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Time for Some Afro-Colombian Youth Diplomacy

By Lana Ghandour
Time for Some Afro-Colombian Youth Diplomacy

Visiting Colombian student Robert Gongora, at left, gets a warm Ghanaian
welcome from LCS student Jeremy DeVuyst (photo: LCS).
At the Lincoln Community School (LCS) in Accra, Ghana, the DeVuyst and Yturralde families supported an initiative organized by the Embassy of Colombia in Ghana for Colombian students of African descent. To enhance cultural ties between the two countries, the Embassy hosted the cultural exchange for nine Afro-Colombian young musicians and performers between the ages of 14 and 17 last September.
The program is part of a wider pioneering effort to promote cultural diplomacy by enhancing links of Afro-Colombian youth to Africa and enrich the lives of young Colombians, particularly those from underprivileged areas.
As part of their itinerary, the visiting Colombian teenagers toured Accra, and visited the JayNii Foundation in Jamestown, local historical sites, and the University of Cape Coast. They were also involved in workshops at public schools.
“The experience was fantastic, the youth were able to communicate with people through their music and dancing,” explained the Ambassador of Colombia to Ghana, H.E. Claudia Turbay Quintero. “They had spontaneous dialogue sessions on topics ranging from religion to music,” Ambassador Quintero continued.
Ambassador Quintero mentioned several instances in which LCS families “participated and co-operated happily,” providing spontaneous translation for both the visitors and Ghanaians participating in the dialogue. She expressed her gratitude to the Colombian families, parents, and LCS students from the DeVuyst (Jeremy and Alexandre) and Yturralde (Inigo and Iker) families who joined the group on their excursions and connected with the young musicians.
“It was truly stunning how well the Colombian music blended in with Ghanaian music, at some points they played together without ever having coordinated anything and the music came out great,” explained LCS student Jeremy DeVuyst. Music and dances performed by the young Colombians fused beautifully with local percussion instruments; although the melodies and harmonies were influenced by European music and dance, the Currulao (a type of Colombian music) has deep African roots. Even the singing patterns in the Currulao, with a lead voice and an answering choir, are reminiscent of African-style music.
Diplomats, dignitaries, and performers from the Ghana National Dance Company, Streetwise Kids, the Noyam Dancers and young Colombian performers braved the rain to perform at an event held at the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum on 24 September 2013.
Hosted by the Ambassador of Colombia in conjunction with the Mayor of Accra, the Honorary Alfred Vanderpuije, and the Ministry of Tourism, the event revealed the similarities between the music, instruments, and traditional dances of the two countries. The audience was in awe at the similarities in the music and dance from the Pacific Coast of Colombia, and the Ghanaian Agbadza (a traditional rhythm and dance of the Ewe people) performed by the local ensemble.
As a wrap up to the week-long program, the visiting delegation was treated to lunch at the residence of the Mayor of Accra.

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04/17/2014 - Fiorella
Just love the initiative, the idea, and the outcome.
The opportunity of cultural exchanging and finding their roots.
Well done!