What Do These Symbols Mean? – Danya Mason


“What Do These Symbols Mean?”

By Danya Mason

As our group has traveled in Ghana, we have noticed symbols, called Adinkra, everywhere. Whether we are attending lectures at the International House, visiting places like Kakum National Park, or gazing at the beautiful jewelry crafted by local artists, Adinkra are ever present in the rich culture here. Naturally, my curiosity grew on finding the origin, deeper meaning, and the importance people attach to them.

Adinkra symbols emerged in popularity at the end of a war in 1818 between the Asante Empire, located in what is now modern day Ghana, and the Gyaman Kingdom, located in modern day Côte D’Ivoire. Nana Kofi Adinkra was the king of Gyaman, but unfortunately, he was captured by the Asantes for replicating the “Golden Stool”, which represents absolute power descended from the heavens to the Asantes. He was soon killed for this offense, resulting in the Gyaman kingdom becoming an Asante territory. Also, Adinkra means “goodbye” or “farewell” in Twi, a common language spoken in Ghana, so it signified the fall of the Gyaman kingdom and Nana Kofi Adinkra. Since the symbols were already a part of life in the Gyaman kingdom, they soon became integrated into Asante culture.

Adinkra symbols hold great significance to Ghanaians now because they are reflective of Asante history and contain great wisdom of how one’s life should be influenced. Though I have come from a different culture, I have found myself to grow attached to a couple of Adinkra in correlation with my life, which are named Sankofa and Gye Nyame.

Sankofa, which has a direct translation of, “return and fetch it,” is an Adinkra focused heavily on learning from the past. An individual must use past experiences in order to learn from one’s mistakes, form a better future, and gain wisdom.

I found this Adinkra, Sankofa, at Kakum National Park.

I found this Adinkra, Sankofa, at Kakum National Park.

I hold myself firmly to this Adinkra because if I did not have the opportunity to make mistakes in life, I would learn nothing, I would be shallow to those who make mistakes, and I would never have the chance to be enriched with wisdom. The first experience in life that hit me in this way was when I auditioned to be a drill team officer in high school. The first time I auditioned, I failed and did not make it, which hit me like a ton of bricks. I feel that if I had succeeded with becoming a drill team officer the first time, I would see no flaw in myself and have no reason to better myself. As the next year rolled around for auditions again, I had taken extra dance and leadership classes and reevaluated my approach toward the judges at auditions. Fortunately, this led to my success in becoming a drill team officer.

Gye Nyame has a direct translation of, “except God”, which signifies the immortality of God. The deeper meaning is as follows: nobody lived to see the beginning of time, and nobody will live to see the end, except God.

I found this Adinkra, Gye Nyame, at the International House where we attend our lectures.

I found this Adinkra, Gye Nyame, at the International House, where we attend our lectures.

With closer examination of the Gye Nyame symbol, one can see that it shows a person being held inside the hands of God. I have seen this Adinkra in almost every market that sells art and even on the International House building at the University of Ghana. I feel that the strong presence of God in Ghana parallels with the strong presence of God in East Texas. Though I am thousands of miles away from home, the immortality and comfort of God continues to linger.


For more Adinkra symbols, you can visit:


The Transatlantic Slave Trade in West Africa by Danya Mason


Today, our group attended a lecture given by Dr. Kofi Baku, one of the professors at the University of Ghana. We discussed the impact of the Transatlantic Slave Trade in West Africa, which occurred from the fifteenth through the nineteenth centuries. The following are important, interesting points that enhanced my knowledge in the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

Why is discussing the Transatlantic Slave Trade so important?

  1. It was the last and most prominent slave trade in West Africa.
  2. Its destruction affected the largest amount of Africans, which totaled around 12-15 million people.

How did the Transatlantic Slave Trade begin?

This picture shows the flow of goods and human resources throughout the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

This picture shows the flow of goods and human resources throughout the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

  1. The Transatlantic Slave Trade began when Europeans wanted to settle into the New World to exploit land and resources.
  2. Europeans first utilized natives of the New World; however, many died of sicknesses the Europeans brought over and were also overworked.
  3. Also, a fun fact, the first European country to make an agreement to exchange manufactured goods for raw materials and slaves for New World advancement was Portugal.

What was the average annual amount of slaves who safely made it across the Atlantic?


How were slaves obtained?

  1. Prisoners of war were heavily recycled, meaning some were forced to fight in wars against their comrades, some were sent to the mines, and the rest were sold as slaves.
  2. Slaves were also obtained through criminals and bandits tearing through villages and kidnapping people with intentions of keeping them as slaves.
  3. Another way is through judicial process. An example of this is as follows: chiefs had mistresses, and when the mistresses took an oath of office, the chief would force her to confess if other men had been flirting with her, which, at times, was done by force. Once the mistress confessed, the men would be extracted and ordered into slavery.
  4. The last way was betrayal, where even a close relative could be sentenced. For instance, if a husband did not have enough money to pay for goods, he could sell his wife into slavery to pay for the goods. Once the wife was taken advantage of and the debt was paid off, she was thrown back to her husband.


Below is a link if further interested in the voyages across the Atlantic.


The View- Maggie Mahfood

It is hard to believe that in less than 48 hours we will be back in Texas. We have each had very unique experiences and been taught lessons that we will continue to learn from and reflect on for the rest of our lives. Before I left home someone said to me, “You are going to have an experience that many will only dream of.” This has been undeniably true. Last night we all gathered to have a final dinner together before we leave this place we have grown to love. We each took turns reflecting on the lessons we have learned and sharing memories with each other. It was so hard to specifically define the best moment of this incredible adventure, but after giving it some thought, I knew which experience had been the most impactful for me. Halfway through our trip, we left Florence to spend three days in Rome. On our second day we had the entire morning to ourselves. At this point in the trip, exhaustion was setting in, emotions were high, and morale was low at 6:30 in the morning. However, five of us managed to drag ourselves out of our blissfully air conditioned hotel room and trek to St. Peter’s in Vatican City

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Early morning breakfast before heading to St. Peter’s.

We were determined to be some of the first people in line to climb to the top of the cupola on St. Peter’s Basilica. The temptation to complain was high as we climbed 300 steps and had only made it halfway to the top. We completed our climb within a strenuous half hour. Upon stepping out of the stairwell, my breath was taken away and I felt tears of awe fill my eyes; the climb was more than worth it. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in my life, and pictures cannot do the view any justice.

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An attempt at capturing our view.

Regardless of a person’s religious affiliation or background, the sweeping magnitude of Vatican City is inspiring. It was at the very top of St. Peter’s that I remembered someone telling us that people never asked “How much?” or “How long?” when building the beautiful, historical places of worship that we have seen throughout Italy. The construction of the beautiful churches took resources that, at the time, were scarce and many, many years to complete. It was in that moment that I was amazed at man’s ability to pour out energy into something greater than himself. On top of St. Peter’s in Vatican City, I determined that I would never again ask “How much?” or “How long?” when it came to being a part of something bigger than myself, something special. That bigger thing is different for all of us. If I have learned anything on this trip, it is that people are to be loved and cared about, even when it’s not convenient. Life is to be lived to the fullest, even when we are exhausted. Joy is to be sought after every day and risks are to be taken. We can never hold back and never ask “How much?” or “How long?” when trying to make our world a more beautiful and loving place.

st peters

Post climb | Full of joy

The Firenze Bell Tower- Steven Hullum

Yesterday I climbed Giotto’s Campanile, more commonly know as the Firenze Bell Tower, and I have to say that it was quite amazing. First, one is struck by the sheer height and perfection of the structure itself. It thrusts upwards seemingly out of no where, and if one stands at the bottom, it appears to extend all the way to space. This is the first awestruck moment I had during my experience at this amazing structure. The line was quite short to enter the Bell Tower, so that was a big bonus. When one enters the Bell Tower, it seems impossible to imagine that the building extends upwards for 255 feet. But once one starts climbing the stairs it becomes a reality. The way upwards is quite narrow, but there are several landings that allow one to examine the city and its people while one stretch one’s legs. On one floor, there was a large metal grate that one could look through and see every other floor below, so it was an interesting, yet slightly scary experience to lay on the grate and take a photo. Once you make it to the top, one finds them self in a covered area which is sometimes blisteringly hot because of the beating sun and poor ventilation, but once one steps out onto the roof line one is hit by one of the best breezes in human history. The marble work that rings the rooftop sucks the air through as it pushes up the side of the building, and I have to admit, it feels quite heavenly. After cooling off and ringing the sweat out of every article of clothing, one gets a chance to admire the city from the second tallest point in the city. People look small, the skyline is laid out before one, and the mountains can finally be seen properly in the distance. It is a truly breath taking, jaw dropping, experience. One can walk around the entire Bell Tower and see Firenze from all angles, and it is Flawless. It will certainly be one of the crowning moments on this wonderful trip abroad, not only because of the sheer beauty, but also because I had the ability to experience it with my close friends and fellow GATE students Rebekah Provines, Erin Hicks, Maggie Mahfood, and Diego Loya. The ability to admire and share experiences like that with people like them is something that I hope I never take for granted. I will always be able to cherish and remember that wonderful day in the city of Firenze with friends.


Steven Hullum

Humans Then, Humans Now

Bright and early this morning on the 26th of May, our cohort gathered in anticipation of touring one of the highlights of our adventure in Italy- the grand Uffizi Museum and Gallery.  Within its walls lies one of the largest galleries of paintings and sculptures hundreds to well over a thousand years old.Rooftop View from Uffizi

Being surrounded with wall to wall paintings depicting life in the time of the Greeks and Romans, the medieval times, and the Renaissance was humbling.  The sheer artistry was enough to leave its viewer breathless and in awe, but the way these painters and sculptors depicted these images made a viewer feel apart of the human experience.  So different, yet so similar, their struggles and triumphs were not so different from the ones we undergo today.Walking Through Uffizi

Having our first class yesterday made this opportunity all the more incredible.  In Dr. Streufert’s class we just finished reading excerpts from Ovid’s Metamorphoses.  One story from this work recounts the fable of Niobe, a woman boasting to be the best mother in the entire world.  Her pride leads her to insult Latona, goddess mother to Apollo and Diana, whom she sends to kill all of Niobe’s children.  We learn that because of Niobe’s hubris, pride, she loses the thing she prides herself in most.

While in the Uffizi today, we saw a sculpture of Niobe shielding one of her children from the wrath of Latona, and it evoked strong emotion from me personally.  It’s easy to judge a character like Niobe for her arrogance, but when you can see the fear sculpted in a marble face, it becomes easier to relate to this fictional character’s desperation and struggle.Niobe Con la Figlia Minore

While I doubt any of us can sympathize as ever having dealt with a situation in any way similar to this one, we can all identify the effects that pride or arrogance might have had in our own personal lives.  Though thousands of years can pass through time- we are all still very human.

It’s one thing to see a painting on a Powerpoint sitting in a classroom, it’s another thing entirely to see it up close in front of you- close enough to reach out and touch (but don’t try or the buzzers and museum bouncers will rat you out).  It’s also one thing to read the writings of Ovid and Dante, then step outside and walk the very same streets that once inspired their works and cultivated their arts.  It’s an experience that surpasses value, and every day is better than the last.

June 10 – ESMA Visit

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Today we visited ESMA which stands for Espacio de Memoria y Derechos Humanos. It means Space of Memory and Human Rights. Our visit here was to further educate, and make us more aware about what cruelties, tortures, and injustices that were suffered by those disappeared in the Dirty War of 1976 in Buenos Aires. This place was once a Naval academy, which did a lot of good for many people who came here to learn skills like mechanics, to take with them and be able to work. In 1976, this place became a  “clandestine center”. Around 5000 people are known to have been brought here, and suffered beyond severe torture, isolation, and pain; there were only 200 survivors.

This “clandestine center” was not so secret. Although bars surround these facilities, it is easy to see in and out. This place is located on a main street, not hidden from the public at all. It is known that the abducted were brought in through the front gate. Though people knew something was obviously going on here, they were either too afraid to speak, or some thought “they must have done something bad.”

The people that were abducted and taken to this place, were unaware of where they were. But in 1978, Argentina held the World Cup at the stadium River Plate which is very close by. Survivors of this concentration camp, can remember hearing the yells and screams of people excited to be at the World Cup. Though they were not very far away, the distance was vast. No one at the stadium could imagine someone down the block was being tortured, having electrocuted rods in there anus, no one knew down the block someone was being “transferred”. No one would ever know of what these people were enduring while they enjoyed themselves and watched a soccer game. But Argentina’s government was in on it.

A check point which was restricted area. The line on the floor was made by a chain being dragged and stepped on by a big truck, in which the abducted were brought in.

We were not allowed to take pictures once inside the building where the people were held, and tortured. The buildings were completely empty, paint chipping off, cracks in the infrastructure. When the IACHR were called to check this so called “clandestine center” parts of the building were altered to not be able to be recognized as the same place where people testified having been. A staircase was removed which went straight down to the basement where the prisoners were taken in. The Navy further destroyed evidence of it ever being the torture and terror center it was when they finally unoccupied the centers in 2007. We went to the basement where people were tortured, and some made to fake identifications and important documents. Once tortured they would be taken to the third floor called the “capucha” meaning hooded, the people tortured would be hooded and taken to the third floor of this building, where they were unallowed to speak. They sat in this cold room, completely concrete, in shackles and not allowed to go to the bathroom. This is where some survivors described as “feeling disconnected from the world”. If one died inside ESMA, their bodies were burned. Others were “transferred” which meant they’d be drugged and taken to the near airport and flown above the ocean and dropped, these came to be known as flight deaths.


You may ask why this place is kept alive. While it was just one of hundreds all around Argentina. It’s empty, but these facilities keep in memory what must never happen again which is a country against its own civilians. This place may not be a beautiful place to have visited, but it is something that opens my heart in a different way, and will forever be engraved in my memories. Walking through the halls, I kept thinking that if I had lived in this time period, I’d hope to have been a rebel against the government, which clearly had no good inside. I’d hope to not be a part of the people who stayed in silence, while knowing injustice occurred.

“A people with memory, is democracy for always.”

For more information:

-Angelie Reyes



June 12th

Today in History class we discussed the book A Mother’s Cry, a documentation of the story of a Brazilian mother whose son was arrested by the military coup, tortured, and kept isolated from his family for around 8 months. We compared this to the stories of the disappeared during the Argentine military regime. In Speech class we went over the final preparations for our persuasive speeches to be presented next week.

Despite a strong cold rain, in the afternoon we joined the Madres de La Plaza de Mayo in their famous march around Plaza de Mayo in front of the Casa Rosada. The Madres is a movement that started as a protest in order to find information about their disappeared sons and daughters during The Dirty War. To this day, they continue to fight for answers and the pursuit of those responsible for the kidnappings. IMG_5438 (2)

Before the March we entered the Catedral Metropolitana, which is the biggest catholic church in all of Argentina and also the final resting place of Argentine military hero Jose de San Martin. This was the home cathedral to Jorge Mario Bergoglio before he was ordained as Pope Francis. While there, we witnessed the changing of the guard in front of San Martin’s mausoleum.

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To finish the afternoon we enjoyed some delicious hot chocolate and churros at the oldest cafe in the city named Cafe Tortoni. Here some students noticed the importance of the inaugural match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup to the Argentine people. The World Cup is the long anticipated soccer tournament which occurs every four years and brings the best players from around the world together. This sport, known in Argentina as futbol, is a central part of the culture. When trying to pay for their check, the students found that the waiters were so enthralled with the match that it was nearly impossible to get their attention.

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Week Two-Day Two!

Our day started off with a history lesson where we learned about the Great Depression, what happened before, during and after it. After history came lunch where everyone seemed to be in a frenzy over our next class where students were going to present speeches on their chosen topics. Over the course of this week 6 or so students will present a speech everyday and for the first day the speeches were great! This entire experience has been us learning one thing after another and today has been just that, one giant learning adventure about both Brazil and Argentina. Our first speech was about the, “the most beautiful sport of the world.” This speech was about the 1986 Fifa World Cup whose outcome was Argentina as the winner.

Gerardo Viera

Gerardo Viera

Some of you may have heard of the song, “The Girl from Ipanema,” today we learned about Bossa Nova which is the genre of this song. We also learned about the tango which is a dance that originated in Argentina that literally means, “to touch.” Not everything we learned about was so brightly colored though, we were informed about social issues going on in Argentina right now, specifically the National Women’s Encounter a group that fights for women’s rights, Juan Moreira, a Gaucho who became an outlaw after being falsely thrown in prison, and we learned more about “the disappeared.”

The “disappeared” were people who were taken during the military Junta that occurred during 1976 until 1983, we heard some accounts of how they were tortured and some of the reasons why they were taken as well as a little bit of the groups who came out in protest of this event.

Laura Lee Hoyt

Laura Lee Hoyt

Our day ended on a happier note though, towards the end of our speech class we had a guest speaker come in, Blake Hendrickson, who gave us a lesson on Cultural Uses of Time.

We learned about the differences in the meaning of time between the United States and Argentina. In the United States we hear the phrase, “time is money” everywhere, whereas in Argentina they have a more enjoy life and make good friends type of attitude. We learned that different cultures value different things but in the end a little bit of adaptation has to be made in order to further yourself in the new culture that you just entered. This is something that all of us on this trip have faced and I think it is something that we’ve all gotten much better at.20140603_135726


UT Tyler GATE Program – Argentina Week Two: June 2, 2014

Since we didn’t have our Cultural Workshop this morning, we all got to sleep in an extra hour. I can’t speak for the rest of my classmates, but I was thanking The Lord this morning for those beautiful extra 60 minutes. My roommate and I stayed up entirely too late working on our speech presentations and outlines that were due today. Having a free day Sunday, then starting an hour later on Monday definitely put some pep in our steps! I feel like a new woman.

While most of us are recovering from our prior illnesses, Dr. Snider finally fell victim to what I like to call “the plague.” For the past two weeks, nearly all of us has fallen victim to some strain of an awful cold, and it was only a matter of time before it hit him. Thankfully, or unfortunately, he didn’t lose his voice until after the lecture.

After history, we all went our separate ways to go grab lunch, then regrouped for speech. We reviewed our powerpoints in preparation for our first round of speeches beginning tomorrow.

For the rest of the afternoon, a few of us gathered in small groups to read for history, work on our journals, or practice our speeches. I cooked my first meal in my tiny kitchen last night, and then had leftovers for dinner tonight. Even something as simple as going to the grocery store is an adventure here. Who knew you have to pay for grocery bags? That was an interesting conversation considering the language barrier; I just needed an extra bag for my bread and she just needed a peso.

It’s around 10:00 p.m. here and most of us are still up doing homework, putting the finishing touches on our presentations tomorrow. Even though we’ve had internet trouble, class still goes on. So we would appreciate it if you keep all of us in your thoughts as we approach this upcoming week of our speech presentations and history midterm.

Janey Nicole Dudley

May 31 & June 1

May 31

Today we started off by walking 8 blocks to the train station. We were lucky that we caught a train on the way to Tigre because usually that does not happen. The train ride was about an hour long with about 8 stops on the way to Tigre. People got on and off at each stop.
Once we arrived in Tigre we were taken to a restaurant called La Guapa that was located in the Tigre markets about 10 blocks from the train station that we ended at. Once there we were served steak with French fries, very tasty! Of course to finish off we ate ice cream. After lunch around 2:00 pm we were given free time to shop in the huge market. There were all kinds of things in this market, but an important thing found in all the little shops were the mate cups and bombillas. We were told to meet up at 3:30 pm at the front of the market so that we had time to walk to the place to take the boat tour that started at 4:00 pm. The boat tour was very neat we got to see all the houses located on Tigre River and learn about how those people live. They actually have boats that supply the residents on the river with things like groceries and toiletries.

We also learned that the residents that live on the river do not have running water, so they have to get their water from the river and filter it so that it is okay to bathe in. After the boat tour, which lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes, we were done with the day and had to catch our train back to Buenos Aires. I’m sure there were many other things that everyone wanted to do but we can’t do everything in one day. We then had another hour long train ride back to the city.

June 1
A free day turned study day for most of us here in a Buenos Aires. No, it’s not always fun and games here…we do have to do some work sometimes! In between juggling speech writing and keeping up with our U.S. History reading, some of us were able to slip away to visit La Boca again. We loved the market: we got to see hand made steam punk rings and browse the artwork from many different talented hands. One of us even commissioned a Star Wars themed painting! Others slipped off the mass and enjoyed a beautiful day strolling the streets. The city is beautiful, we are trying to take as much in as we can; even if we do have homework!