Past Program

Ghana: Design Collaboration in Ghana

Students worked with Ghanaians in the Kokrobitey Institute in Ghana to develop a series of objects that utilize local materials, recyclables, and natural substances, and that provided sustainable economic potential for local communities.

At-A-Glance

What
Wintersession Travel Course
Where
  • Accra, Ghana
When
Winter 2010

Course Dates: Jan 4, 2010 — Feb 10, 2010

Who
Open to RISD students, Brown University students
Faculty
Academic Credits
6
Department
  • Furniture Design
Course Numbers
  • FURN 2452
Cost
$354

Includes accommodation, field trips, local transportation, all meals, museum entrances, health and travel insurance.

Full Course Description

Students worked with Ghanaians in the Kokrobitey Institute in Ghana to develop a series of objects that utilize local materials, recyclables, and natural substances, and that provided sustainable economic potential for local communities. Students engaged in studio prototype making, augmenting their understanding of the dynamic local culture through a series of field trips to artist studios and lectures, local cultural sites, performances, and natural environments. Kokrobitey Institute’s Mission is: “to offer study programs and implement local and sustainable development projects, focused in Environmental Studies, Art and Design that view these disciplines through the lenses of the cultural, social, historical and natural resources of Ghana”. Students met at RISD for the first week to engage in a preparatory process for approaching the challenge that “design for development” processes entail, and gained orientation to cultural factors, travel considerations, living arrangements, and course expectations. Once in Ghana, students worked with the Institute Director and a team of Ghanaian artisans to develop products that can be made using hand techniques, basic woodworking, sewing, and print facilities. The intention was to make marketable products that utilized available materials in innovative ways, and that reflect cultural sensibilities of the community.

RISD students developed a series of collaborative exercises that tested a range of approaches to the design process based on shared cultural interaction. At the conclusion, everyone oversaw the production of at least one new product or design. Students worked collaboratively with Ghanaian artists, craftsmen and students, to build on insights gained from artisan demonstrations, workshops and field trips as well through presentations on Ghanaian History and Culture. Augmenting the studio work, students visited the local natural resources with a rainforest walk, experienced the cultural wealth of local dance and music performances, and the contextual references of historical sites with visits to a former slave station. The course was built around studio work, lectures, workshops, field trips and a community service project, all grounded in issues of environmental sustainability and recycling. Students enjoyed the Institute’s residential facility, which provided a dynamic forum for study and quiet introspection; insured a unique, personal experience that refined one’s understanding of what it means to be a world citizen. The teaching faculty included accomplished Ghanaian lecturers, professional artists, traditional drummers and dancers as well as resource persons from the local village.

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