Textiles & Culture: Ghana

February 5 – 17, 2020  Fly home on February 18.

Kejetia market cloth display

Vendors arrange the huge selection of patterned dress cloth.

Ghana is sometimes called “Africa for beginners” because of the ease of travel, the friendly, welcoming people and the relative level of modernity compared to other West African nations. This is not only a textile tour, but also an arts and culture tour of Ghana that explores the creative aspects as well as the historical and ecological features of this fascinating country. Ghana is safe and politically stable. Fortunately the people have retained many cultural and artistic traditions such as use of patterned Kente and Adinkra cloth – and have created some others, such as the fairly recent mode of fantasy coffins. Arts such as bead-making, Kente weaving, batik printing, adinkra stamping, music, and dance are all thriving, alongside the modern aspect of the capital city of Accra.

Hand-woven kente strip cloth.

Arts and Culture Galore!

This Ghana tour includes three hands-on workshops of traditional crafts. Expert Ghanaian artist-friends will teach us how to make batik wax-stamped cloth, adinkra-printed fabric, and glass beads. You’ll go home with some beautiful creations. An enormous bead market, kente cloth weaving centers, and the studio of the best art coffin carvers make other exciting destinations during our Ghana tour. We’ll also visit an elementary school at the Jamestown fishing village, and spend a morning at the biggest fabric market in West Africa.

Led by Malian Barou Samake, this adventure includes the very best of Ghana. Barou is an upbeat leader with a positive, can-do attitude to ensure that your travel experience enchants and enriches you. Professional English-speaking local guides at historical sites, including the slave forts or castles, will add depth to your knowledge by explaining the historical context and background of the sites.

Tour Details

You will be met by the trip leader and driver at Kotoka International airport, in the capital city of  Accra, on February 5 when you arrive. We’ll go from ocean beaches to forest canopy, with lakes and traditional villages in between!

On this wonderful adventure, we will cover as much as possible of the fascinating southern part of the country. We’ll spend several days around bustling Accra, then head off to specific areas such as Kumasi, so that we get a good feeling for Ghanaian life away from the busy coastal areas.

Man wears Adinkra cloth, Ghana

Distinguished elder in traditional Adinkra cloth wrapper.

First we’ll head west to tour Cape Coast Castle with a licensed local guide. This important UNESCO World Heritage site was one of thirty large commercial forts built by European traders on the Gold Coast of West Africa (now Ghana). Originally it was built by Swedish settlers to trade timber and gold, but later used in the tragic trans-Atlantic slave trade. We’ll tour the Historical Museum here also. The town of Elmina is believed to be the location of the first point of contact between Europeans and sub-Saharan Africans. Now Elmina is a fishing village with colorful scenes of fishermen and boats on the beach. There we’ll spend the night in modern versions of traditional African round huts – with swimming pool.

Next, we’ll head to Kakum Park and the wonderful canopy walk in the cool forest. Later we’ll go north to Kumasi. There a local friend will navigate the Kejetia Market’s cloth lanes with you, so you don’t get lost; see photo at bottom of girls arranging bolts of fabric. This is a quilter’s paradise and the fabrics are inexpensive.

Then we’ll drive to Odumase-Krobo where you will make recycled glass beads with the famous and congenial Cedi, foremost Ghanaian bead artist. The enormous Bead Market will tempt you to add to your collections! At Cedi’s, there will be supplies to thread beads to create your own simple necklaces and bracelets.

Barou with Ewe kente cloth.

Barou examines a beautiful piece of kente strip cloth.

Next stop in the Volta Region is pretty Lake Volta, before driving back to Accra. At the end of the trip, we’ll stop in the fishing town of Jamestown, with its fresh fish market, tuna smoking ovens and fishing scene on the beach. We will meet with a friend who works there. He’ll show us the boats being crafted by hand, and will explain how the communal fishing organization works. He will also show us the little school for the fishermen’s children (built by Canadians) and you can donate school supplies here if you wish.

Kente Cloth, Adinkra and Batik

The famous Ghanaian kente cloth is still woven in several places. We’ll meet a weaver in Bonwire (near Kumasi) who will show us weaving techniques and you can sit at a loom and try your hand. He will also explain the significance of the beautiful designs and color combinations. There are over 300 kente patterns, each with its own name and meaning derived from proverbs, historical events, and important chiefs. We’ll meet the weavers in individual and coop settings to see weaving demonstrations by both Ewe and Ashanti people.

Also you’ll be able to buy their work directly from them and observe their working techniques.We’ll try our hand at some traditional crafts in several half-day workshops mentioned above. We will print adinkra motifs with stamps made from sections of hand-carved dried gourd. Another day we’ll stamp hot wax on cotton yardage for a gorgeous batik and also we’ll make recycled glass beads with famous bead artist Cedi. At a fabulous weekly Bead Market, dozens of vendors offer an amazing variety of handmade beads, for great prices. Later we’ll create necklaces and bracelets from our handmade beads and newly acquired ones. These hands-on workshops represent typical arts and culture of Ghana that are being both maintained and re-invented by the artisans.

Fantasy Coffins

On the way back into Accra, we’ll visit the most prominent coffin carving workshop, to see what they are working on. These wooden, custom-made coffins reflect the career or aspirations of the deceased, for the Ga ethnic community. Fishermen might be buried in a huge colorful fish or a carpenter in a big plane-shaped coffin. Ghanaians can request burial in a carved wooden version of their favorite automobile, or airplane. Farmers can order cocoa pods or chili peppers for the journey to the other life. Some men choose a beer bottle or an over-sized Coca Cola bottle. Popular women’s coffins include huge chickens, with smaller wooden “chicks” at her feet, one representing each of the lady’s children. We’ll see the coffin construction and carving process, and some different models currently on hand. ‘Fantasy coffins’ have become art pieces in  America and other countries, appearing in many museums and private collections.

Beaders, Quilters and Other Fabric Enthusiasts

Patchwork quilt made from Ghana cloth

“Africa” Quilt by Melanie Grishman.

Bring an empty suitcase to hold all the beads and amazing roller-printed fabrics you’ll discover in the overflowing markets! We will go on a special market tour in Kumasi with a charming, local friend who knows the labyrinth of stalls and where to find the best fabrics – and whatever else you may need – great fun!

Arrive on February 5 and fly home from Accra on February 18.
February 17
is LAST included night of hotel but on the 18th, you have free time until you need to go to the airport; you may leave your bags and hang out at the hotel or go into Osu,
etc. Many flights leave Accra late at night.

 

Behind the Scenes Adventures IN ACTION:
We have a project to help local schools where we travel; we’ll visit an elementary school in a village and offer school supplies.  BTSA travelers have been wonderfully generous about donating pens, pencils and notebooks during our visits, and the children are so sweet; this is really a heart-warming experience!!  See the BTSA Helping page here.

Price: $4295 for 4-6 travelers for Arts and Culture of Ghana. (Arrive Feb. 5 and depart late on Feb. 18.)
$3995 for 7 – 12 travelers
Single supplement: $550

Girl selling fish takes a break to flirt!

Includes:

  • 13 nights hotel accommodation in comfortable local hotels (double rooms)
  •  All transportation by private vehicle with professional driver
  • All meals, except two lunches in Accra (Order dishes of your choice from menus)
  • All soft drinks, beer, and water with meals
  • Bottled water in the van on the road
  • Airport transportation on group arrival and departure days
  • All entrances to historical sites and museums on itinerary
  • Professional guide at Elmina Castle
  • Expert shopping guide for Kumasi market tour
  • Kente cloth weaving demo
  • Three workshops: glass-bead making, Adinkra stamping, and batik printing.
  • 2 yards of cotton cloth are provided for the batik printing workshop.
  • Tips for the professional guides at historical sites are also included.

Not included:

International (roundtrip) airfare to Accra, your easy visa for Ghana ($100 from Texas USA consulate; we will send info); personal items such as laundry, any between-meal snacks, hard alcoholic drinks (beer is included), and the cloth to print Adinkra on.

There will be a group market outing in Kumasi to buy your choice of cloth for Adinkra printing. Batik cotton is included for your wax printing workshop.

Fishing boats in the harbor.

NOTE #1
If you arrive or depart on a different day than the designated group arrival/departure date, you will need to pay the taxi from airport to hotel, and any additional nights of hotel.
Plan flights to arrive after 10am or before 8pm if possible. Barou will meet you at the airport, with the driver on the group arrival date. Otherwise, we will arrange for the hotel to send a known and safe taxi driver for you. The Ghana airport is enclosed and fairly un-chaotic.
NOTE #2
After you have paid the $500 deposit for Arts and Culture of Ghana, and several months before departure, we will send you the form to fill out for your visa to Ghana. You will send the forms and check to TEXAS, USA, for the easiest method.
Please don’t use another way because other visa places are inefficient and it can get really complicated. You’ll also receive an emailed information packet with lists of what to bring, heath and cultural info, maps, etc.
NOTE #3
It is impossible to plan in advance attendance at traditional musical or dance events or even holidays and festivals, from afar. We love these events, and we’re happy to be flexible and spontaneously attend traditional performances in villages along the way, if the chance should arise.

See the Ghana Image Gallery here.