Chancing upon series of coloured designs of hand woven straw baskets brings pleasant sensation to the eye, and like a magnet attracts and draws you closer to feast your eyes on such beautifully crafted artefacts.
Weaving and sewing were traditionally recognized as craft and work for the women, but its importance, has outgrown such considerations as it is now an integral part of the work of artists around the world for both men and women. As such, it has become a source of employment to many and consequently serves multiple purposes.
On the regular, what comes to the mind of most Ghanaians when it comes to straw basketry is that it serves as a shopping basket for commodities. Beyond that, it serves as hamper baskets, church offering bowls, laundry baskets, jewelry boxes, mats for ceiling, food carrier, ladies handbag, hats etc. Other people do not even consider such crafted artefacts as important with the influx of jute bags, shopping bags, plastic laundry baskets, leather products etc. at relatively lower costs. So we tend to only admire the beauty of the artefacts and do not patronize them.
Straw basketry, is the pride of the Northern part of the country, particularly Zaare, Bolgatanga in the Upper East Region.
In an interview with Mr Raymond Adongo, a basket weaver with over 30 years’ experience, he revealed that the baskets were once used as pito sieves until a British couple stopped by and requested for the sieve basket from the weavers, which they freely wanted to give out, but the British insisted on paying for it.
Later, the British came back and demanded for more of the artefacts and this encouraged the weavers to produce more and from then, it became a business. Thus, they sought to develop ideas on the numerous purposes the craft could serve. This explains how the craft shot to commercialization and its multiple uses contemporarily.
In spite of the fact that this craft serves as a source of employment to many especially to the people of Zaare in Bolgatanga, their low patronage by Ghanaians leaves much to be desired. Most at times as mentioned earlier, Ghanaians admire the beauty of such artefacts: their colours, designs, shapes and the way it is woven beats the imagination of many. But patronizing them is the problem. Owing to this, weavers fall at the mercy of foreigners from whom they make insufficient profits because when these foreigners leave here for their country patronage stops.
Interacting with some people about why they don’t patronize such crafted artefacts, they all seemed to chorus one answer that it is too expensive and that the branding and positioning of the artefacts are low so it doesn’t encourage them to buy.
However, it is worth noting that the materials used in producing the artefacts are quite expensive and the process of producing them is difficult so if the weavers do not sell them at prices from which they can gain profits, they will incur losses and who will like to incur losses in a business?
With the issue of branding and positioning, the Ministry for Tourism, Arts and Culture’s launch of the ‘Wear Ghana month’ project is good step as it champions the call for the passage of a law to ensure all Ghanaian fabrics and accessories are worn at all state and international functions to promote the nation. And provides the platforms for people to showcase their made in Ghana products, but these weavers still complain the public does not purchase their products at the exhibitions. They come around and feast their eyes on the artefacts and turn around.
Moreover, when the issue of ‘made in Ghana’ products is raised we normally turn our attention to the African clothing forgetting about the hand woven artefacts such as hand woven straw baskets, hand woven straw bags, hand woven straw jewelry boxes etc. but these are equally African products we should patronize to boost the weaving industry. It’s about time we changed the status quo and broadened our horizon on ‘made in Ghana’ products.
Student at Ghana Institute of Journalism