Ashe gives US students a treat
Published: Sunday | January 25, 2009
Members of Ashe in 'Curfew'.
American students, escaping the bitter cold of the United States, were introduced to Jamaican culture by members of the Ashe Ensemble at the Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts on the University of the West Indies, Mona campus, recently.
With a passion for edutainment, community and youth transformation, members of the Ashe Ensemble brought Jamaican dance, language and songs to the students of Wellesley College. In the one-day workshop, the American students, who are in Jamaica for the winter, were happy to experience the warm weather and rich display of Jamaican culture.
The students from the United States of America are participating in a cross-cultural studies programme.
Natalie Ross, a final-year political science and African studies major at Wellesley College, praised the Ashe group for the welcome and support that was extended to the college.
"Ashe taught us the story behind dances like the Dinki Mini. I will definitely go back to Wellesley College and teach my friends. We learnt about these dances at Wellesley College, but the importance and the value didn't hit home until now," Ross said.
A different impression
In the past, Ashe has worked with students from other colleges and groups, such as the Queens College in Barbados, Fosref community and cultural group in Haiti and Pep Sur in Suriname.
"The experience has been good and people tend to have a different impression of Jamaica when they are here. Too often they are convinced that Jamaica is a violent place. Ashe is trying to change that. We promote Jamaican culture through our performances and even through our website, asheperforms.com," said Conroy Wilson, executive creative director of Ashe. He also noted that Ashe has a passion for the performing arts, and one of their aims is to help individuals develop this passion.
Halima Hima, a junior international relations and economics major at Wellesley College, said, "Coming to Jamaica I was a little apprehensive, but meeting the Ashe group I was instantly relaxed. I love to dance and coming from Niger, West Africa, I am pleased to see that African traditions are still vibrant in the Caribbean." She explained that what she learnt was familiar yet new to her, as Jamaica has incorporated new ideas to old West African moves.
Michael Holgate, Ashe's artistic director and workshop facilitator, said, "Ashe is now branching out and we are now consolidating our efforts to better serve our audience and to impact more on the communities across the length and breadth of Jamaica. We are in the business of edutainment and Ashe has been doing this for 16 years."
The Ashe Ensemble is a performing arts group, founded by the late Joseph Robinson and Paulette Bellamy. Some of their major productions have been 'Curfew: the Reggae Musical Of Our Times', which won seven Actor Boy awards in 2007 and Lift Up Jamaica. The group is involved in many community development projects, such as the Red Ribbon Diaries, a TV series in collaboration with UNAIDS.
In their efforts to educate through entertainment, the ensemble is working with Coca Cola, Counterpart International and the Ministry of Education to develop a Youth Aids Awareness school tour.
- Jamal Tugman