Ama Oforiwaa Aduonum, professor of music and ethnomusicology, has examined what her ancestors in Ghana experienced during the slave trade to create impactful performances.

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Through her play Walking With My Ancestors, she reconstructed the lived experiences of African women who were enslaved at Elmina Castle on the coast of Ghana for several months at a time, before being loaded onto ships and transported to the Americas. Aduonum received a grant from the University to travel to Ghana, and to visit Elmina Castle, where she began researching and writing the play.

In June, Walking With My Ancestors was one of four finalists for the American Association of Community Theatre (AACT) National Festival’s Overall Outstanding Production award. Aduonum won the Outstanding Achievement in a Leading Role award at the festival.

A TEDxNormal speaker, Aduonum explores how kinesthetic empathy and music is useful for deepened dialogue about the effects of slavery, moving us towards compassion and emotional justice. She has brought her research into the classroom and serves as the director of Illinois State’s African Music and Dance Ensemble.