It has been a while since my last few post. However that doesn’t mean nothing has happened…
I am pleased to announce a new project: This time diving into Philosophy in Nigeria!
What does this mean for you? Well, my communications will move platforms. So if you’d like to stick around following the new route, I’d like to re-direct you to: factisfiction.blog
A visual report of my recent research visit to Nigeria can be found on instagram.
And you can always jump on board of this one via facebook too.
…like – share – follow…
And looking forward to seeing you there!
A great scientist has passed away at the end of last year. But he was more than that. Or maybe an example for what the title ‘scientist’ should entail. Born on August 9th 1932 in Saltpond Ghana, he was 85 years old when he suddenly passed in the evening of November 2nd 2017.
Prof. not only excelled in the language of Mathematical Physics during his lifetime, understood only by a few. He managed to speak a language that affected many. One of passion and for people.
He was always concerned with science education and policymaking for science and technology and sustainable development, especially related to Africa.
One of Prof.’s big achievements was a theory named after him “the Allotey Formalism” which he had postulated in the early 70s. He was the first to introduce electron-hole scattering resonance effects on soft X-ray spectroscopy. It was an important contribution to the understanding of atoms, and had important implications for space science.
Professor Allotey urged that the next big scientific breakthrough should come from Africa. With their own cultural backgrounds, he felt African students should feel encouraged to contribute on a global and local scale. Science at large would benefit from their fresh new views. Over the decades he has founded, headed, developed and taught (at) many scientific institutes, societies, policies, university courses, primary schools and initiatives both in Ghana and internationally. This sounds like a lot, which it is. He was the first to set up a national Computer Science Centre in ’72. And one of his latest involvements was in setting up an institute in Ghana at which students from all over Africa could study for their Master’s degree in Mathematical Sciences for free (AIMS Ghana). For all this work he won a matching overwhelming list of awards.
I met the Professor for the first time in Ghana in 2013. I was traveling around the country for a film I was making about science in Africa. That moment I was staying at a guesthouse in Accra. We had our first phone conversation shortly after my arrival, and we found out he literally lived around the corner from where I was staying. We spoke briefly and decided to be in touch soon. The Professor seemed very busy, and it also seemed lucky I’d catch him in Ghana at all. The next day a car pulled up in front of the big black gate of the guest house. The guard informed me that a guest had arrived for me. To my surprise a small man, who you could tell was not the youngest but who had an incredible energy, came walking onto the courtyard. Modest, but forceful. At last we met in person. I was totally surprised as I hadn’t thought an important, busy person like him would show up like that, not without setting a meeting. A bit caught off guard, and in awe, I observed how he took a good look at the place he just arrived at. And he decided to walk inside, where I showed him to the living room for a more in depth introductory conversation. He decided it would be very fine for me to interview him. The next day a car picked me up to drive me to Prof.’s house, right around the corner. We recorded an interview together on his front porch, in the beautiful Ghanaian sunlight. Patiently seated, taking in the situation: me setting up my camera, audio, reflector. Enthusiastically he engaged with me and my questions.
His enthusiasm and encouraging support have ultimately led us to premiering the film together, both in Amsterdam and Accra in 2015.
He is one of those rare people who would go that extra step because they believe in something or someone. No matter what status difference involved. And I feel that should be celebrated and appreciated. This great mentor will be missed.
The documentary Multiverse Ghana – film that grew out of a research trip through Ghana for a documentary series on science in Africa – is available to watch online for free!
You can find it here
More on the journey creating this film, you can find on this very blog.
Tired, however satisfied, I am waiting to board the plane back home.
Today was a busy day; I visited the Netherlands Embassy here in Accra and CIKOD (Center of Indigenous Knowledge and Organizational Development) to screen the film. The latter introduced me to Madam Tahiru (she is the lady producing shea butter in the film). Main discussion point today that was raised after both screenings was the need for Ghanaian scientists to further develop their own path in science, instead of trying to recreate a Western way of science. Because there are interesting viewpoints and approaches inherent to their work. Whether shaped by culture, tradition or necessity.
I think back to this week as a successful one, in which I managed (with a lot of help from Prof. Allotey et al.) to get the film back to Ghana.
I’m waiting in an Airport which has changed a lot since two years ago I last was here. As did the programs I saw appear on tv. A real facelift. What is beneath it I don’t know. I know I will sleep very tight on my flight back to Amsterdam.
There is something about screening a film in a place where it was actually shot.
Yesterday I was at AIMS Ghana – and for those who already have seen the film you might remember the AIMS students I interviewed and the shots that I took of the group working in their computer lab.
Well, we screened the film in that exact same lab.
There was a new group of students, as the ones I filmed had graduated in 2014. But this mix of students from all over Africa generates the exact same vibe: a lot of positivity, jokes and laughter.
But not only that, there also is a lot of hard mathematical work being done.
A lecture was being pushed backwards, so that everyone could watch the film – which made one of the Ghanaian students very happy, because it gave him more time to prepare the presentation he had to give for which he needed to solve a daunting mix of Algebra and Quantum Physics equations.
The time had come to switch on the air conditioning in the brand new Auditorium. People were dripping in, and three high school classes took their seats.
I had arrived early to take it easy, and to be able to welcome Koo Nimo and his band when they arrived for their rehearsals. They had arrived that same morning after a 4 hour bus drive from Kumasi. We found ourselves all sitting in our chairs a little lost, because of the heat (at least for me) or the travel, under the brand new sign of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences. Koo immediately took out his guitar to tune it and play. Next to us builders were very busy working on the rest of the building as only the Auditorium had thus far been finished.
Later, Prof. Allotey proudly talked about how he managed to get it through – the building plans for the new Academy. Which currently is located next-door in a relatively small and little bit worn down structure – reflecting the status of science within the country. The new building will be a massive beautiful white structure, which will contain its own guest house (to be able to take care of its own guests) and will be powered by solar panels to opt out of the power downs that have to be dealt with multiple times a day when relying on the national grid. It is Prof. Allotey’s way of physically establishing what the status of science and technology should be in Ghana.
So underneath the buzzing builders spread all over the fundaments of what is soon to be the New Academy I take some pictures of Koo’s band rehearsing. I have to say I must have stood out to these men at work – occasionally shouting to me “obruni” – being the only white person on the spot, as well as being a girl dressed up for a premiere. But to be honest I never felt as if I was standing out myself, not while traveling two years ago, not now at the premiere.
For a bit I escaped the heat to the AV-room. The place that always feels like home to me – like the guitar to Koo Nimo. And at the moment even more so because of its pleasant temperature inside. Technical equipment generally does not stand the heat so well, and hard working people setting up everything for a show neither. So although saving energy is high on the priority list – this room was allowed to have the air conditioning on already.
With the IT manager, about my age, also in charge of AV and as told by his superiors the power generator (which he has trouble with explaining that that is something that has nothing to do with his expertise in IT) I talk about graphic cards, jobs and whether the new building will actually be maintained well – the biggest challenge according to him.
Later, after the film, I found myself on stage with Ghana’s Greats.One of the high-school students – after seeing the film- asked the whole group why it is that they don’t use their own African ways to do science? And Samuel Acheampong starring in the film (working in tissue culture of pineapple), wondered what it is, actually, that makes them “underdeveloped”?
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