Come join us in Ghana!
Aug. 2 - 15, 2009!!!!
by Ellie Schimelman
Ghana is known for it's rich history of art and culture and although it has adapted some Western ways, Ghana still has spectacular festivals to celebrate it's heritage. Part of each festival is a durbar which is comparable to a parade where all the important people, like chiefs, dress in their regalia. This is where you can see Kente cloth in all its glory. Even if you don't know anything about Kente, when you see it you know that it is special.
Each year we organize a workshop at our cultural center in a suburb of Accra where participants can learn to weave Kente, stamp adinkra, learn about Asafo, do tie and dye, batik and other fabric decorations which are taught by master artisans. This is a unique opportunity to experience African textiles in the context of their culture. Participants visit galleries, museums, cloth markets, crafts villages and dealers in antiquities.
Many traditional approaches to cloth are being lost because young artisans want to be modern and don't want to do the tedious work required to be authentic. There is a saying in Africa that each time an elder dies a library is lost... and each time a traditional artisan dies a technique is lost. There was a time when it would take a Kente weaver 3 months to weave a piece. Now, many weavers rush to get cloth ready for the 5 day market. Another reason we offer this workshop is to show indigenous artisans that their traditions have value and should be continued.
Sometimes the Ghanaian artist will find a modern way to work with the traditional techniques. An example of this is making the symbols on adinkra cloth using silk screen. This is certainly much faster than the traditional stamping of the symbols onto the cloth. Each way has a different look and it's up to the buyer to decide which one they prefer.
There is no doubt that there are universal connections in art. In reference to African cloth, all you have to do is look at the quilts of the Gee's Bend artists. African cloth has always had symbolic meaning. Men and women taken from Africa to the diaspora had memories of cloth designs and the meanings they carried. It's easy to see how African American story quilts retain traces of African fabric techniques.
If you come to Ghana, we'll give you an African name. Many people are named after the day of the week on which they were born. Aba is a female born on Thursday.
About Ellie Schimelman:
I graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with a minor in apparel design and a major in art education. Always drawn to African art, I decided to see it in Africa and by a process of elimination chose to start in Ghana. I had really wanted to go to South Africa, but because of Apartheid, decided not to. Ghana was a good choice... English is the official language and the culture is intact.
One thing led to another, and now 20 some years later, I am the director of Cross Cultural Collaborative, with a mud house next to the ocean, about 50 Ghanaian children who call me Mami and a mission to introduce people from different cultures to each other through the language of art. The photo shows Aba House which has eight guest rooms.
My fantasy is to someday visit every African country....
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