Sharing the Joy of Reading with an African Child
for 25 years

Reflections: Stephanie Morin-Robert

Alastair and StephanieThis past November I traveled to Ghana Accra to participate in Osu Children’s Library 25th anniversary where I was invited to facilitate dance and theatre workshops alongside my partner Alastair Knowles, a lovely Canadian artist.

Preparing for this trip was exciting since I had never been anywhere near Africa. Before I knew it, I had my visa, necessary vaccinations and suitcase in hand and was ready to take off. When I left for Ghana, I had no idea what to expect as I embarked on my first international trip where I was assigned to work artistically with a community from a developing country. I had some experience teaching dance and theatre back in Canada and was ready to take on this exciting challenge.

Stephanie in actionBeing emerged into a whole new environment and culture was a life changing experience for a number of reasons. Upon our arrival, I had the great pleasure of acquainting myself with the wonderful Korle Gonno community and library over a three-week period. Many generously guided me through my inevitable culture shock as I slowly adjusted to the different communication styles, gender roles and safety conditions.

We had the pleasure of staying at the guesthouse on the 4th floor of the Korle Gonno Community Library for the duration of our visit, giving us access to our own kitchen and bathroom – a real luxury that I was extremely thankful to have.

Getting used to standing out was an interesting process and I now have a deeper understanding of what it feels like to be a visible minority. It was both a frustrating and eye opening experience that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. This international experience helped me realize that no matter how different artistic communities are from each other, the universal language of movement can bring people even closer together.

Teaching on stage at the Korle Gonno Community Library

Teaching at the Korle Gonno Community Library

I was surprised by how fast Ghanaian children are forced to grow up due to their inescapable list of responsibilities. This opportunity allowed me to share the joy of play by offering a safe space to spark their inner child. Together we worked on stage presence, the key elements of creating choreography, visited aspects that make a good performer, and ways to develop physical and vocal spontaneity. Their willingness and hunger to learn blew me away and I was so impressed with how hyper aware they were of their bodies and how fast they learnt.

The 25th Anniversary parade was the major highlight of my visit. This celebratory march through Accra guided over 700 people from library to library where we helped serve water, porridge, pito, Fan-ice, bread, and coconuts along the way.

Between the workshops, parade organizing and daily activities, time went by very rapidly. Just as I was settling in, it was already time to leave. I was sad to go but so thankful for the wonderful people I met and the experiences we shared.  I left feeling proud, as though I had made a difference. A very rewarding adventure.

Stephanie at KKCLMy purpose to travel to Ghana was to share my knowledge and love for dance and theatre with students who have a hunger to learn. However, I realize more and more that this whole experience was a sharing process and that I learnt just as much, if not more from them.  I made strong connections and developed a genuine love for the community and I really look forward to my return.

Since my arrival back in Canada, I’ve noticed that I now have a stronger desire to move percussively as I continue to create new work for an upcoming show. I also have a heightened awareness of the resources that are available to me and feel very fortunate to be Canadian.  My most recent work has reflected Canadian heritage and pride. I seem to feel even more connected to my past creative work and country after these new international discoveries. I will remember this experience for the rest of my life, and thank you to all of those who were apart of it.

Stephanie’s video of OCLF’s 25th anniversary parade: