the same way and with the same ingredients as " palm-oil chop," but with finely-pounded ground-nuts instead of palm oil as the basis. Last, but not least, is the native "kickie," a compound of finely-minced fowls or fish, high flavoured, and served up with " fou-fou " in the Accra-made pots of black porous earth into which the pepper thoroughly sinks. It is somewhat like the West Indian "pepper pot," and is very tasty to the palate. The Accra fowls are poor and stringy, but good ducks and turkeys are supplied from Ada and Jella Kofi, near Kwitta.

The Gold Coast, past and present : a short description of the country and its people (1898)
by George Macdonald, p. 204-205

The country of Accra is flat and dry ... JCD Hay #QotD

2015.05.30-DSC01678The country of Accra is flat and dry. North and north-west of Accra is Akuapim; this is a mountainous region. Its capital, Akropong, is 1600 feet above the level of the sea. Here the Basle Mission has its head-quarters, and at this hospitable station the European suffering from the climate of the Gold Coast may recover in its balmy shades and cool breezes the energy he has lost in the plains below. Its population consists of industrious farmers, cultivating coffee and palm oil. Gold dust is also produced. Its children are taught in their schools both the English language and their own.

Ashanti and the Gold Coast: And what We Know of it : a Sketch by John Charles Dalrymple Hay (1874), p. 17-18

Lufthansa 567: ACC to FRA

Lufthansa in #Accra #Ghana
Gate 5, but actually put on the tarmac. Seat 35 H, aisle

Invasion of the giant flying ants! A very temporary win for the human ...

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Flying time
As I walked back from Volta Hall at the University of Ghana in the early evening, I noticed there were swarms of flying ants around all the lights. It had poured earlier in the day, and the rain had brought out the ants for their mating ritual.

As I approached my room at the University Guest Centre, the swarms were even thicker and around the lights of the Centre buildings, even more so. When I got to my door (with it's convenient bright light right above the door), I saw that the whole of the all and door iteself were covered with the swarming, flying ants. There was no way I could enter the door with bringing in a swarm with me.

I dashed forward through the insects, opened the door and rushed in, trailing who knows how many behind me. As I turned on the lights and turned around, I saw dozens of the ants flitting about the light. Deciding to keep the far light on, I retreated to the other end of the room. I did some work and then noticed that the beating of the wings had stopped. I doubted that'd they'd died, so got up to look and saw many dozens of them crawling on the floor, their diaphanous wings cast off to better mate.

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Wings and more wings
Intent on chasing each other, they were distracted as I scooped them up (using some conference papers) and sent them to the toilet. The wings, so thin and flutter, were blown about the room. I fanned as many as I could into the corner ... a small victory over the insects for the night.

* * * * *  
Some people hold that the Akras did not come from this direction at all, but had their origin in a small village at the back of Winnebah, called Nkran at the present day. The Akra name for themselves is Ga, which duplicated into Gaga means a species of black ant, which bites severely and is the enemy of the white ant, and these ants are called Nkran by both the Tshi and Fanti peoples. If such be the case, and the name has any designation, they must have been a very numerous and powerful people, who easily subdued the original inhabitants of the country they now occupy.
The Gold Coast, past and present : a short description of the country and its people (1898)
by George Macdonald, pp. 191-92

Following the coast we now reach Accra - JCD Hay #QotD

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James Fort (English)
Following the coast we now reach Accra. This settlement still retains the character it has derived from the three-fold occupation it so long underwent of English, Dutch, and Dane. It comprises James Town, or English Accra; Crevecoeur, or Dutch Accra; and Christiansborg, or Danish Accra. Each town has a king, of whom Cudjoe rules in the old British territory, Taccie in the Dutch, and Dawoonah in the Danish. Taccie, however, has the advantage of the Fetish man, or priest, living under his control, and so is able to assume a superiority over the others. The country of Accra is flat and dry. North and north-west of Accra is Akuapim; this is a mountainous region. Its capital, Akropong, is 1600 feet above the level of the sea. Here the Basle Mission has its head-quarters, and at this hospitable station the European suffering from the climate of the Gold Coast may recover in its balmy shades and cool breezes the energy he has lost in the plains below. Its population consists of industrious farmers, cultivating coffee and palm oil. Gold dust is also produced. Its children are taught in their schools both the English language and their own.

Ashanti and the Gold Coast: And what We Know of it: a Sketch by John Charles Dalrymple Hay (1874), pp. 17-18

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Elmina Castle (Dutch/English/Portuguese)

We drank gin and ginger ale when we could afford it, and Club beer when our money was short - Maya Angelou #QotD

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Accra
We drank gin and ginger ale when we could afford it, and Club beer when our money was short. We did not discuss the open gutters along the streets of Accra, the shacks of corrugated iron in certain neighborhoods, dirty beaches and voracious mosquitoes. And under no circumstances did we mention our disillusionment at being overlooked by the Ghanaians.

All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes by Maya Angelou

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Cape Coast

I had been assigned to take meals in one of the university’s eight halls - Maya Angelou #QotD

2015.05.29-DSC01649Like all faculty members, I had been assigned to take meals in one of the university’s eight halls, but it was only on the rare occasion that I visited Volta Hall High Table. The dining room was vast and tiered and quiet. Following the British academic arrangement, students sat at Low Table about four feet beneath the long high row where faculty sat facing them. I joined the members at High Table, without speaking, for we knew each other only casually, and there was no love lost or found between us.

All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes by Maya Angelou

* * * *

For our closing dinner of the ICADLA-4 conference, we had dinner in the Volta Hall dining hall. Volta is one of the older halls on campus and still all female. At the High Table tonight, the 2nd Lady of Ghana spoke, but quickly came down to eat and mingle with all of us down below!

"This is the most beautiful continent that I've ever seen; it’s the richest continent I’ve ever seen" - @MalcolmXquotes #QotD

2015.05.29-DSC01606"This is the most beautiful continent that I’ve ever seen; it’s the richest continent I've ever seen, and strange as it may seem, I find many white Americans here smiling in the faces of our African brothers like they have been loving them all of the time." - Malcolm X, 13 May 1964, University of Ghana Speech

* * * * *
My official trip to Ghana brings me to the famed University of Ghana in the Legon area of Accra. I will have a chance to explore the campus while staying at the University Guest Centre. The picture above is of the Information Studies Department quad area.

"In Ghana, or in all of black Africa, my highest single honor was an audience at the Castle with Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah" @MalcolmXquotes #QotD

2015.05.29-DSC01655"In Ghana, or in all of black Africa, my highest single honor was an audience at the Castle with Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.

Before seeing him, I was searched most thoroughly. I respected the type of security the Ghanaians erect around their leader. It gave me that much more respect for independent black men. Then, as I entered Dr. Nkrumah’s long office, he came out from behind his desk at the far end. Dr. Nkrumah wore ordinary dress, his hand was extended and a smile was on his sensitive face. I pumped his hand. We sat on a couch and talked. I knew that he was particularly well-informed on the Afro-American’s plight, as for years he had lived and studied in America. We discussed the unity of Africans and peoples of African descent. We agreed that Pan-Africanism was the key also to the problems of those of African heritage. I could feel the warm, likeable and very down-to-earth qualities of Dr. Nkrumah. My time with him was up all too soon. I promised faithfully that when I returned to the United States, I would relay to Afro-Americans his personal warm regards." - Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X (quoted on "Malcolm X in Ghana")

* * * * *

My official trip to Ghana brings me to the famed University of Ghana in the Legon area of Accra. I will have a chance to explore the campus while staying at the University Guest Centre. In the picture here, the 2nd Lady of Ghana, Wife of the Vice-President, is addressing the ICADLA-4 conference at the closing dinner.

Accra is utilitarian ... Its atmosphere is that of a young American town #QotD

2015.05.26-DSC01380In effect, Accra is utilitarian and so far has not striven after the beautiful or indulged in the gentle extravagance of the pursuit of the picturesque. Its atmosphere is that of a young American town. No one, apparently, has time to walk. The aforementioned excellent roads teem with motor cars — nearly all of American make — and motor-cycles. Occasionally one encounters a rickshaw, and it is then safe to hazard that the occupant is a retired native merchant who has made his pile out of cocoa and now finds that he can dawdle as much as he will and enjoys so doing. In 1911 the population was approximately 30,000. To-day it is probably not far short of double that figure and there is no sign of any limit having been reached. Accommodation is at a premium and as difficult to obtain as a room was in London during the period when the Government occupied practically every hotel.

West Africa the elusive
by Alan Bourchier Lethbridge (1921), p. 29

The sun was fierce, the land seemed to glisten and drip with steam. Here and there greyish-whitish specks showed up clustered inside the white surf - Conrad #QotD

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Watching a coast as it slips by the ship is like thinking about an enigma. There it is before you -- smiling, frowning, inviting, grand, mean, insipid, or savage, and always mute with an air of whispering, 'Come and find out.' This one was almost featureless, as if still in the making, with an aspect of monotonous grimness. The edge of a colossal jungle, so dark-green as to be almost black, fringed with white surf, ran straight, like a ruled line, far, far away along a blue sea whose glitter was blurred by a creeping mist. The sun was fierce, the land seemed to glisten and drip with steam. Here and there greyish-whitish specks showed up clustered inside the white surf, with a flag flying above them perhaps. Settlements some centuries old, and still no bigger than pinheads on the untouched expanse of their background. We pounded along, stopped, landed soldiers; went on, landed custom-house clerks to levy toll in what looked like a God-forsaken wilderness, with a tin shed and a flag-pole lost in it; landed more soldiers--to take care of the custom-house clerks, presumably. Some, I heard, got drowned in the surf; but whether they did or not, nobody seemed particularly to care. They were just flung out there, and on we went. Every day the coast looked the same, as though we had not moved; but we passed various places--trading places--with names like Gran' Bassam, Little Popo; names that seemed to belong to some sordid farce acted in front of a sinister back-cloth. The idleness of a passenger, my isolation amongst all these men with whom I had no point of contact, the oily and languid sea, the uniform sombreness of the coast, seemed to keep me away from the truth of things, within the toil of a mournful and senseless delusion. The voice of the surf heard now and then was a positive pleasure, like the speech of a brother. - Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (1899, 1902)
Conrad has always been one of my touchstone authors and Heart of Darkness and important and key work for me. Conrad doesn't mention Ghana (or the Gold Coast as it would have been known to him) in the book. The references above to "Gran' Bassam" (currently Grand-Bassam in Côte d'Ivoire) and "Little Popo" (currently Aného in Togo) book-end today's Ghana.

One of the geographic features of the Gold Coast was it's poor natural port. In the 19th century, visitors to Accra would anchor off the coast and come ashore in surf-boats (which most travelers despised!). No surprise then that Marlow's French steamer passed by Accra.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Annette Le Roux of the University of South Africa on indigenous knowledge at #ICADLA4

Samuel Tackie of the University of Ghana on digital heritage resource management at #ICADLA4

Ahmed Samir from the Bib Alexandrina on digital preservation at #ICADLA4

Monica Mensah from the University of Ghana at #ICADLA4

Moderating Session 6 at #ICADLA4, Laura Gibson presenting first

Thursday, May 28, 2015

A coffin should be a reflection of the life of the person inside it - Taiye Selasi #QotD

IMG_20150526_135357035Ga people believe that a coffin should be a reflection of the life of the person inside it. So a fisherman’s coffin might be shaped like a fish or a carpenter’s shaped like a hammer, I guess, or a woman who likes shoes, in the shape of a shoe.

Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi

The image at the right is from the Kane Kwei Coffin factory to the east of Accra.

The unseen wonders and complexity of growing plants, with their peculiarities, mechanism, and Nature's provision for multiplying in the thick growth of the African jungle, are marvellous. #QotD

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Kakum National Park
I had a chance to visit the Kakum National Forest in Ghana, quite spectacular!
Vegetable life in tropical zones is suspended, or sleeping, for a very much shorter period than occurs in colder climates. Bulbous and tuberous plants hibernate in spells of a little over a month, reappearing three times in the course of twelve months. Maize (or mealies) reproduce crops three times within the year. This rapid evolution of nature is presumably brought about by the tropical heat, rain, electricity, and a superabundance of carbonic acid in the air, together with the action of long spells of sunlight, which tend to a rapid production of plant food. Vegetable life in the tropics does not take the long winter rest that it enjoys in colder climates, where its life germs retire into protected shelters, and slumber away the period of frosts and snows. The dead seasons in the Gold Coast Colony occur between the rains. January and March months are the principal rest months for recuperation, but most trees take their rest  after they have shed their fruits and leaves in September, October, and November. The rains that take place at the end of November, and the tornado downpours in December add temporary activity to vegetable growth. The general growing season for cereals, however, starts after the dry and hot month of March.
2015.05.25-DSC01256 The colder atmosphere existing during the period of clouded sun and heavy rains extending from May to the end of June, enables some species of vegetation to recuperate, while it has a contrary effect on others by awakening and increasing their activity after their short sleep in the early months of the year.
The unseen wonders and complexity of growing plants, with their peculiarities, mechanism, and Nature's provision for multiplying in the thick growth of the African jungle, are marvellous. It is one continuous struggle for existence and preservation of the fittest. No better example comes under notice in this struggle of plant life to live than the race for light observed in the various kinds of trees in the densely packed forest.
Gold Coast palaver; life on the Gold Coast by Louis Patrick Bowler (1911), pp. 74-75

There are the standard things, African things - Taiye Selasi #QotD

2015.05.25-DSC01239There are the standard things, African things, the hawkers on the roadside, the color of the buildings the same faded beige as the air and the foliage, the bright printed fabrics, the never-finished construction sites (condos, hotels) giving the whole thing the feel of a home being remodeled in perpetuity, midproject, the men gone to lunch, the new paint already chipping and fading in the sunshine as if it never really mattered what color it was, stacked-up concrete blocks soldiers awaiting their orders, steel, sleeping machinery interrupting the green.

Ghana Must Go: A Novel by Taiye Selasi


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Maya Angelou on Elmina Castle, Cape Coast, Ghana

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Dungeon for women
I stopped in Cape Coast only for gas. Although many Black Americans had headed for the town as soon as they touched ground in Ghana, I successfully avoided it for a year. Cape Coast Castle and the nearby Elmina Castle had been holding forts for captured slaves. The captives had been imprisoned in dungeons beneath the massive buildings and friends of mine who had felt called upon to make the trek reported that they felt the thick stone walls still echoed with old cries.

I allowed the shapes to come to my imagination: children passed tied together by ropes and chains, tears abashed, stumbling in dull exhaustion, then women, hair uncombed, bodies gritted with sand, and sagging in defeat. Men, muscles without memory, minds dimmed, plodding, leaving bloodied footprints in the dirt. The quiet was awful. None of them cried, or yelled, or bellowed. No moans came from them. They lived in a mute territory, dead to feeling and protest. These were the legions, sold by sisters, stolen by brothers, bought by strangers, enslaved by the greedy and betrayed by history.

All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes by Maya Angelou

Eric Akumiah, Ex Director of the Ghana Internet Registry on the state of digitization in Ghana #icadla4

Hot and humid good morning to Accra

It remains to be said, that the whole line or coast is fringed by perpetual surf #QotD

2015.05.25-DSC01334It remains to be said, that the whole line or coast is fringed by perpetual surf. In unusually quiet weather ships' boats may land at Secondi, at El Mina, and at Accra, but at almost all the other places, and, indeed, generally there, a surf boat is necessary for communication between ship and shore.

Good anchorage is to be found at a mile or two from the shore, but the never-ceasing swell causes a monotonous rolling. The range of breakers, however, extends nearly three miles to seaward from Cape Three Points, and at Achowa, at Achowa Point, and at Mumford, the broken water and foul grounds to be avoided for at least 2 1/2 miles from the shore.

Ashanti and the Gold Coast: And what We Know of it: a Sketch by John Charles Dalrymple Hay (1874), p. 18


Hon. Matilda Amissah-Arthur, 2nd Lady of Ghana & keynote at ICADLA4, Accra

Opening ceremony of ICADLA4 in Accra with the Ghana Dance Ensemble

Monday, May 25, 2015

“I’m a Club person myself.” I spoke as proudly as I had heard Ghanaians do. “Ye! Ye! I knew you were okay. I am Club too / Maya Angelou #QotD

IMG_20150524_212810Beer preferences were fiercely defended or opposed. The two vying brands were Star and Club. “I’m a Club person myself.” I spoke as proudly as I had heard Ghanaians do. “Ye! Ye! I knew you were okay. I am Club too. All Star drinkers are untrustworthy. Differences between good and bad beer drinkers are stronger than the imperialist introduced divisions between Africans. -- All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes by Maya Angelou

So, I had to stand with Maya and the trustworthy Club drinkers and make my first Ghanian beer a Club!

Maaha Accra!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Now when I was a little chap I had a passion for maps. I would look for hours at South America, or Africa, or Australia, and lose myself in all the glories of exploration. - Conrad #QotD

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Now when I was a little chap I had a passion for maps. I would look for hours at South America, or Africa, or Australia, and lose myself in all the glories of exploration. At that time there were many blank spaces on the earth, and when I saw one that looked particularly inviting on a map (but they all look that) I would put my finger on it and say, 'When I grow up I will go there.' The North Pole was one of these places, I remember. Well, I haven't been there yet, and shall not try now. The glamour's off. Other places were scattered about the hemispheres. I have been in some of them, and . . . well, we won't talk about that. But there was one yet--the biggest, the most blank, so to speak--that I had a hankering after.
- Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (1899, 1902)
Conrad has always been one of my touchstone authors and Heart of Darkness and important and key work for me. And so, off to fill in some blank spaces on my personal globe.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Some photos from the @us_imls #NationalMedal awards ceremony at the White House earlier today with @FLOTUS and @IMLSDirector

IMG_20150518_113128350I had the honor of being invited to the IMLS National Medal awards earlier today. It was a very well done event with Acting IMLS Director Maura Marx and First Lady Michelle Obama.

We had the opportunity to visit the Vermeil Room, the Library, the China Room as well as the Red, Green, and Blue rooms as well as being treated to music from a Marine Band. The medal ceremony was in the East Room and we had a nice reception in the State Dining Room. (more photos here).

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Heading to the reception, the First Lady said that "we were free to take the napkins, but please leave the forks."

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More info from the official press release.

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Washington, DC – This morning, First Lady Michelle Obama joined the Institute of Museum and Library Services Acting Director Maura Marx to present the 2015 National Medal for Museum and Library Service. Ten institutions from across the country attended the White House Ceremony to be recognized for outstanding service to their communities.
The 2015 National Medal for Museum and Library Service recipients are:

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