The community of Columbia, Maryland, now has a new sister city — Tema, a planned city of more than 160,000 people on the coast of the West African country of Ghana. Tema is located just east of the capital, Accra.
Tema is Columbia’s third sister city and its first in Africa. This new relationship was established as a result of the efforts of Columbia Association’s (CA) Tema Sister City Committee. The connection between Columbia and Cergy-Pontoise, France, was established in 1977, while the connection with Tres Cantos, Spain, dates back to 1990.
Doris Ligon, director of the African Art Museum of Maryland in Fulton, was instrumental in proposing that Columbia develop a new Sister City relationship in Africa. Tema, in Ghana, was selected as it fulfilled a number of important criteria: a safe, planned community, near the nation’s capital, 50 years of democracy and a solid relationship with the United States.
“Tema is one of a handful of planned communities in Africa,” said Willie B. Lamousé-Smith, professor emeritus of Africana studies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. “Tema was selected to meet the criterion of a relationship with a township whose creation and administration is similar to Columbia’s experience.” Lamousé-Smith hand-carried a letter of interest from Columbia Association to the mayor of Tema in December 2010.
These relationships between communities create avenues for cultural exchanges. Columbia’s relationships with its European sister cities have included art and cuisine exchanges, as well as annual high school student exchanges, according to Laura Smit, the program manager for CA’s International Exchange and Multicultural Programs.
CA hosted a “Ghana Fest” cultural event in November, featuring Ghanaian music, dance performances, speakers, art displays and food. An exhibit of Ghanaian art is scheduled to be on display at the Columbia Art Center in May 2014. Meanwhile, students in a geography class at Long Reach High School are expected to speak via Skype with their counterparts in Tema.
The Tema Sister City Committee is focusing on developing virtual exchanges via online video chats between high schools in Columbia and secondary schools in Ghana; connecting Rotary clubs and religious institutions in both towns; showcasing Ghanaian art and music programs; and conducting artist exchanges.
For more information on CA’s International Exchange and Multicultural Programs, contact Laura Smit at 410-715-3162 or email her at International@ColumbiaAssociation.org.
-Article by David Greisman