NKA foundation in collaboration with Nico Smith, Humphrey Lloyd, George Bell
This report documents a project undertaken in February 2010, in Sang in the northern region of Ghana. As part of NKA's design-build project I proposed a design for a community centre to form part of the new Arts Village being developed there. The design was accepted and I began the planning process to make the project a reality: forming a team, fundraising, design development. After a busy planning period we boarded the plane and arrived in Accra...
From our arrival in Ghana all the way to settling into the village was handled very well and was very smooth. Before arrival we had limited communication with Barthosa and Lasisi the project coordinator, but I felt sufficient. We were given a contact in Accra, who was able to arrange for a place to stay and to introduce us to Ghana. 'Cocoa Banana' and family were very welcoming – we spent our first night in his friend Rashid's place, and spent time at the family house. Afterwards they helped us to find a hotel near to the bus station and we went off to explore Accra ourselves.
Similarly upon arrival in Tamale we were met by Lasisi's friends Osman and Habib, who took us to his house. They continued to be very helpful for the rest of the trip and helped us whenever we went to Tamale.
Our arrival in Sang was always going to be a culture shock- for all of us it was our first time in Sub Saharan Africa and also in a rural setting – It was a very exciting experience and Lasisi et al made it as smooth as possible – our accomodation was ready and was more than adequate, and our visits to the chief, Lasisi's family house, the project site, the medical centre and the reservoir made for a busy day. Meeting the chief was quite an experience – but it was good to be put on the spot and made to talk about the project.
We didn't get much of an introduction to the charities themselves and their work (NKAfoundation and the Livelihood Empowerment Centre), and it took us a while to work out how they fitted together and what work the LEC was doing, and what the site would be used for. It seemed slightly vague, although we are at an early stage, and I hope that vision will evolve and consolidate, which will make it easier for future groups to fit in.
Lasisi made it clear to us that our points of contact in the village were Abdullai, known as Pastor, our translator, and Mr.Adam, Lasisi's brother and in charge of building works on the site. Lasisi himself would be in Tamale but would also be available by phone and to make occasional visits. There were many things that we were in the dark about, but we were happy to learn as we go as is the nature of such an exchange in such a different culture.
Our first night we found ourselves listening to traditional drumming surrounded by 500 children – straight into the thick of it. The project proceeded to be one of the busiest, most tiring, most exciting months of my life. It was a lot of work to do in a month, with lots of challenges, most of which were exciting challenges that are part and parcel of such an exchange, and some of which were difficulties that could be avoided and should be learnt from for future volunteers, and for the project to proceed well with a good relationship between it and the town and its people.
Working Relationship with key individuals
Our 3 main points of contact were Lasisi, the coordinator, Adam, Lasisi's brother and I guess 'Site manager' might describe his role. Abdullai, known as Pastor, was our translator.
Pastor was of key importance, particularly as Adam had limited english, and our Dagbani wan't great. Pastor was our point of contact through whom we spoke to all apart from a handful of english speakers. He gave up a huge amount of time to help us, at least several hours per day, and we became good friends.
Pastor's english is superb and he had no problems translating for us, and was also able to tell us and show us a lot about Dagomba life and traditions. As a young, confident and outspoken individual, his eagerness sometimes got in the way of his translation, and we weren't sure whose words we were getting – thus we quickly learned to ask more direct questions, to make it clearer. Anyway over the course of the first few weeks we all learnt to work quite well with each other.
Mr. Adam is an influential member of the community in Sang, knowledgeable about the ways of construction, and strongly behind the project, thus he was able to arrange al the necessaries for the project to proceed quickly as soon as we were able to provide the cash. Because of the language issues,this did require having lengthy meetings every day to make sure we understood each other. This was a good learning experience, however, and soon we were able to understand each other quite well, and I think we both had confidence in each other's abilities and knowledge, at least after we had proved ourselves a bit. Sometimes things seemed a bit slow with Adam, but tis was mostly because everything had to go through him – when we asked Pastor if we could o direct to one person or another, he didn't want to go behind Adam's back – fair enough, but perhaps the responsibility could be shared in future. This was made worse when we decided that we should not accompany him to bid for things so that he would be more likely to get a lower price.
At the start of the project it seemed that perhaps Adam and Pastor thought we had a lot of money to splash around, making it more difficult for us to get good prices for materials and labour. This was also to do with the issue that as white men, everyone wanted to charge us through the roof. The fact that we were present at a negotiation meant that we had to bargain, which initially we weren't very good at, which didn't help us, but it seemed as if also our helpers had a sense of allegiance with their communities, so they were willing to let them make a bit of money out of us.
It took a visit from Lasisi to get the message across that we didn't have money to splash around, and that we were doing this for community benefit, we weren't getting paid, and that if we didn't get good prices the project wouldn't be finished.
This may have been easier had I discussed the budget at the start, clearly laying out to Adam and Lasisi our total budget and therefore what to allocate for each part. However with the bidding process it would be hard to cost up accurately.
One difficulty was that at first Adam was keen to get the unfinished building finished first. It hadn't been made clear to him that we were there for a specific purpose and had a planned project. This may have been because Lasisi too was not totally clear about what we were coming to do- he too had initially hoped that we would be able to help with the courtyard building. There was a (well founded) urgency that the rains would come and damage the unfinished building. However we had only enough funds for the one building – it took a lot of discussion to make this clear.
Adam was also very generous in providing us and the workers with food throughout the project, cooked by his wives, a cost which would have been outside our budget.
Lasisi is a superb cordinator whose ability and leadership are reflected in the respect he holds for the community. He hosted us well and was willing to take time out of his busy schedule. His family connection to Sang was of key importance, as family is everything in Dagbon, so this helped for us to be accepted and welcomed into the heart of the community. Lasisi was able to help when we needed materials from Tamale, so we didnt always have to make the mission ourselves. It would have been good if he had had more of a presence on site. His work with the Liveliood Empowerment Centre means that hopefully the building will be put to use straight away for their groups and projects.
It is worth noting that none of the key individuals, or in fact anyone we met in relation to the project, had a particular interest in the Arts, unlike at Abetenim where Frank is himself an artist. Perhaps local partnerships with artisans and arts groups or students could be made? Evidently in the upper west region of Ghana there is a lot of decorative arts on buildings, and the northern region is home to many artisans and arts groups of many disciplines- sculpture, painting, clothing, pottery, dance, theatre, circus – this sort of thing should be tapped into, so that the project can reflect local traditional and non traditional arts. At 'L'aurovillage' in Burkina Faso which I visited after the project, there is a resident wood sculptor who make commissioned pieces for the site and sells smaller pieces to visitors.
The school in Sang is ready and waiting with many students who would love to be involved in arts projects (as well as children who are not at school). We wanted to organise mural sculpture and painting on the roundhouse with the children, unfortunately there was not the time but this sort of thing should be encouraged.
Relationship with contractors
Working alongside the strong and skilled workers and tradespeople was hugely fulfilling, enjoyable and humbling, let alone a huge opportunity for learning. We were able to learn and get involved where language barriers allowed, particularly when we got stuck in and showed we were up for it, contrary to the general opinion initially that we couldn't do physical work! The strength and skill of the workers was formidable and incredible to behold.
The workers were often trying to get more out of us- wanting extra money, food and treats. We provided water and occasionally other bits and bobs.
At one point we accidentally caused offence to Abdullah, the thatcher, because someone else ate his food and he went hungry. We didn't realise and then the next day had to go and grovel for him to come back. He is a wise and experienced man, and we felt as perhaps this was a way to educate us in the ways of the tribe.
Never have I been to a place where I felt so welcomed wholeheartedly by the community. Everyone wanted to talk to us and greet us, particularly as we learnt small morcels of the language, like greetings etc. A trip around Sang often involved greeting many groups of men, perhaps stopping to sit under a tree, being followed by up to fifty children, being welcomed into someones' house to eat. We were welcomed into the local customs and rituals, including the Damba festival, drumming and dancing circles, eating Kola, observing building practices, and other practices including shea butter and gari production.The morning greeting of Despa and reply Naaa! will always be with me.
Our true initiation came at the Damba festival where we were forced to dance in front of 500 people including the chief, which was met by huge cheers and laughter- to truly let go was a huge adrenaline rush, and afterwards I felt more at home. We played a dice game called perudo with some of the local guys – I would recommend bringing games to other volunteers, as a good way to get along without too much shared language needed.
Almost every night the children practiced dancing and singing with drums, great to watch and an experience to be among the hundreds of young people of Sang.
Our place of residence for the project was fine and satisfied all requirements and our neighbours, local nurses, looked after us very well. A small recommendation would be to remove the toilet in favour of a longdrop, as what use is a flush toilet without water?
Drinking water – The situation with drinking water wasn't perfect – having to drink from ½ litre sachets meant a huge amount of waste, and an effort having to go and get it. If sachets are the only option, it would to set up a bulk buy system for volunteers. We also spent a lot buying water for the workforce.
There is a lack of any waste disposal system and also a lack of education on waste – I didn't meet one person at my whole time in Sang who wouldnt just throw any rubbish on the ground. At the site we began picking up the litter after each days work – people were geniunely confused as to why we were bothering. It is important not tostart preaching on the way to do things, which is why I think a project on recycling might be a good idea – through art we can have a discussion about this issue, a soft touch that hopefully we end up learning a lot more from.
It is of course difficult to design a building without seeing the site beforehand. Hence I chose to do some preliminary designs based on the requirements of the brief, research into vernacular building styles in ghana, and helped along by contact with the NKA team. (see separate initial design proposal doc) Thus upon arrival on site I had a detailed preliminary design, which I was ready to change, drasticaly if necessary, depending on local conditions, materials, and any new knowledge or ideas resulting from discussing with the locals.
The design is based on a traditional Dagomba roundhouse, with the addition of a roundwood timber frame (not so traditional) allowing a large internal space.
The aim of the design was to provide a sheltered space for meetings and community and arts activities – aiming to be cool and airy during the hot season, have good diffuse light which is not glaring, and still be sheltered during the rainy months. Thus opted for the 'broken roof' design, to allow good light and airflow, give a spacious, high, 'palacial' feeling to the space, and small windows in the walls to maximise the cooling effect of the earth walls and allow a meditative atmosphere, with the option of a large double door to open the space out and link it with the outside.
The aim running through was to remain true to the vernacular style and method, whilst adding a touch of innovation, so that apart from the timber frame, the rest of the build could follow the same methods as the traditional style, and thus be understood and completed by the local tradespeople.
Also this would allow us to learn much about traditional Dagomba building, whilst doing something a little bit different.
We discussed the design, aided by 3D models, with Lasisi and Mr. Adam. There was some doubt over whether the roof would be possible – a 2 tier roof had not been seen before – the way that roundhouse roofs are usually done, they are tied at the top which holds the roof together – this could not be done on the lower portion of the roof.
There was a question over whether rain would come in the gap between the 2 thatches –
Originally it was conceived as a courtyard building, but this evolved into a covered courtyard – It could either be treated as a total indoor space, in which case it may be necessary to add additional coverings to the upper 'windows' or as a covered courtyard with good drainage, that can handle a certain amount of water penetration. In fact after several storms at the start of the rainy season, no rain was observed to have entered between the two roofs.
Another change was the decision not to build a timber frame around the exterior of the building,supporting the edge of the roof andholding in-fill cob walls. Instead we decided just to build a frame in the centre of the building holding the top of the lower roof and the upper roof. The outside set of rafters would be supported on a load-bearing earth wall. This would be more in fitting with the traditional style, and would reduce timber needed thus aiding the budget.
An issue we hadn't considered was Termites – We were planning to fell trees for the timber frame. Often for structural purposes well seasoned tropical hardwood timber is used, which is difficult for termites to penetrate. In the end we used the traditional method of charring the timber with a grass fire which dries and hardens the timber. I suggest that a chemical should also be applied as a failsafe.
The building's scale was also undecided before arrival: It was necessary to see the site, and the available resource of materials and labour, particularly considering the short timescale of the project. NKA suggested a 15-20m diameter for the building. Had it been a courtyard building without a central roof, this may have been possible. But given the necessary angle of the roof a roundhouse of this size could have been more than 10min height, requiring a huge timber frame.
It was decided to build it with a 10m diameter, with an apex of over 6m, which would be a challenge to complete in 30 days with a budget of less than 3000 cedi!
I was unsure about the required angle of roof for the local method of thatching. Looking at the local buildings suggested 35-45 degrees- which would be difficult to achieve with this design. I attempted to find out if there was a minimum to which the answer was; the steeper the better. By drawing some different angles and showing them to the thatcher, Abdullah, we decided that a 2:1 roof angle would be satisfactory. A few small leaks were observed in the building, but this was deemed to be due to insufficient thatch.
The theory of heat exchange in a heavyweight earth building is that the temperature variation is roughly inverse to the outside temp, but with less fluctuation: so in comparison to outdoors they are cooler In the day and warmer at night. The walls act like a thermal battery which stores the heat, acting like a wave which moves through the material to be released hours later. In reality, having experienced living in several roundhouse buildings, they do have quite a constant temperature but this is very often extremely hot – Perhaps due to considerable air infiltration, insufficient wall thickness, and due to a large roof area the walls by no means cover the entire building envelope. Thus the value of the thermal battery is diminished.
The addition of a large window space aims to cause more air circulation, both bringing in outside air and circulating it, and dissipating any heat coming through the walls quicker. The result is improved thermal comfort.
The build – Walls
Method – the walls were constructed using a method traditional to the Dagomba region- that is a monolithic earth wall using a mixture of subsoil and topsoil.
The first process is preparing the mixture. This involves breaking up the soil, and mixing it together with water. The hole formed by the extraction becomes the pit used for mixing. Using picks and mattocks the subsoil is loosened, and then a certain quantity of topsoil is broken up from the banks and mixed in. The subsoil is a mixture of clay and gravel, which in itself forms a very good coarse cob mix that is unlikely to crack even when building monolithic walls (perhaps the existence of such soil is why monolithic construction is favoured instead of clay bricks)
The topsoil is added for the first few rounds of the wall and then less so towards the top. It adds sand to the mix as well as what the locals call 'starch'.
The mixing work is hard- around a tonne of material is being worked at one time, water being added and the mixture churned with mattocks, hoes and bare feet. To ease the mixing the mixture is wetted the night before if possible.
Then the mixture is shovelled onto the bank of the pit and then barrowed to the side of the site where it is left in piles around the perimeter of the walls.
Small 'hoes' are used for mixing a shovelling – like a small spade turned backwards on itself- perfect for this process.
The piles of ready mixture are then rolled into cabbage sized balls ready for construction.
Firstly a shallow trench is dug around the perimeter of the wall. The first balls are dropped into this trench to create a (very limited) foundation. More balls are added and the builder moves around the wall, moulding the balls into each other to form the shape of the wall. At the end of the first day the wall is around 400mm in height and 400mm thick. Work starts at 5 or 6 and finishes at around 12 leaving the rest of the day for the wall to dry before commencing the next level. In total there were 6 levels, reaching a total of around 2m. Each level the wall is constructed slightly thinner than the last, and is able to be built higher. Thus the wall tapers in slightly from both sides.
The higher levels are built with the builder sitting on the wall, having balls of cob (tandi in dagbani) thrown/passed to him. He moves backwards along the wall as he builds: he then uses a piece of flat timber to shape and flatten the wall. The builders only used their eye to make an extremely smooth and even curve, slightly tapering and completely level at the top.
Windows and doors were made from mahogany which is very difficult to cut with hand tools! They were fitted into the wall using nails at intervals around the frame to key into the cob.
The builder’s job is fairly fast – he turns up when the mixture is ready and slaps the cob into place. The labourers however work from 5 or 6 in the morning to prepare the mixture.
In the 35 degree heat the walls dry out quickly – each level is dry to the touch within 6 hours of completion. Thus straight after the walls are complete the building is ready to bear a load. The surface is rough and coarse due to the consistency of the material, but this will provide a good key for the plaster which is necessary to weatherproof the building. Before the building was roofed we were unlucky and experienced a random downpour of rain -which resulted in some damage to the wall, but it was able to dry out fully and was strengthened with the addition of plaster.
The timber frame was the one part of the build that was not a traditional building method in the region. It would allow the roof to be constructed as designed, instead of a solid roof, with one or no central pole as was traditional. Although there is access to wood, it is mainly fairly short lengths, suitable for rafters but not framework. Lengths of wood more than 3.5-4m are available from two sources – planked hardwood from Tamale, expansive, or standing Teak which is native to the area. Luckily Adam knew a man who had some.
We ended up being ripped off quite considerably for the trees, purchasing 14 trees of around 250mm diameter at base and 7-8m in height, for 280 cedis. The trees were felled, trimmed and burnt with dried grass to harden the outside as a measure against termites. They were left where they fell, so to transport them we went with a tractor and trailer, and with 5-6 of us had a race to carry the huge trees onto the trailer and home before dark – one of the more bizarre moments of my life (something I would say about several parts of the project) – our work was accompanied by screaming from our helpers in order to get the adrenaline pumping (which we soon joined in with) plus there was an audience of about 50 children shouting 'soldier, soldier' at us. In the en we drove back to the village in complete darkness with no lights and a 13 yr old behind the wheel. Not the safest move by any stretch of the imagination but we didn’t have much choice! An initiation into the way things work there!
The main difficulty with the frame was the lack of tools and equipment – we had limited funds for purchasing/hiring tools or hiring labour to do the work. In any case it was the part of the build I was most familiar with, so it made sense to do it ourselves with bits of help from volunteers, and we seized the opportunity to do a round wood frame completely with hand tools.
The frame design used simple notched lap joints fixed with nails- which caused some difficulty as the Ghanaian nails were difficult to get into such hard wood.
8 x 500mm deep holes were dug for the posts, and the poles were erected by assembling four rugby-post like structures, bracing to wall/floor at first, and then fixed the cross pieces between them. We had a very rudimentary scaffold, but it was sufficient except for cutting joints for the windbraces which proved difficult, but possible. In the end we used concrete nails which were much stronger and I'm happy they have given us a very solid frame.
For structural solidity and for holding the rafters of the top section of roof, a cross beam was fitted across the top holding a central post upon which to sit the rafters.
Finding over 100 rafters proved difficult and required a number of meetings with Adam followed by a trip to the bush with tractor, to load up a trailer with a huge weight of wood- Riding there and back on such a rough track was a trying experience – especially when sitting atop a huge stack of timber.
The roof was split into two parts, top and bottom – After initial worries about whether it could e done, the roof, Abdullah, expressed no worries. The first stage was to install the rafters. The top section was done first. Putting amazing trust in our frame, Mr. Abdullah sat on the high cross beam right in the centre to guide the rafters into place and tie them all together. At the perimeter they were mostly nailed, sometimes tied. The rope used is made from straw, woven and very strong, It is kept under water to remain pliable and then dries solid which strengthens the joints. As most of the rafters were not straight, we aimed to have them bending outward in a convex fashion, so as to give the building a domed profile. The issue here was that in fixing them they naturally wanted to turn over. Thus sometimes they were positioned to cross each other so as to limit this effect, meaning that the rafters were not always directly along the diameter of the building. The crossing had a strengthening effect and gave the rafters more rigidity. Over 30 rafters were fixed o the top section and over 70 below.
Before laying the weave a thick straw rope is made which is laid around the circumference of the roof and then spirals inwards to the center, creating a surface to lay the straw against. The rope is made by tightly wrapping dried bark strips around a bundle of straw 3 – 5n cm thick, and every 30 cm or foot length adding an extra fingers width of straw. It needs to be very long. My suspicion is that this may be one o the first things to perish. It is attached to the frame by tying with natural rope.
The rolls of weave are then rolled out around the roof – starting from the top and working down to the eaves. A special stick is used to raise the rolls up to the roofer who sits on top. The pole also aids the unravelling – being turned whilst walking around the building.
After the roof is covered a different type of straw is used, rough, with thinner, more divided stems, bundles of which are hoisted or thrown up and then spread out on top of the thatch to make a thic (4-5 inch) mat. Following this woven rolls are unrolled again, this time starting at the base and working up the roof. At the top the ends are tied, to either form a point or to be smoothly domed .Over 100 rolls of straw were used on the building, and this was still considered to be not enough thatch.
Finishing the roof was perhaps the best day of the project. Suddenly the building was defined – The word had spread and many people came to see it. We opened some wine and a pineapple and celebrated. There were well deserved cheers for Abdulah when he came down.
Interestingly the roofers hadn't blinked an eye at the size or unusual nature of the building, even though it could well have been the biggest and probably the highest they had roofed. They did it as if they had done it 100 times before. Nor did they seem to be excited about doing something different; and on the same scale – they don't necessarily show excitement in the same way as us though.
In terms of the concern about whether rain comes in, after two or so rains little or no rain had come through the centre, a small amount came through some thin areas of thatch, which need to be increased. It is up to the coordinators whether they want to install temporary coverings during the wet season ( I suggest woven straw matting) over the prevailing wind's side of the building.
Plastering and Flooring
The plastering and flooring were the two sections of the build that were performed by women. For both parts of the build we worked with the same group of women, led mainly by Pasta's mother, consisting of around 19 women of all ages. Compared to working with the men this was a hugely energetic affair, with fast work, jovial banter and singing and chanting. The women sang many traditional songs, often call-and response, and when flooring this formed an important part of the rhythm when compressing the floor with bats.
The external plaster consisted largely of a sandy soil. A certain root, the name of which escapes me but that grows in the bush but not abundantly, was mashed and added to large cauldrons of water which were left overnight. By morning this had become a thick paste, the starch from the root having given the water the consistency of wallpaper paste. This was added to the soil along with cow dung and ash to lighten it. This was well mixed in a similar manner to cob mixing and then applied to the wall by hand, 15 – 20mm thick. The internal plaster was similar but without cow dung.
For the finish coat, externally the same paste was mixed with pure cow dung and applied in a thin layer. Internally a fine white sandy soil was found and mixed with the paste to give a light colour to the internal finish. For each coat, after application a piece of calabash shell was used to smooth the surface of the plaster.
The plaster really helped to give the wall solidity and structure.
For the floor the same paste was used as well as the clay subsoil used for the wall construction. The women carried it from the pit as we shovelled it into their containers: Women as old as 80 carried huge tubs on their heads- some had to be helped up but once there they were away!
The material was laid down, spread to form a slight slope heading down to one side where we hollowed a small drain under the wall. Then water was sprinkled onto the dry material as it was beaten repeatedly with specially made wooden bats. This process continued for several hours until the floor was incredibly hard and compact. The women sang beautifully, as they worked. The atmosphere of working with the women made it the most fantastic and memorable part of the build for me.
At the same time we constructed a bench using clay and wood, and sculpted it into two trees, Shea and Baobab, upon the inside wall. Some of the children helped out with this, and I wish we had more time to do more creative stuff with them. Mr Adam was annoyed that we had cut one of his scaffold planks in half to make the bench, we tried to explain it to him but I'm not sure he agreed it was a good use of it!
In the end the opening event turned out to be a memorable affair, and a success, but it was not the most well planned and organised event. The one month restriction on the project meant that we were too busy to think about it far in advance, so we quickly decided on a date and made basic plans with Lasisi on the Sunday beforehand. I didn’t expect the costs that came with it – for instance having to pay at least 40cedis for the drummers to attend – It felt strange having to pay for a celebration event for our own project – having provided an asset for the community, it would have been nice to have been thanked somehow – at least NKA should have foot the bill for the celebration event, as thanks for the project. That, and the absence of the project coordinator made us feel a little underappreciated at the end. Having said that, many residents really helped out to pull the event together, notably Pastor (Abdullai) and the Zongu chief Originah. In most aspects of the project everyone went out of their way to welcome us and help us – a mention must be made of Osman and Habib who took time out of their busy schedules to spend time with us and drive us around.
It is worth reiterating, however, the attitude which exists in the village of trying to overcharge the white visitors, an attitude which will cause difficulties for future projects. Strategies to alleviate this should be considered, and a permanent Nka coordinator on site would be a great help.
Another perspective on the workers tendency to demand more is that in this society, the employee seems to have a lot more power – he is able to negotiate his rate, and expects to be fed with food and water – a lot more power than the average blue collar worker wields in the west.
Also it could be suggested that a culture that is used to bartering lends itself to ripping off those who don't know better, just as a matter of course rather than as an act of purposeful misleading of foreigners. All exchanges start off with a high demand.
The way this sort of competition conflicts with our idea of competition is in value for money – we are used to choosing a vendor because they have a good price- therefore we use their services again and again. From my perspective, if the vendor 'wins' a high price, the customer is not happy, he has paid more – so why should he use their services again? He will go elsewhere. But that’s the way it is in Ghana – perhaps future volunteers need a bit of bartering training.
Anyway the event started with chaos as a huge crowd swamped our free bar – I was coming down with malaria so I wasn’t much help, the drummers raised the excitement and brought crowds of people so it all seemed a bit out of control!
Luckily when the acrobats started, and Originah brought the crowds under control, the atmosphere calmed and everyone focused on the spectacle, which was superb – an acrobatics troupe from Tamale who performed some staggering feats of agility and strength. I was able to use this opportunity to make a speech about the build and the project, which Pastor translated and then made a speech himself. The response seemed to be good. I was forced to leave early as a fever set in, but not before witnessing George and Humphrey doing some (now quite well practised) tribal dancing. Humphrey left that evening for home.
For Sang arts village and future volunteer projects
Feel free to disregard this, just some of my thoughts on the future of the project!
- A permanent on-site coordinator is needed – preferably with an arts specialism – or if not, someone with an arts specialism is at least needed to be part of the project.
- Base funding needed – not all funds should be met by the volunteers, i.e. at least celebration event should be funded, or volunteers pay small amount for living expenses, and then project costs are provided.
- NKA should seek funding from external sources, arts bodies etc, but also consider ways to be self funding – through organised project holidays in which participants pay for a design-build experience, or through using the centre as a hostel. But this will be difficult without any supporting funding.
- A plan for the site is needed –
- giving the site identity through a perimeter and entranceway
- Planning for an attractive, open and inclusive space
- delegating spaces for planned /expected builds.
- Tree plantings for the future and for organising the space.
- Local artisans needed – an arts village needs art! Partnerships with local arts organisations
- A more coherent strategy is needed –
- Where will the project be in 5 years time?
- What are the aims and objectives and how will they be met?
- How will the financial needs be met?
- How does the relationship between LEC and NKA work?
- This could involve a project 'vision' - how is the project addressing the specific needs of the local community and region?
- One suggestion is that from the specific needs of the community Themes for arts projects could be created that arts projects could then fit into. This sort of structure will actually encourage creativity and be a seed for project ideas, also ensuring projects are relevant, particularly when artists/volunteers are likely never to have visited the place beforehand.
- Below is an example about how this might work-
- Aim – Reducing unemployment and poverty
- Theme – Livelihoods and enterprise for women,
- Projects- Women’s group (existing project), Women’s arts project, Developing arts trades and associated buildings i.e. pottery workshop, looms and weaving workshop.
- Theme - Improving English language,
- Projects – English language courses, Arts projects with youth in English
- Theme - Supporting Agriculture
- Projects - Farmers group (existing project),Arts project about farming/ local food, Tree planting at sang arts village
- Aim – Improving Women and Children's health
- Theme – Family Planning awareness
- Project – Arts project around small, healthy families
- Aim – Putting Sang on the map as new district capital
- Theme – Cleaning up Sang
- Projects – Arts project raising awareness about waste/ litter, working with community to reduce waste
- Theme – Creative/ Public arts for Sang
- Projects – Arts projects making public sculptures/murals along with community,
- Aim – promoting and exchanging arts and culture, both internationally and locally
- Theme – Create bases for arts activities
- Projects – Build projects for arts spaces
- Theme – exchange of artisan skills with locals
- Projects – bring in local resident artists, design build holidays, arts projects bringing in artists with skills in a specific discipline, e.g. ceramics or music
The projects identified could still fit in with and fulfil international/Nka Project themes and arts events, but would also fit in with locally appropriate issues serving to help the local community.