Course Descriptions

ARTS  310 Apprenticeship/ Arts Practicum (4 semester credits)Student carving tegeres with Brahima Traore

This course is designed to foster the development of a meaningful mentor/ apprentice relationship between students and established professional West African artists, musicians, dancers, and artisans. Through daily lessons, observation and participation in the lives of their mentors, students develop significant skill in and understanding of one primary arts discipline, including indigenous terminology and current and historical socio-cultural, political, and economic contexts. Living with their mentor’s family during the homestay period further involves students in the daily life of a typical Mande household while promoting sustained, in-depth focus on an artistic creative independent project, which may include collaboration with other students and mentors. In addition, a significant degree of self-reflexivity is developed and documented through ethnographic journaling.

Following a series of consultations with the program director, each student chooses an arts discipline from a long list of possibilities, including, but not limited to: bala (precursor to the xylophone), blacksmithing, bronze metal casting, costume or fashion design, dance, drama, drumming (djembe, dunun, ntamanin), flute, guitar, horizontal handloom weaving, jeli ngoni (4-stringed precursor to the banjo), jewelry crafts, kamalen ngoni (8-10-stringed harp lute), kora (21-stringed harp), leatherworking, musical instrument fabrication, painting, photography, pottery, puppetry, soku (single-stringed fiddle), textile dyeing (bogolan mud-cloth and/or indigo), vocals, and wood sculpture.

The fruit of the 9 week arts apprenticeship is the creation of a significant body of work or a performance in the chosen arts discipline, to be presented at the end-of-semester concert/exhibition, accompanied by an artist’s statement (visual arts only). Students also submit a substantial term paper combining primary research findings (experiential research detailing discipline-specific skills and terminology, relevant cultural/historical context, interviews, teaching and learning methodologies, and personal creative processes) with secondary source materials (University of Kankan library, AEA West Africa library, and the Internet).

ANTH  350 Traditional and Modern Perspectives on Mande Culture (4 semester credits)

This course is designed to provide students with an in-depth understanding of the multifaceted nature of historical and contemporary Mande culture. We explore West African cultural issues, such as the clash and co-existence of tradition and modernity, women’s issues, Islam, slavery, international aid, and secret initiation societies. Extensive readings and written assignments based on primary research and secondary source materials are paired with lectures, seminars, and field trips to museums, cultural centers, historical sites, cities, towns, and villages. Academic journaling on a regular basis throughout the semester encourages self-reflexivity and critical approaches to cross-cultural learning processes. Through integrated academic and experiential learning, students attain an understanding of themes such as Mande identity, the challenges of modernity and globalization, and the living heritage of centuries-old cultural traditions as political, economic, and cultural issues spanning the empirical, royal, colonial, and independence eras.

Examples of Previous Summer Readings:
Ba, Amadou Hampate. 1999 (1973).  The Fortunes of Wangrin. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Ba, Mariama. 1989 (1981).  So Long a Letter. London: Virago Press.
Conde, Maryse. 1998 (1987).  Segu. New York: Penguin.
Niane, D. T. 1992 (1960).  Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali. Essex: Longman.
Sembene, Ousmane. 1996 (1960).  God’s Bits of Wood. Portsmouth NH: Heinemann.
Spindel, Carol. 1989.  In the Shadow of the Sacred Grove. New York: Vintage Books.

ARTS  210 Mande Aesthetic Traditions (4 semester credits)

The Mande region is renowned as home to some of the world’s most impressive art, dance, music, and artisan traditions. This course is designed to provide students with an overview of the wide variety of arts and artisan practices in this region, which may include adobe (mud brick) architecture, blacksmithing, dance, drumming, film, horizontal strip-loom weaving, pottery, puppetry, singing, and textile-dyeing techniques (bogolan and indigo). Activities ranging from practical workshops and lecture-demonstrations with guest speakers, to local urban excursions and travels within the Mande region, are supplemented by classroom lectures and seminars based on assigned readings. Students create introductory art works or performances in selected arts disciplines, and create more developed works in a chosen secondary arts discipline.


Choose one of the following language courses (4 semester credits each):

LLCF  160 Introductory French Language
LLCF  260 Intermediate French Language
LLCF  396 Advanced French Language Independent Study
LLCB  150 Introductory Malinke Language

All language courses begin with an assessment of students’ initial oral and written proficiencies in French or Malinke, based on American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) guidelines. Students may elect to take one of four courses: Introductory, Intermediate, or Advanced French or Introductory Malinke. French is widely spoken throughout the region and is the official language of   both the Republic of Guinea and Mali; Malinke is the most commonly spoken African language in Guinea. Students are not permitted to pursue more than one language course for credit.

Course Structure

Based on the oral proficiency approach, language instruction includes classroom exercises, direct practice in authentic language environments on program sites, and individual practice and study. During the first three weeks of the program, an intensive language acquisition approach is utilized, including three hours of classroom instruction per day, five days per week. In the classroom, students engage with local language instructors in dialogues, interviews, and role-playing. An emphasis on listening and speaking is supplemented with homework assignments focused on reading and writing. Daily practice is also encouraged outside of the classroom, with faculty, staff, neighbors, and local merchants.

Once in their homestays, students receive two private tutorials per week with their language instructor. These sessions are designed to further develop participants’ foundational linguistic skills, address the unique needs of each student pursuing an arts apprenticeship with their mentor, and help in conducting interviews. Through active engagement with host family members, arts mentors, neighbors and local merchants, students connect the process of language acquisition with the culture of everyday life in West Africa.

Requirements and Evaluation

Active participation is required during all class meetings, exercises, and oral and listening activities. Students are expected to complete daily and weekly classroom assignments and demonstrate knowledge of necessary vocabulary and syntactic structures. In addition, students should be actively engaged in language practice with their host families, mentors, and residents and merchants in their neighborhood. Overall, students are expected to demonstrate effective language use in relation to the ambient culture.

Student progress is appraised according to American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) guidelines. A mid-term assessment, based on oral (speaking and understanding) and written (reading and writing) skills allows students to adjust their efforts prior to the final assessment. The language instructor, in consultation with the program director, prepares the final student evaluations.