It has been 7 months since I last heard this wonderful statement, “how to tell it”. The first time I heard it, it was quite innocent…a passing statement…a transition into a missing important thought in a speech or lesson. After a while it became so prevalent that even in the absence of the owner, His Excellency Professor Laszlo Felfoldi, we would still put it in our sentences. It had become fun and at times during formal and informal discussions with the ‘owner’ we could accurately foretell its coming, imminent or distant. We would even go as far as to count the number of times it was used in a particular session. The highest we have counted, if am remembering correctly, within a particular study session is 12 (I stand to be corrected). But to me this famous statement of “how to tell it” is indeed a profound statement no matter how much we trivialize it. In our everyday endeavours if someone should ask what you have gained thus far and why you chose this path, regardless the answer, it is preceded by a “how to tell it” (whether you say it out loud or not). How do you tell it? From what point of view does one collate and filter numerous answers to explain succinctly what one communicates eventually? How do you put it to make it sound understandable to the layman? From the words of my dance mentor, Kwaku Manu (aka Odotobiri) he opines that the reason we are in academia is to ‘make knowledge accessible to all’. “We are here to explain or to make “clearer” that which most men and women already know. We are just re-contextualizing and or re-clarifying knowledge to make it accessible for whoever has ears to hear. We simplify”. You may or may not agree with this statement but in its seemingly subjective openness, simplification relies on the poignant question of “how to tell it”. How do we simplify the knowledge we have acquired in academia to make it understandable to our own people? Do we simply relay the information in our program course book/syllabus to a curious person about our specialization? The question remains; how do you tell it? How do we essentialize our field in this competitive academic environment? The answer is itself a heritage to be discussed, dismembered, and reassembled again to validate its existence.
Back home, the challenge becomes how to simplify and reach out to ones colleagues. This is not because you are better than them or because you studied abroad, but by virtue of one’s traditional values that promotes the ideology that you owe your knowledge to your people. The statement “how to tell it” is political on two levels – the personal and the social levels. On the social level simplifying knowledge is problematic and precipitated by political correctness and the problems of translating English to the local lingua. For most of the uneducated Ghanaian hoi polloi, the problems with understanding the current discussions on heritage, whether tangible or intangible hinges on the globalization of the term and the endless conundrum of the English language. The problem with translation from English to one of the myriad local lingos is understandings biggest setback to date. As scholars how do we then reconcile the problems of communication between perhaps, the convention and the people it is trying to reach? How do we put it?
The acquisition of knowledge has been quite vigorous and purposeful with the two years of study on the Choreomundus master program. We have had loads of valuable information given to us within the time of study so much that sometimes it confuses me – I say this with all honesty and am not ashamed. But that is not the issue here. Where ever we find ourselves now, can we be able to titillate our colleagues on the importance of the academic discourse of heritage pertaining to our countries? Can we localise the knowledge we have acquired to make it more meaningful to our colleagues and people back home that are already living the heritage? How do we simplify the knowledge, practices, and heritage? So how do we tell it?
A journey of a thousand miles as said begins with a step and thus awareness creation, re-conceptualization, and recognition could be the steps in the right direction to help answer questions raised above. The realisation of what man and his society considers to be valuable begins with the recognition and the awareness of the potential of the identified as worthy of safeguarding. Hence, identification of the convention serves as a conduit to the recognition, awareness creation and the connectedness of such living expression to stakeholders. To simplify our knowledge back to our people because we owe them this knowledge is to create an awareness of re-conceptualization…that is perhaps how to put it – for in the simplification of telling, our sense of immediacy may become an agency for imposition. Nevertheless, we may tell that the knowledge, practice and heritage are a construct and through this construct living expressions become a venerated production. We as scholars engage in knowledge production that involves epistemological enquiry, hereinto – the re-conceptualization of heritage practice to the hoi polloi (stakeholders) is the reality in their identification. In that respect when the self or community becomes aware and recognizes the heritage, it affirms the construct and processes-making ideology of heritagisation thus making simplification foremost, as an imagined form of community knowledge. ‘Knowledge needs to be framed – given a name, established with provenance and applicability – before it can be “bought or sold” (cf. Napier 2002: 289)’.
Here again I suppose the above enumeration might just be considered as a mere foreboding into the heritage discourse but the question will thus resonate aloud again, - How do we essentialize our field in this competitive academic environment? Can we localise the knowledge we have acquired to make it more meaningful to our colleagues and people back home that are already living the heritage? With that said, I believe to proceed from the identifier in the heritage discourse is to instrumentalize. The process of instrumentalisation requires critical knowledge in investigation, dissemination of scholarly knowledge in the purview of cultural heritage, cultural and international politics, and the academia. If I may be so bold, then, I shall posit that our acquired scholarly ability to essentialize our field may be liken to the instrumentalisation process of making heritage. Thus if “I dance because I am” …whence I conclude… “Can we essentialize our field because we can”? After apotheosizing the fons et origo of … ‘How to tell it’ and or ‘How do we put it’…where is our scholarly Onus probandi?
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in all posts are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the association or the MA program.