USING TRADITIONAL DANCES TO FIGHT OBESITY AND IMPROVE THE HEALTH OF OUR NATION
What you are about to read is written in collaboration with my third guest columnist: Prof. Tarin Hampton. The previous two are Prof Maha Abdei-HAdi, specialist in Breast Diseases, and Dr. Michael Agamasu, Gynecologist.
MEET TARIN HAMPTON
She is a professor, University of Cape Coast, Department of Music. Along with other members of faculty, she nurtured a Program of BA Dance. Her next project is, hopefully, a Master of Philosophy (M. Phil) in Dance. Previously, she held several academic positions in USA. One example is Tenured Assistant Professor in Health, Physical Education and Dance. Her publications include this teaser “ “Ghana’s Best Kept Secret: Traditional Ghanaian Dancing and Drumming! Spotlight on Dance”
W.H.O HAD BAD NEWS FOR GHANA
Here is picture of the background. Check out a research done by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in seven African countries: Congo Brazzaville, Liberia, Senegal, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Ghana. The year was 2007. The findings were bad news for Ghana. In the sub-region, Ghana topped the league table as the most obese country. Of our 20 million plus population, three million (15 per cent) were overweight and obese.
FROM BAD TO WORSE
Since release of that WHO report, obesity prevalence in Ghana worsened. Obesity is highest in Greater Accra (about 16 per cent prevalence). Women out-do men. The figures were 7.9 per cent and 2.8 per cent respectively. Further, according to Dr Yaw Oppong, University of Ghana medical school studies show that obesity is higher in environmentally compromised communities which lack proper sanitation and hygiene.
RAY OF HOPE; OR, IS THERE?
If the WHO findings are to be swallowed whole, then there was one ray of hope. The figures (2007) showed that obesity was virtually absent in the Upper West and Upper East regions. We can only ask with undisguised skepticism: Really?
Here ends the context, “The WHO has it that this growing problem affects kids also. Research shows that obesity among kids under five years has also dramatically increased”
THE REMEDY FOR THE MALADY
Researchers from Ghana Physical Education and Sports Think Tank (G-PEStt) have looked into things. They have shown that the most cost-effective and immediate treatment for the obesity epidemic is this: Traditional dance. (A word about words. Some authors write ‘traditional’ dance. Others prefer the word ‘indigenous’, meaning original, native, home-grown. It’s opposite is foreign; imported)
There are many types of indigenous dance forms in Ghana. They are beautifully suited to exercise routines. They can provide calorie-burning and total workout for heart and blood vessels. At the same time, the dancers enjoy rhythmical movement to enthusiastically encouraging rhythms and beats,. Thus, the potential role of indigenous dances in relieving the obesity epidemic in Ghana offers of indigenous dances in relieving the obesity epidemic in Ghana offers many variations and options for improvement of health and wellness.
A TRIUMVIRATE OF ACTIVITY
In Ghana, there is an abiding triumvirate of activity and physical expressions. It consists of music, dance and drama. If we may be allowed to repeat. This triumvirate can serve as an effective pathway to mobilize a sustainable and measurable plan of action on the national level to fight obesity. The plan can target men and women, as well as all age groups.
No one is too old to dance. There was a woman of whom this was written while she was confined to a wheel chair. “She carried a funny cane. And, danced to entertain.” She was 103 years old!
IN OUR GENE
Rhythm. Movement. Dance. Call it what you will. We see indigenous dance in virtually ever aspect of Ghanaian culture. Dance is in our genes. Take Adowa. With its distinct rhythmic enticement of drums, other percussions instruments and the verbal expression of songs, adowa creates activity that triggers in Ghanaians a spontaneous and dramatic expression. The operative word is spontaneous.
ASANTES AND AKYEMS ARE TO ADOWA WHAT EWES ARE TO AGBADZA, AND GAS ARE TO KPANLOGO
Agbadza is the mother of all forms of vigorous dance. It is a calorie-burning dance. It is a calorie- burning, energy-giving, muscle- building dance. To those who understand the dialect of the tribe, the lyrics can amuse or counsel. To one and all, the rhythm is inescapable.
Kpanlogo is another expressive form of dance. Kpanlogo is a teaser. It tickles and refreshes parts of the anatomy where other dance forms cannot reach. The enchantment of flexibility is the man benefit of Kpanlogo.
OTHER HEALING ATTRIBUTES OF DANCE
In addition to the self-evident benefit of helping you shed unwanted fat, indigenous dance has other health secrets. G-PEStt applied research derived globally. G-PEAStt believes that by engaging regularly in indigenous dance, one can achieve the following health benefits: (a) relieve stress, (b) reduce chronic fatigue, (c) improve upon sleeplessness, and (d) increase self esteem.
THE TREASURE THROVE
The purpose of the next couple of paragraphs is two-fold. First, and in general, it widens the scope of the discussion. Secondly, and specifically, it reminds us to value more our indigenous things. It is one other example of “Sankofa”. Return to the treasure throve.
THE ROLE OF GHANAIAN DANCE IN WORLD CULTURE AND EXERCISE
European colonization of the New World and the African slave trade…We know all about those. But shall we also recall the following other facts with equal alacrity? Ghanaian drumming and dance styles were part and parcel of the above history of colonization. New forms of Ghanaian dance evolved out of Latin America and the Caribbean Islands. The physicality of the dance form has been adopted by many non-African cultures. African and specifically Ghanaian dance choreography is unique. Finally, there is much sharing and teaching of dance routines based on traditional tribal dances to practitioners native to many traditional tribal dances to practitioners native to many European countries, as well as the United States and Asia.
African dance is loved and appreciated all round the world. It’s our turn to get back on board, regain new insights into improving our knowledge about exercise practices.
“MY KINGDOM FOR A HORSE”
“A horse! A horse!! My kingdom for a horse!” Those were the words of desperation from one of Shakespeare’s characters. “A gym! A gym! My Benz for a gym!”
Of such is the beauty of dancing for wellness. You need no gym. You need no shoes. It is a free country. You can dance any where. You can dance any dawn, noon, dusk. In this seemingly unending search for wellness in all its fullness, now begins the best part: Have fun. Dance. You need not be another Salome. Just dance.
The Ghanaian Times Page: 6 Saturday, July 23, 2011