In December 2023, two landmark community engagement in cultural heritage workshops took place in Winneba and Accra, Ghana, bringing together dedicated heritage managers from various regions. These workshops, part of HERITΛGE’s HerMaP Africa program and supported by the Mellon Foundation’s Humanities in Place program, aimed to equip participants with the tools and insights to actively engage communities, navigate cultural complexities, and delve into the rich tapestry of oral history.
The Accra workshop began on Wednesday 6th December with interactive presentations to 22 attendees by Dr. Aris Anagnostopoulos, Dr. Lena Stefanou and HERITΛGE director, Dr. Evangelos Kyriakidis. On day two (Thursday 7th) attendees had the chance to explore heritage projects close to their hearts and present in small groups on how they might stimulate local engagement. The projects presented included the Mystic Ayi Tree, traditional Ghanian fabrics, oral storytelling traditions and the history of the famous priest Okonfo Anokye. The final day (Friday 8th) was dedicated exclusively to exploring oral history in heritage contexts. The theories and techniques of preserving oral history were presented to the participants and they were later asked to conduct mock interviews about one group member’s childhood. Following on from this, each group produced an interview report which would help guide them in future oral history research.
The following week the same workshop was conducted in Winneba from Monday 11th-Wednesday 13th December. Although this workshop involved fewer participants (up to 18 on the final day a broad range of heritage ideas and projects were explored. The group exercise, this time conducted on day 1, produced ideas about promoting tourism through sculptural monuments in Efutu region, promoting widow’s rights in the Deogo communities and a “reclaiming our roots” festival. The discussions were lively and raised some crucial ethical questions about how a heritage practitioner should involve his or herself in cultural practices. On day two we introduced a new “Who are your Communities” exercise in which participants identified and presented their community and its values. The final day, as in Accra, confronted oral history in heritage contexts. Once again it was very encouraging to hear such a diversity of approaches, questions and opinions and each group produced a helpful report to take away.
All in all, we are very excited about how the workshop went and look forward to the potential for future expansion into other areas of Ghana.