This unique field-study program was based on Janet’s long experience in West Africa and her Fulbright research methods. She worked with Antioch College to develop and direct the program from 1999 to 2006.
The central part of the program was an apprenticeship where participants apprenticed with an artist in their field of interest to experience Malian artistic practice and to explore Malian culture by developing relationships with individuals, their family and the culture.
This unique field-study program used visual and performing arts to develop cross-cultural understanding, critical thinking, and a foundation for better understanding of both American and Malian culture. Using art as a cross-cultural tool and a means of self-expression, students became familiar with contemporary Malian life which is influenced by ongoing traditions from the 12th century and earlier, Islam, the fading but ever close presence of colonialism, the persistent reality of contemporary neo-colonialism, and the complexity of globalization. By focusing on the intermingling of traditional and contemporary issues, the Art and Culture in Mali, West Africa program offered a context within which students are immersed in Malian culture and way of life.
This one semester program provided participants with a model for understanding and entering other cultures. It also leads to a better understanding of one’s own culture. It can enlarge and enrich students artistic practice by enlarging young artists’ notions of the world and its possibilities, providing other notions of working methods, decision making, of community vs individuality. The true impact of study abroad, perhaps especially in a culture as different from our own as Malian culture takes many years to blossom.