Naima Penniman

Publication Date

Spring 2002


Rhythm and Movement in Ghana: Healing through Dance and through Generations is an odyssey into the potential of dance for social healing. The motivation for this study was to explore the role of artistic expression and positive cultural revival as a force for healing collective trauma. This project was aimed at understanding, in particular, the power and potential of Ghanaian dancing and drumming tradition: the important role is has played throughout the people's history as a vehicle for commune with the spiritual, a medium for release and expression, a force for social solidarity, and a tool for healing; and to draw from it knowledge and power for positive transformation in todays's context of modernizatio and rapid change. Finding focus in the city-a locus, an index, and a generative force for the change most characteristic of the transformation now taking place in Ghana-the project explores, through first-hand involvement, how two urban cultural groups use drumming and dancing as vehicle for positive cultural expression and healing with youth in the community. The study finds that traditional Ghanaian drumming and dance bears a message about community solidarity about caring, healing, and sharing in the joys and sorrows of life together, and getting back into harmony with ourselves, one another and the world. This is a message that those in the West, along with modern Africans, need to listen to as we suffer breakdowns of community, family, morality, and our ecological base on earth. African music and dance may stir in us some nascent awareness of a humane, down-to-earth solidarity that has been lost in our mechanized culture and that we need to rediscover.