Corvallis Gazette-Times, 11/20/03

A brief tour of African life

Gazette-Times reporter



Six people from Africa share stories of culture

The country of Burkina-Faso includes more than 66 language dialects. The two main religions of
Ghana are Islam and Christianity, and the people of Malawi don't eat burgers.

Those who attended a forum Wednesday night titled "Africa: Continent of Many Cultures" learned those facts and many others about the six people who traveled to Corvallis from their native countries and now live here.

The two-hour forum, held at the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library, was sponsored by the Community Alliance for Diversity as part of its "Can We Talk?" Community Forum series.

The audience of about 80 people listened as the six presenters answer prepared questions and then had a chance to ask a few of their own. The evening concluded with the presenters each sharing clothing, pictures or music of their homeland.

Henri Compaore of Burkina-Faso said beyond his country's 66 language dialects, French is the official language and helps the nine large groups of people communicate with one another. He said his country claims to have a democratic government but that there is no organized opposition to the king, with whom Compaore shares the same last name.

Lloyd Fobi of Cameroon would only describe his country's system of government as "hell." He said the roles of men and women in Africa change very little wherever you go. But he added that it is the women who are the neck that holds up the head (their husbands).

Mohammed Adamu of Ghana said there are about 200 groups of people in his country, each with their own language.

Adamu said change in the roles of men and women is slow, and that some talented, well-educated women remain home to take care of their families. In the bigger cities, though, men and women often work the same jobs.

Ann Seidu, also from Ghana, said the number of languages makes for challenging situations.

"For you to be able to learn any other language except English, you have to interact with the people around you," she said.

Seidu said women of her generation have more education than past generations and that there are now more opportunities.

Seidu said the climate was the biggest adjustment she had to make when she came to the United States. In Ghana, there is a three-month rainy season, and then it doesn't rain again for another nine months.

"To have it rain here most of the year is a big change for me," she said.

Jean Kaunda of Malawi said her country gained its true freedom in 1994 when they voted in a democratic leader. Malawi freed itself from Britain in 1965 but was ruled by a leader who didn't believe in freedom of speech for his people.

"In 1994, I think the people said, ‘Enough is enough,' " she said.

For Kaunda, pizza is definitely her thing. But not burgers.

"We don't eat like that," she said of the lettuce and tomato as the crowd laughed.

Kremena Diatchka, who lived in both Zimbabwe and Bulgaria, said both of the major tribes in Zimbabwe have their own languages. The country maintains its traditional family roles, with the father as the dominant figure and the mother as the housewife. Although that is changing slowly, she added.

Diatchka said the biggest difference she notices between Zimbabwe and the United States is the hurried pace of life here.

"There's this saying, ‘There's no rush in Africa.' I think that's very true," she said.

Jesse Sowa covers general assignments for the Gazette-Times. He can be reached at or 758-9521.