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Anthropology prof forever changed after studying in Ghana

Besides+working+with+the+people+of+Ghana%2C+Dr.+Ama+Boakyewa%2C+PVCC+anthropology+professor%2C+concentrates+on+women%27s+rights+and+teaches+classes+that+focus+on+women+in+other+cultures.
Besides working with the people of Ghana, Dr. Ama Boakyewa, PVCC anthropology professor, concentrates on women's rights and teaches classes that focus on women in other cultures.

Besides working with the people of Ghana, Dr. Ama Boakyewa, PVCC anthropology professor, concentrates on women's rights and teaches classes that focus on women in other cultures.

Photo by Bethany Ortiz

Photo by Bethany Ortiz

Besides working with the people of Ghana, Dr. Ama Boakyewa, PVCC anthropology professor, concentrates on women's rights and teaches classes that focus on women in other cultures.

Bethany Ortiz, Humans of PVCC Editor

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Dr. Ama Boakyewa is a new professor at Paradise Valley Community College. Over the summer, Boakyewa was hired as professor of cultural anthropology at PVCC for at least one year.

Boakyewa comes bearing culture and influence. She walks with the confidence of someone who has accomplished great things, but still knows how to laugh and enjoy her time with students as she teaches. She talks in a manner that commands attention and respect. Although Boakyewa has a positive outlook on life, she says her journey has not always been easy. She dropped out of school, worked a couple of jobs, and 30 years later decided to return to university.

Boakyewa says what she really enjoys about PVCC is that “it’s a learning centered school.” She worked in the past as an assistant professor in universities such as Purdue University and Indiana University, where she says learning environments and expectations differ from those at PVCC.

 

The Professor Returns to School

In 1998, the future college professor left her job in New York working as a public educator for an archeological project and decided it was time to return to school.

As Boakyewa furthered her education, her efforts turned toward studying Ghanaian culture. In 2008, Boakyewa was able to spend a year with the native people of Ghana, mainly studying indigenous religions of the country for her doctoral dissertation.

For the Love of Ghana   

Boakyewa says her love for the people of Ghana grew and eventually became a large part of who she has become. In time, she even changed her birth name to a Ghanaian name.

Boakyewa’s original name was Linda, but she traded that for Ama — which means: born on Saturday. In Ghana there is a female and a male name for each day of the week, and each child is usually named appropriately by gender and birth day.

Changing her name was a decision Boakyewa made after realizing that she felt like she was living as two separate people. Mainly because in the Ghanaian community group that she was attending, she was already known as “Ama”; however, in her day-to-day life she was known as “Linda.” The feeling of separation between her two lives led to her ultimate decision to permanently change her name to “Ama” in 1989.

In an effort to better assimilate herself with the Ghanaian culture, Boakyewa has also learned to speak the native language, Twi, so she could communicate with the people of Ghana. Boakyewa loves Ghana, and although she does not have ancestral roots connected to Ghana, she makes it a point to advocate for the country and its people. When she speaks of the culture, her face lights up and she immediately settles into storytelling of the time she spent with the people of Ghana.

Her favorite memories include the moments when everyone would sit around the compound in which she was staying, and they would laugh and joke, not taking each other too seriously. Everyone enjoyed the time, and there was a sense of “communal spirit,” says Boakyewa as she reminisces. She explains how the people in Ghana do not care if they are poor or suffering. They make the most of what they have and waste very little.

In Ghana, people cannot trust anyone to periodically provide water or electricity for them, like in the states, Boakyewa says. In those situations, the people of Ghana are forced to stockpile water in barrels; so if the water is shut off or ceases to work for any length of time, they have water that they can rely on. She explains how the Ghanaian people taught her that Americans, take so much for granted.

She says, “I stopped spending so much… (and) consuming so much. I learned that I was taking so much for granted.”

However, even though the people there were struggling and worked very hard for what they had, they always remembered to have fun. As they sat telling stories and laughing at one another, sitting around the compound, Boakyewa remembers the endless teasing.

“They were always bagging on each other, and once they got to know me, they would tease me too!” she said.

Additionally, Boakyewa saw many differences between U.S. culture and that of Ghana’s. In particular she talked about how in their culture elders are held in high esteem, and if they are seen struggling, the children will run to help them.

“Even if they don’t know you, they will help you because it’s part of their culture,” she explains. “The kids would help me with my bags.” Her love extends to all of the people in Ghana because she says they were like a family to her.

Learn Great Things From an Even Greater Person

This semester Boakyewa is offering a late start class called Magic, Witchcraft and Healing: Introduction to Comparative Religion (ASB 214), that will begin Sept. 21 from 12 p.m.-1:40 p.m. Other courses offered by Boakyewa during the Spring 2016 semester include the following: Culture in a Globalizing World (ASB 102), Women in Other Cultures (ASB 211), Magic, Witchcraft and Healing: Introduction to Comparative Religion (ASB 214), Ethnic Religions in the United States (ASB 202); the times for the Spring 2016 courses are still in negotiation.

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Anthropology prof forever changed after studying in Ghana