Cross Cultural Collaborative: A Taste of Textiles in Ghana
Ellie Schimelman runs a cultural program in Ghana and shares a bit of her love of the textiles there in this post. Visit her profile on TAFA to learn more about what they do there and about the textile workshop she is offering at the Cross Cultural Collaborative in March 2014.
This is my first TAFA blog entry so I will introduce myself. My name is Ellie Schimelman and my niche is Africa, specifically Ghana. After many years in Ghana as a volunteer teacher and as a student in traditional crafts villages, I started Cross Cultural Collaborative, an educational non-profit, partly because I saw visitors coming to Africa and having a very superficial experience. If you approach your visit in the right spirit, you leave a changed person. For an artist the visual overload is dazzling. For a textile enthusiast it is overwhelming. My mission is to help visitors understand what they are experiencing in the context of the culture.
Textiles in Ghana
Perhaps the most recognizable Ghanaian textile is Kente. Without knowing anything about it you sense that it is very special. There was a time when it was only worn by the Asante King and his court. Now it can be worn by anyone (although some designs are still only worn by the King), but it is expensive. Those wearing it are showing their status. Sometimes the children of a mature man will buy a piece together to give to their father as a thank you for bringing them up.
The two ethnic groups that weave Kente are the Ewe and the Asante. Who started it first? It depends who you ask. Although they tend to copy each other’s designs, the Ewe Kente is recognized by the symbols woven into it and traditionally the Asante Kente is geometric.
Much of our local work has to do with working with children at Aba House in the small village of Nungua. Programs help the local children to develop their creativity by teaching how to use tools for expanding their imagination and craftsmanship. The organization also supports the children by providing them with school materials and other necessities. We bring volunteers and artists from different cultures together in a supportive environment where they can get to know each other through the language of art. At the core of our program is the belief that interaction between African and non-African cultures is mutually enriching.
This video gives you a little taste of what it’s like for us in Ghana and at ABA House:
We invite you to connect with us in whatever way you can! The world is big and small, different and the same…
Do you have any questions about Ghana, Aba House, or our programs? Leave a comment and I’ll be happy to respond.
One of our past textile workshops, all wrapped in Kente!
About Ellie Schimelman
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