Friday, April 26, 2013

Week 15: An Expression of Our Comprehensive Understanding - Integrative Projects

Post by Margaret Wittenmyer and Sterling Summerville

Jacquelyn and Margaret's project used recycled beer bottles to
highlight issues of alcohol abuse in Namibia
Tuesday and Wednesday of this past week, all of the students here at CGE completed and presented our final projects.  These projects were designed to be creative and integrate material from all the classes we took:  History, Political Science, Religion, and Development. These projects ranged from children’s stories to mock art galleries. It was amazing to see what our classmates were able to produce either in small groups or individually. Many students made references to things they had learned or picked up on during their homestays and their internships.

Sarah, Emily, and Miranda wrote poems in the voices of six different Namibian characters that documented their feelings and experiences before, during, and after the liberation struggle.  Sterling created an auditory exposition that incorporated the cross-cultural similarities and differences of American and Southern African rap music. Margaret and Jacquelyn researched the use and abuse of alcohol in Namibia and built a garden path out of beer bottles in our backyard.  Hannah entertained the audience with an interactive game of Jeopardy about the impact of access to food on society; while Nan presented a report on mining of minerals and its effects on Southern Africa.  Jacob displayed a photo gallery of various photographs he had taken over the course of the semester and he spoke about how they related to the idea of “cultural relativism”.  Anneke, Allegra, and Joe wrote a children’s book about Namibian history and identity.  Holly made a presentation about the emerging industry and role that Facebook and social media is starting to play in Namibia, and Dani did a project reflecting on her internship at Hope Initiatives. 

Margaret and Sterling look forward to bringing their knowledge
from Namibia back home to the United States
What we found to be interesting was how easily and naturally these projects reflected our coursework from the semester. Not only was our in-class learning applicable and relatable to our final projects, but all the learning experiences we had outside the classroom further enhanced our ability to understand the issues that we explored in these creative projects. The topics that we learned about in these four classes are not trapped in academia, but rather are manifested on a regular basis in daily life in Namibia.  In history class we learned a lot about racism both in Southern Africa and in the United States; we found that racism was intertwined throughout each and every subject we chose to focus on for our final projects. Likewise with religion—we spent time in class talking about the role of the church in creating social change, and as we researched our topics, controversies about what stance the church should take on various issues often emerged.  In politics we learned about the rise of SWAPO and its continued dominance, and in our projects we saw the portrayals of the reality of SWAPO being the only party with any real political power.  Development class taught us that there are no easy answers to the societal issues we perceive as problems, and this perhaps more than anything proved to be true as we examined the ambiguity and blurred boundaries surrounding controversial topics in Namibia.

Moving forward, all of us will surely think about issues pertaining to matters of development, religion, history, and politics differently. When we return to the United States we will have a new paradigm through which to view life at home. The themes of nation building, globalization, and decolonizing the mind do not end when our trip ends, and we all look forward to putting into action the new ideas, thoughts, and insights we have gained during our time here in Namibia.     

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