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April 08, 1973 - Image 4

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Michigan Daily, 1973-04-08

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travel in

Number 80 Page Four

Sunday, April 8, 1973








tained a close instinctual and
emotional bond with Africa despite the
Tarzan, Jane, Boy and Cheetah stereo-
types I was subjected to. I have man-
aled to transcend the racism and
ethnocentrism inflicted on me and
my brothers.
With a heightened sense of pride in
my African cultural heritage, I, like
many of my peers, wore dashikis,
beads and the "Afro," studied Swa-
hili and read extensively about my
brothers in Africa and in the dias-
pora. I thought of returning "home"
frequently. What was left for me to
accomplish was a pilgrimage to the
land of my ancestors, Africa.
FORTUNATELY in some respects and
unfortunately in others, I am a
student of anthropoloav - that "child
of imperialism" whose practitioners
pride themselves in sunposedly being
ahle to describe the life ways of so-
cieties around the globe. My "aca-
demic" interest in Africa led me to re-
search the essence of African commu-
nities and their social organization-
specifically, a project on social chance
and family organization among the
Yoruba and Ashanti neoples.
With cumbersome luggage contain-
ing an anthropological reference text
on kinship, notebooks, pens and in-
dex cards, a pocket instamatic cam-
era, several rolls of film and a few
garments, I set out to see myself in
the land of my forefathers.
My charter flight from New York
transported 250 Blacks, most of whom
were New Yorkers headed for study-
tour programs in West Africa. They
came for varied reasons - some in
search of identity, a few to visit old
friends, some to study and some to fall
into the. trap of being ethnocentric
American tourists.
When we disembarked at Kotoka In-
ternational Airport in Accra, the capi-
tal of Ghana, a crowd of Ghanians
cheered and applauded from the up-
per level of the airport. It was hard to
believe I was finally in the Mother-
land. What a good feeling!
Accra was my first real introduction
to Africa and of all the interesting
sites and events to explore, nothing
was more fascinating than the mar-
ketplaces. Women were vibrantly at-

forefathers brutalized in these cham-
bers of exploitation with no light and
little ventilation was horror inspiring.
Many cried, others became outraged;
some left stunned with disbelief, un-
able to verbalize their deep feelings.
From Cape Coast many journey
westward to Nkroful, the birthplace of
the late Dr. Kwami Nkrumah, the
first prime minister of Ghana who
was known for his fight against colo-
nialism and his zeal for Pan-African-
ism. Between major cities, a traveler
may stop at small villages by paying
to ride the lorries which transport
women traders and their goods from
village to town.
I headed north to Kumasi, capital
city of the proud people of the Ashanti
Kingdom and a major area for my re-
search. I spent several days there col-
lecting data through interviews and
general observation.
The receptive and hospitable peo-
ple gave me an Ashanti name, and
one of my friends gave me his sur-
name, Sarpong. Friends accomnanied
me to the marketplace to insure that
I would not be taken advantage of by
After I learned the basic nrice and
vained some skill in barenininc, I oft-
en went to the market alone. I amused
the traders when I insisted they look
at me as a fellow Black man rather
than a foreigner. I told them I refused
to pav nripes directed at Euroneans
an'd Americans since I was a Blnek
r:n. of African heritane. These bar-
o)inino sessions often led to animated
and informative conversations, and
I was able to niirchsae goods at a
price I considered fair.
T next stonned at Ife. the ancient
relieious center 'of the Yorias and
)nother targp-t nrea for my resenreh.
Since T dressed lake a Yoruha. many
nAon1e were snrnrised to discover that
I was born in the U. S. They were even
more surnrised when my Nigerian
friend who had studied with me in the
States eyniained that I also wear tra-
ditional Yoruba garments here.
Manv Yorubas remarked with as-
surance that my ancestors must have
been Yoruba. I looked like a Yoruba
man. The Yorubas expressed a great
deal of interest in my ancestral origins
and inauired if I knew the location of
my home, the village, city or town of
my forefathers. Some maintained
that Ife was definitely my home, or I

would not have felt compelled to jour-
ney there,
When I was introduced to Yoruba
people, we performed the traditional
greetings, bending, bowing and in-
quiring about the health of each oth-
er's family. All were receptive to my
limited usage of common Yoruba
phrases. They extended their own
manner of greeting to me rather than
shaking my hand as if I were
a stranger.
of thea
AS I TRAVELED through small
towns and villages in the historic
land of the Yoruba, I found gracious
people eager to help me with my re-
search. When I arrived in a town, a
dinner was often prepared "especially
for me". The after dinner discussion
usually ended up being about "Ameri-
ca." Although many villagers had
never seen Blacks from America, they
expressed a deep interest in topics
such as discrimination, the permanent
return of Blacks from the Western
Hemisphere to Africa, the high cost of
living in America and the war in Viet

The literal translation of "Bamide-
le" is "follow me home" or "come
home with me." Names in Africa
have a social significance and are giv-
en to children according to some con-
dition, event or characteristic sur-
rounding their birth. A father would
give the name "Bamidele" to a child
born in a region or country that is not
the father's hometown.
A child so named should not consid-
er his geographic birthplace his home.
Rather he should look to the home of
his father as his true home. When a
father names his son "Bamidele", he
is merely saying "follow me home."
My "baba" in Nigeria told me I was
born in a land foreign to me, Ameri-
ca. He stressed that his home was my
home and that once I completed my
studies in America, I should follow
him home to Nigeria.
This account was based on my first
trip to Africa. The incidents, events,
encounters and experiences of that
trip will always be remembered as my
first impressions of the Motherland.
Of course, my account does not con-



"The solemn experience brought pain to all of us as we trehed
through the hidden chambers and narrow passageways. To us,
the castles were huge white tombs'strangely aminated by the
spirits of our ancestors who died within their walls."


Barmidele Agbasegbe: " F olI0, it Ie'ne"

tired in long dresses and wrap arounds
with matching head ties. Men wore
brilliantly colored garments commonly
called "up and downs." Muslim men
were dressed in long robes of pastel
A LTHOUGH I didn't speak any of the
indigenous languages, many peo-
ple spoke English (Interestingly, En-
glish is the official language of
Ghana.) Besides, while bargaining
with the women traders of cloth and
the other craftsmen, a kind of friend-
ly communication developed which
transcended the barriers of language.
After I had an "up and down" tailor-
ed for myself at the market, many

Ghanians took me for a fellow coun-
tryman despite my longer hair.
Most Blacks visiting Ghana feel
compelled to go to the Cape Coast and
El Mina to visit the monumental cas-
tles. Here many of our ancestors were
held captive in dismal underground
dungeons before being herded onto
ships bound for the shores of the New
The solemn experience brought pain
to all of us as we trekked through the
hidden chambers and narrow passage-
ways. To us, the castles were huge
white tombs strangely animated by the
spirits of our ancestors who died with-
in their walls. The memory of our

Since I had done extensive research,
on the Yorubas and other African so-
cieties, I perceived cultural patterns
that most first-time visitors to Africa
are unaware of. I tried to observe the
norms I was familiar with. People
commented that not only did I look
like a Yoruba, but also that I conduct-
ed myself like a Yoruba son, especially
in the presence of my elders.
[N TRADITIONAL African societies,
"communalism" is the essence of
life, practiced in both urban settings
and rural villages. I was truly accept-
ed into the Yoruba community. One
elderly man in a village in Kwara
State claimed me as his son. He al-
ways addressed me as "omo mi" (my
son). I called him "baba mi" (my fa-
ther), He also gave me a Yoruba name,
"Bamidele," and his surname, Agba-

form to some stories told by Blacks
who've had negative experiences In
i her terms. From my experience, I
can truly say that mother Africa op-
ens her arms to receive all her chil-
dren born in the West. We in the Black
community should know better than
anyone that A MOTHER NEVER RE-
should not reject our mother, Africa.
William Demerson Ii/ Bamidele Agbasegbe
is a senior in Anthropology and a member of
the International Center's Work/Study/Tra-
vel Abroad Office staff. The funding for the
field work mentioned in this article was ob-
tained from the Department of Anthro-
pology and the Honors Council of the Uni-
versity of Michigan.









!'AVEL TO AFRICA can be expen-
sive - a factor discouraging many
who want to visit the continent. For
group inclusive tours to West Africa,
prices start at $360 during the non-
peak season (non-summer months).
However some arranged 45 day tours
to Africa can cost upwards of $2,000.
If you don't want to travel with a,
tour group, there are alternatives.
Charter flights offer reduced rates
during the peak season. Six-week
flights to West Africa this summer
start at bargain rates of $315. Flights
to East Africa for 6 weeks cost $430.
Gateway cities to Africa from the U.S.
include .New York, Boston, Philadel-
phia, Washington, Detroit, Chicago,
Houston, St. Louis, Denver, Los An-
geles, San Francisco and Seattle.
Of course, a flight to Major points
of Europe and then on to Africa, is an-
other alternative for those who wish
to see Europe and Africa in a limited
If you don't like flying - you can
always go by boat.
Africa-bound travelers should con-
tact the Educators to Africa Associa-
tion of the African American Institute
at 866 United Nations Plaza, New York,
N.Y. 10017; the African Cultural Ex-
change Inc., 21 Sutherland Road, Suite
9, Brighton Mass 02134; and the Hen-
derson International Inc., of Atlanta,
nrvin Tt nmnv hp holnlfto rvn.[ the

the embassy or consulate of the par-
ticular country that you desire to visit
(for a minimal fee.)
If you're going to several countries,
the visas (if not obtained in the U.S.)
may be granted by the embassies or
consulates located in the capitals of
the African States. The process may
take from 48 hours to several weeks,
depending on circumstances involved.
If you are planning to return to a
country, obtain a re-entry visa before
leaving that country.
At the point of entry, officials issue
a "declaration form" on which you
must record all valuables (including
cameras), the amount of foreign cur-
rency and the travellers cheques in
your possession. Do not lose this form.
It must be used to transact all mone-
tary exchange in banques, hotels, and
other government - approved places
for exchange of cheques and curren-
The declaration form must be pre-
sented upon your departure from the
country. You are not allowed to take
national currency with you in or out
of the country. In most cases, you will
either have to demonstrate your fin-
ancial ability to support yourself dur-
ing your stay in the country or present
a ticket for an onward journey or de-
At the point of entry, you will be
asked to give your address in that
country. Carry several extra passport
photographs. Note in some countries
vnu're remuired tn reoister with a

after injection) and cholera (valid for
6 months, after 6 days of injection).
These vaccinations are also required
by the United States Government be-
fore re-entry is granted.
Recommendation - get vaccinations
against polio and typhoid. Gamma
globulin inoculations for infectious
hepatitis should be as near the date of
departure (from U. S.) as possible.
The vaccinations against small pox
(valid for 3 years starting 8 days after
vaccination) or cholera may be ob-
tained from a licensed physician or a
university health service center. How-
ever there are officially designated
vaccination centers for yellow fever.
(See the nearest health department
for information regarding the cen-
If yellow fever, small pox and polio
vaccinations are not administered
within a 24 hour period, then they
must be given 14 days apart. Similarly
yellow fever vaccine and gamma glob-
ulin may be taken together. However,
small pox and polio must be adminis-
tered two weeks/14 days between gam-
ma globulin. (If you are pushed for
time vaccines for yellow fever and
small pox should be taken within a
24 hour period.)
Anti Malarial tablets must be taken
every 7 days (500mgs/wk) on schedule.
Some medical authorities recommend
that you start taking the tablets two
weeks before arriving in the malarial
area. Others suggest that one week or
even one day prior to your arrival in

commended antibiotic for treating
various infections. Be sure to take co-
pies of the prescriptions of drugs that
you will take with you. In case of
breakage, it is advisable to take an
extra pair of prescription glasses or
a copy of the prescription.
Drink water that has been boiled. If
possible you should put a water puri-
fication tablet in a glass of water and
let it stand for approximately 8 min.
before drinking. Some travel programs
to Africa emphasize that short-term
visitors should habitually make "off-
the-street" food purchases.
govern the type of accommoda-
tions you'll seek. If you are the Mr. &
Mrs. Middle America touristic type,
then you're welcome to stay in Euro-
American hotels that range up to and
beyond $25 per day. There are also in-
expensive "hotels" that run from $1 to
$6 a night.
The Y.M.-W.C.A in major cities pro-
vides another type of arrangement for
under $3. per night. Countries in North
East Africa also have Youth Hostels
available. During the summer it's pos-
sible to stay in the residence halls of
some West African universities. They
may require proof of student status.
The price ranges from $2 to $4 per
Staying at universities provides you
the opoortunity to meet fellow stu-

the United States. This allows you to
observe the social features of an Afri-
can home and community.
A LL MAJOR varieties of transpor-
tation are available to meet the
needs of most people. There's air trav-
el between all major cities. Inter-
state travel is most efficient by train
or bus. One popular method of trans-
portation, especially from rural to
town areas, is the lorry. In some
places the fares are standard, in oth-
er places they're not.
Taxis are also available. Prices de-
pend upon the country, region, city or
town. Some places have set rates and
routes. In others, where meters or
standard rates are not used, the cus-
tomer is expected to bargain with the.
driver before an agreement is met on
the taxi fare. Bicycles and motor cy-
cles are also popular in West Africa.
For those who wish to drive, an In-
ternational Drivers License must be
obtained from the A.A.A. (automobile
In countries where there are several
kilometers of navigable waterways,
river transport offers another way of
DEPENDING upon your extrava-
gance, you could spend as much
as $500. in West Africa during a six
weeks stay. However I have been able
to survive with a maximum of $240 for

leather works. Most shop keepers ex-
pect you to bargain with them so thtey
set their prices extremely high. Check
the prices at several stalls in the mar-
ket before purchasing. Of course, ex-
pect to be charged somewhat higher
prices because you are not indigenous
to that area.
Anyone traveling from America or
Europe is immediately regarded as be-
ing wealthy. In many countries cultur-
al artifacts and antiques must be reg-
istered at a national museum before
you are given a permit to take such
artifacts out of the country. DON'T
FAIL TO DO THIS!! Avoid the shops
that are obviously for Mr. & Mrs. Mid-
dleclass American Tourists.
gust) West Africa will be warm
(80*-85*), humid, with little rainfall.
Everyone should travel as light as pos-
sible. Carry only essentials. Cumber-
some, over-sized luggage should be
avoided. It causes too many inconven-
iences. I have found that a shoulder
bag and a large attache case are suf-
ficient baggage.
Be sure to carry the necessary
toiletries and cold water detergent for
washing clothes. Plastic bags come in
handy for storing damp articles. You
may wish to bring insect repellent.
Don't forget sunglasses and swim-
suits. Women should not plan to wear
shorts. Remember electric articles re-
quire an international converter.



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