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Ama Oforiwaa Adunoum ethnomusicologist public-scholar

Ama Oforiwaa Aduonum, PhD

Professor of Ethnomusicology

Illinois State University

Wonsook Kim College of Fine Arts, School of Music

Normal, Illinois USA

Award Winner Performance Artist

Bi Nka Bi Workshop Facilitator

Belonging, Justice, Fair play, Freedom, Peace, Forgiveness, Unity, Harmony, and avoidance of conflict or strife. 

Outstanding achievement in a Leading Role for Walking With My Ancestors

Creative Director Founder

ABURUKUSU Center for Creative Learning

Award Winner Book Writer

Ellen T. Blaney Humanities Award

Musicologist Performance Artist

As an indigenous scholar, “a holistic, embodied learner working with myriad identities, including spiritual identities,” (Dei 2015), I have a deeper appreciation of my society's rich intellectual heritage and knowledge and puts them on equal footing with other knowledge. I am interested in how Indigenous ways of being inform how we seek knowledge and experience sound. I am also interested in understanding the ways that walking, sound, sensorial/emotional experience, and multi-modal listening can be pivotal to conceiving an ethnography.


My research spans Africa, African America, and middle passage-focused areas. I have conducted research that peers have termed ground-breaking, practice-led research at several pan-African locations, including Ghana, Senegal, Brazil, and the United States. Pushing the boundaries of ethnographic research—how and where we conduct research, I got shackled, sat in dungeons, and listened to how the roaring sea, crashing waves, and the clinking shackles contribute to the dungeons’ soundscapes. I consider the spaces at former dungeons for enslaved Africans as incubators for Black music formation, and in so doing carry out an ethnomusicological study in those terrifying and important sites.

As a practicing musician and performer of Ghanaian drums, atenteben bamboo flute, and the adenkum stamping gourd rattles, and singer, I have been involved with drumming ensembles since my formative years in Ghana. With this background, I have launched African Drumming and Dance Programs at institutions in Florida, Georgia, and Illinois.

University of Florida after Keynote April 22.jpg

Keynote at University of Florida

Ama Oforiwaa Aduonum Ethnomusicologist public-scholar

Because Nsatea baako ntumi mpopa animu, “One finger cannot effectively clean the face,” my methods blend creative expression, scholarship, and experimental performance towards a performative discourse. My dancing, drumming, acting, singing, spoken words, and other forms of scholarship allow me to present the “ugliness,” and “beautifulness,” make connections between the past and the present, and open up spaces for deepened reflections and conversations.

I recently used “walking as method” to explore the musical pasts of a warrior group in Ghana (Kormantse). The book Walking with Asafo in Ghana, by University of Rochester Press, documents that process.


Research Interest

For the past fourteen years, I have been engaged in immersive ethnographic work at former dungeons for enslaved Africans in Ghana and Senegal. So far, based on this work, I have given a TEDx Talk (2018) and written two multi modal works, Walking with My Ancestors: Elmina Castle (2014) and Walking with My Ancestors: Cape Coast Castle (2019). Both are meant to offer fresh perspectives on the experiences of the “forgotten” and “nameless” women, men, and children who once languished in the former dungeons.[1] I perform live drumming, dancing, and acting to explore how today’s racial and cultural problems connect with truths of our shared and painful pasts. Walking with My Ancestors: Cape Coast Castle (2019) is an award-winning and nationally recognized performance piece about a mother’s search for guidance from the spirits of her ancestors in the former dungeons. Each performance concludes with a “talk-back” to encourage dialogue about how this overlooked and “silenced” part of our world history continues to define relationships, politics, and policies. It allows us to have difficult and deepened conversations about identities, immigration and migration, citizenship, and homeland and diasporas. Ultimately, the work is a human story we write together about triumph over adversity, hope, resilience, emotional justice, and survival.

Building on my father, Dr. Kwasi Aduonum’s dissertation, Compilation, Analysis, and Adaptation of Selected Ghanaian Folktale Songs for Use in the Elementary Classroom (1980), I am searching for and documenting Ghanaian folktales and their songs for use as epistemologies resistance in the college classrooms.

[1] Both works were originally directed by Kim Pereira and produced by Don Shandrow.

Bi Nka Bi Ambassador
bi-nka-bi-andikara symbol Ama Oforiwaa Aduonum Ethnomusicologist public-scholar

As Bi Nka Bi Ambassador, I work with different organizations to cultivate welcoming, sustainable, and productive healing spaces where everyone’s authentic selves are welcomed, valued, and celebrated. I provide workshops using ancestral knowledge, proverbs, music, movement, games, play, storytelling, and other indigenous teachings to help craft a plan to build sustenance and the common good of our communities. The sessions are grounded in several Ancestral teachings of the Akan of Ghana: Wisdom, Respect, Love, Humility, Bravery, Truth, Honesty, Interdependence, and Community. 


Bi Nka Bi (“One must not bite another”) is a Ghanaian Akan Adinkra symbol about Belonging, Justice, Fair play, Freedom, Peace, Forgiveness, Unity, Harmony, and avoidance of conflict or strife. 


Our vision is for Communities that uphold Belonging, Equity, Justice, Respect, and Love for all. 



Our mission is to:

·      Celebrate our authentic selves

·      Embrace full human experiences and life journeys

·      Care for each other and ourselves 

·      Heal land and our spaces

·      Cultivate welcoming spaces

·      Bring joy, amusement, and play to each other

Nana Abena Nsafoah Ama Oforiwaa Aduonum Ethnomusicologist public-scholar


Nkoso Hemaa (Queen of Progress) of Gomoa Obokrom, Central Region, Ghana.

As Nkoso Hemaa, I am responsible for ensuring that my community is on track towards progress.


I founded and direct the first Preschool for children 3 to 5 years-old at Obokrom in 2013. At the present, I  partially fund the school and support the community with projects and other ventures. I am also responsible for ensuring that the youth stay on track towards the highest potential.

Nana Ama Oforiwaa Aduonum

Ama Oforiwaa Aduonum Ethnomusicologist public-scholar Ghana

Celebration in Ghana

Nana Pounding Fufu.tiff

Nana pounding Fufu

A Praise Song

Dr. Ama Oforiwaa Aduonum                        

Child of Akan Ghana

Daughter of Professor Kwasi Aduonum

Daughter of Ohemaa Akosua Pokua Agyei

Foriwaa Amanfo, Aburoo Du-é

A grain of corn that feeds a multitude

A woman of indomitable and fiery spirit

Audacious, energetic, and steadfast woman from the Aduana lineage

Phenomenal woman

Pioneering scholar

Got shackled and sat in former dungeons for enslaved Africans

To learn about the suffering of her Ancestors


Ahwene pa!

Professor Aduonum

African Music instructor and Ethnomusicologist

Dynamic, innovative, and passionate



ͻbenfoͻ Aduonum, eeee

She directs African Music Ensemble

Drummer, singer, composer, storyteller, dancer

Combines live drumming and dancing to explore

Truths of our painful pasts


Obokrom Queen Mother and founder of a school

Author of children’s books

Ama Oforiwaa Aduonum

ͻnantefoͻ sene oni ne ͻse asem nti

She walks with Asafo!

ͻbenfoͻ Ama Oforiwaa Aduonum

ͻkani ba a ofi ͻman Ghana

Okunii Akwasi Aduonum ne

ͻhemaa Akosua Pokua Adjei ba

Foriwaa Amanfo, Aburoo Du-é

Aburoo betem a eye apata ma ma ekͻm guo


ͻbaa kokoͻdurofoͻ a, ofiri Aduana Abusua mu 

ͻbaa a osi pi si tá

ͻbenfoͻ nimdifoͻ a otwa esa pa to hͻ ma nkyiremma

ͻno ena otiatia ne nananom a tetebi aborͻfo efaa wͻn nnͻmum no anammͻn mu

Saa kyere se yebehunu amanehunu a ye nananom efa mu wo nkoasom mu


Ahwene pa

Nimdifoͻ Aduonum

ͻbenfoͻ a ne nimdee wͻ ndwom mu ebunkam ewiase afanan nnwom ahodoͻ nyinaa so

ͻno na ͻma dada edane mono

ͻno na ͻnna kͻpem se obedi nkunim

ͻbaa sima preko pe

ͻde ͻsee eye ͻyͻ



ͻbenfoͻ Aduonum, eeee

ͻno ne panin a ͻda abibinwom ene asa ekuo a ewo Illinois Sukuupͻn no mu ano

Twenekafoͻ, nwomtofoͻ, nwomsaifoͻ, asa wura, anansesem wura

Te-te wͻ bi ka, te-te wͻ bi kyere

Foriwaa tweneka, ne nwomtoͻ, ne nwomsai,

ne asa, ne anansesem nyina soͻ ene no


ͻbokrom Hemaa, nimdefoͻ a w’asi adesua bia a mmͻfra mmͻfra enya nimdee ahyease ho ntetee

ͻtwerefoͻ a otwere mmͻfra mmͻfra nwoma

Ama Oforiwaa Aduonum

enam se ͻnantefoͻ sene oni ne ͻse asem nti

ͻne Asafo na ebͻ anantee

Ama O Aduonum_walking with my ancestors.jpg
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