Alastair Knowles – 2015

In November of 2015, I had the remarkable experience of travelling to Accra with my partner, Stephanie Morin-Robert. Together, we taught two weeks of theatre and dance workshops for the performance troupes of the Nima Learning Centre and the Korle Gonno Community Library. We also led the adult literacy class of the Kathy Knowles Community Library in four days of mask-making and dance workshops.

With Kathy Knowles being my mother, I was one of the ‘original six’ children who began the legacy that has become the Osu Children’s Library Fund (OCLF). It has been a profound experience witnessing its growth over the last 25 years, and I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to share my skills as a performance artist with the dedicated and talented members of the theatre troupes.

I was particularly blown away by the dedication of the troupe directors Martin Adija Legend and Abdul Aziz Abillah. I raise my hat to both of you. I know from my own experience that performance can be a tremendous tool for personal growth, and it has the capacity to bring communities together. Martin and Aziz’s tireless commitment to creating opportunities for youth to share the joys of theatre and dance is a wonder to behold. Ghana is luck to have you two. The theatre troupes in these communities provide a network of support for creative expression that builds self-confidence among each participant. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to creatively play with such a dedicated group of aspiring Ghanaian artists.

I was surprised by the enthusiasm with which workshop participants embraced the physical and psychological demands of the tasks we set before them. The fearlessness with which they tackled the unfamiliar activities we presented was inspiring. It has challenged me to identify artistic areas that I am interested in pursuing but have held back from doing because of my own fear of failure or judgment. I recall in my own clown and performance studies years ago, there was a general sense of dread amongst my classmates when it came our time to go onstage. Taking a cue from the courage of our participants, I have embraced an art form that was, up until my time in Ghana, quite terrifying – singing. While no one there said “Alastair you should start singing,” I am confident there is a correlation. I recently applied to participate in an Artist-in-Residency program at a local arts center to further develop this new territory of creative expression.

A special thanks goes out to all the staff of the Korle Gonno Community Library for welcoming Stephanie, Islando, Heather, and me into your beautiful building for the duration of our stay. You each contributed to making our time there special. We immediately felt we were surrounded by friends.

Joana Felih, your kindness and your tireless work is a marvel to behold. You are the most gracious of hosts. Thank you for giving us the warmest of welcomes to Ghana, as I know you have done for so many volunteers before us.

I am delighted that the OCLF has invited us to return. We hope to accept this offer when it next works with our schedule and to continue with the amazingly dedicated and talented people there.

With abundant appreciation,