Aba House gets a new wall, Ghana style!
by Ellie Schimelman
The village of Sumburigu is near Bolga in northern Ghana. In July three women from the village packed their bags with important things like crushed stones, dowadowa leaves and coal tar and took a very long bus ride to Accra where Belinda, the daughter of one of them joined them to travel to Aba House. Belinda was important because she was the interpreter - from fra fra to english.
The women were essiential because they were coming to paint our wall. Anyone can paint a wall, but not the way they do it. The first day the wall was chiseled and then plastered with a mixture of sand and cold tar. Traditionally cow dung is used, but coal tar served the purpose.
At the end of the fourth day we had a spectacular painted wall full of symbols relating to life in northern Ghana.
I asked the women to sign the wall (how western of me) and they each left a handprint (how african of them).
Signing a painted wall in Ghana.
The women's names are Adintoge, Asinsoboro, and Adompoka. Two of the women really do paint their own houses with patterns. The third woman, although she participated and worked hard, was a ringer. I wonder how you say that in fra fra. An okra mouth reported on her. She wasn't going to miss this opportunity and I don't blame her. I'm glad I didn't miss it either. And next summer........ another wall.
And for the rest of the summer the Aba House kids made paper from sugarcane leaves, books, and our newest item- jewelry from the paper.
The kids are having a gallery show in Philadelphia next February.
One day, as everyone was scattered around working, three different people were singing three different songs in three different languages. Although English is the official language in Ghana, it certainly isn't at Aba House. But somehow, it doesn't seem to matter. Creativity prevails.
Every summer we have interesting visitors. Anna from the African museum in Brussels came to buy a fantasy coffin. She added French to our language mix. Saundra, who actually spoke English, was coming back to Ghana after being there in the Peace Corps 46 years ago. Her stories about how things use to be are fascinating. Greenie, a first grade teacher from Chicago, worked with some of our younger kids. After she left, one of the kids asked me if I would call the United States and have another teacher come work with them. Ah, if only it was that easy.
Greenie kept a blog while at Aba House: kidconnections
And next year: definitely another workshop with the house painters - our annual African textile workshop- possibly a tour to Burkina or Mali - lots of opportunities for artists and teachers - volunteer positions or just come rent a room and enjoy the ocean view.
The Cross Cultural Collaborative is a member of TAFA, The Textile and Fiber Art List.
Visit their member profile to find out more about this wonderful project.