Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Awesome Tapes From Africa!!!

This is a really excellent music blog. It list tons of free music from Africa. This is music you won't easily find anywhere else—except, perhaps in its region of origin.


Textile Productions

Zach posted a great article title "Ghanaian Interweaving in the Nineteenth Century" but didn't have access to the photos. If you access this article through Academic Search Premier (Decker Research Resources) you can view the pictures, they are really wonderful. I posted a few below.

Colonial Imports versus Indigenous Crafts (via Credo Reference)
Pre-European rule, Ghana along with Côte d'Ivoire, the Republic of Benin, and Nigeria were cloth-miking centers of indigenous cotton production. Locally grown cotton was spun, dyed, woven, and constructed into garments. When trade opened, the less expensive yarns that came in a variety of colors not available locally became more desirable than locally produced cotton. Limited technology could not compete with that of the European Industrial Revolution, by the 1820s cotton was one of the largest imports. The only thing keeping local producers competitive was the high cost of shipping. During colonization, as transport improved the need for industrialization in Sub-saharan Africa declined, it was more cost effective to import. The local industry survived due to the status associated with locally produced goods, especially the Kente cloth of Ghana.

"Ghanaian Culture, National Identity and Development", James Anquandah
Asante and Ewe groups are major producers of kente with traditions following a 300 year history. Bonwire is a production center housing nearly 2,000 weavers with a repertoire of 1,000 distinguishable designs. Asante weaving was once restricted to men. Ewe kente often has figural inlays whereas asante kente is purely geometrical. In 1991 kente sales in the U.S. amounted to $14million.

“Let Your Fashion Be in Line with Our Ghanaian Costume”: Nation, Gender, and the Politics of Cloth-ing in Nkrumah’s Ghana, Jan Allman
Anti-nudity Campaigns 1958-1966
“As we are now one, our fashion, culture and the way of life must also be identical.” –Kudjoe, Convention People’s party activist
The body is a site of social and political action… “clothing and other treatments of the body surface are primary symbols in the performances through which modernity-and therefore history-have been conceived, constructed and challenged in Africa.” –Hildi Hendrickson, Clothing and Difference
1950s, northern region including Talensi, Builsa, Nankanni, Dagara, and others did not produce or weave cloth
Nakedness = savagery = pagan
Clothing became an indicator of colonial success. British “civilizing mission”. Chiefs given cloth robes to establish status.
Independence is 1957 as Ghana entered world stage, issue of nudity became a concern in that it was a reflection of the political, cultural, and economic history and present of the country. Nudity seen as a social issue, especially gendered toward women. Men had access to clothing, women did not which created a social hierarchy.
Campaigns led by All-African Women’s League and Afro-American Ghanaian Women’s Friendship League

Kente Cloth

It is a royal and sacred cloth worn only in times of extreme importance. Kente was the cloth of kings. Over time, the use of kente became more widespread, however its importance has remained and it is held in high esteem in the Akan family and the entire country of Ghana.

The kente cloth is woven on a narrow horizontal loom. The loom usually uses four heddles (asanan), but in special cases, six or seven heddles (asasia) may be used. 

The cloth is woven in narrow strip (called ntomaban or bankuo) that is about 3-5 inches wide and about 5-6 feet long. Several strips are sewn together to make a wider piece of cloth for both men and women. A man's cloth may contain up to 24 strips and measure about 5x8 feet. The woman's two-piece cloth may contain 8-12 strips each piece. 

The largest known kente cloth, measuring about 12X20 feet, is the piece Ghana presented to the United Nations in 1960. This cloth is called tikoro nko agyina - one head does constitute a council.

The Asante weaver refers to kente as nwentoma (woven cloth) to distinguish it from the factory-made cloth (ntoma) and the adinkra cloth that is stamped (ntiamu ntoma) by the block-print technique. 

The nwentoma is of various categories: ahwepan (plain weave); topreko (plain weave with simple weft inlays); and faprenu (double weave technique that hides the warp threads). The term kente has its roots in the word kenten which means a basket. The first kente weavers used raffia fibers to weave cloths that looked like kenten (a basket); and thus were referred to as kenten ntoma; meaning basket cloth. The original Asante name of the cloth was nsaduaso or nwontoma, meaning "a cloth hand-woven on a loom" and is still used today by Asante weavers and elders. However, the term kente is the most popularly used today, in and outside Ghana. Many variations of narrow-strip cloths, similar to Kente are woven by various ethnic groups in Ghana and elsewhere in Africa.

The warp threads are laid in such fashion to give a name and meaning to the cloth. At the same time, the weft designs or motifs are each given a name and meaning. These names and meanings reflect Akan beliefs, historical events, social and political organization in the Akan society, or may be named after all manner of people.

The kente, like other Akan artworks, has been used to inscribe forms of political commentary.
In the 1960s Ghana became a founding member of the Non-Alignment Movement, a third rail to the then two world powers - the Soviet Bloc countries and the West led by the U. S. during the Cold War era.

A popular kente cloth, Fathia Fata Nkrumah (Fathia deserves Nkrumah) - was renamed Obaakofo Mmu man (One man does not rule a nation) as soon as Nkrumah was overthrown in a military coup in 1966.

Kente cloth is worn by people of all social status. In the past certain designs were specifically made to be worn by the royals. In the early 19th century rising economic prosperity made it possible for non-royals to begin to demand for what were worn by the royals. There is one kente cloth called wonya wo ho a, wonye dehyee - you may be rich, but you are not of royal descent. Apparently this was worn by the royals to distinguish themselves from the nascent class of rich traders.

During his inauguration as President of Ghana in January 2001, Mr. J. A. Kufuor wore a kente cloth called Dako yesere - We will smile one day.

Samples of Kente cloth date back to the 11th century.

There are more than 300 types of cloth design patterns. Each design has a name and a meaning; weaving the designs with different colors affects the meanings.

black -- maturation, intensified spiritual energy
blue -- peacefulness, harmony and love
green -- vegetation, planting, harvesting, growth, spiritual renewal
gold -- royalty, wealth, high status, glory, spiritual purity
grey -- healing and cleansing rituals; associated with ash
maroon -- the color of mother earth; associated with healing
pink -- assoc. with the female essence of life; a mild, gentle aspect of red
purple -- assoc. with feminine aspects of life; usually worn by women
red -- political and spiritual moods; bloodshed; sacrificial rites
silver -- serenity, purity, joy; assoc. with the moon
white -- purification, sanctification rites and festive occasions
yellow -- preciousness, royalty, wealth, fertility

Contemporary Artist PART duce

Wisdom 'Wiz' Kudowor is currently considered one of Ghana's most affluent contemporary artists.
He has designed and executed public works in Ghana including a relief mural at the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park.

A lot of his current work involves patterning in an altered contemporary sense were random overlapping shapes and marks create a very traditional African pattern.
These shapes correlate though to modern urban life in Africa.
The First image Intimacy in Red is one of his paintings the bottom two sculptures are other works done by
El Anatsui an artist who creates clothes and sculptures from various western objects that have infiltrated African culture.

Dutch Wax Design from Helmond to West Africa

Posted on Friday 11 January 2008 - 13:58

AfricaNews editor
Robin van Koert - Stichting Afrikaanse Dutch Wax
"Starting as chintz in India, via traditional Indonesian batik, cheap Dutch imitations and low land batiks for the African market, within a short period of time the coloured cotton from Helmond will be manufactured in the part of the world with which it is most often identified: West Africa."
Vlisco Mode
During the 1950s, struggle and hope predominate in sub-Saharan Africa. Self-determination and locally owned industries are the aspirations. Vlisco, the Helmond-based producer of the popular wax prints, is afraid to lose its markets. The British United Africa Company fears for its trading business. In the end, the British decide to build their own factories in West Africa.

“After several decades of political instability and economic mismanagement, during the last fifteen years the Ghanaian economy has returned almost to the level of fifty years ago. Optimism about the future pervades the country. On the other hand, the Ivorians still cannot quite fathom how the end of their “economic miracle” could so dramatically have led to the end of political stability. As yet, optimism is a scarce commodity in Côte d’Ivoire.”

Despite frequent political instability and economic difficulties, Ghana Textile Printing in Ghana and Uniwax in Côte d’Ivoire have managed to hold their own to this very day. Their products form a part of the national identity of the two countries, as well as of the political, economic, and cultural history of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.

“Tradition, naming and image, it is a combination pregnant with meaning. A symbolism that remains unnoticed by many visitors to Africa. The amply variegated colours of the artful designed and shaped, or nonchalantly worn, wax, java and fancy prints draw admiring and amazed looks. The colours, designs and patterns arouse curiosity and surprise. Only for those in the know do they represent words, hidden in the colourful shapes.”

This book narrates the fascinating story of these two factories, as seen through the eyes of Ivorians, Ghanaians and Dutchman, who have been involved in their history, are still involved in their present or will be in their future. Special attention is paid to the relationship with Vlisco in Helmond, the Netherlands. Ever since the end of the nineteenth century, patterns by Dutch designers have acquired a special cultural, religious, and ceremonial significance in West Africa.

“International trade networks and routes brought the wax prints from their origins as Indian batiks via Indonesia and the Netherlands to West Africa. After some delay, the factories followed the traders. Will ongoing globalisation return the production of wax prints back to where it all started, that is, to Asia?”

If you are interested in this book, please contact Jan van der Heijden of the stichting Afrikaanse Dutch Wax via j.heijden7@chello.nl.

interesting post from the blogger

Traditional Ghanaian Dress - Men and Women

Traditional Ghanaian Dress
Traditionally most of their clothes are hand-dyed, hand-woven and hand-sewn by professional seamstresses. As a result, many people wear clothing that is custom-made to fit their unique shape. But now, almost all cloth are imported and digitally printed. Many outfits include expert embroidery and beading. Despite an abundance of Western influence, pride in traditional Ghanaian dressing strongly prevails among most citizens, young and old. Even tourists are expected to embrace Ghanaian fashions when visiting the country.

Women's Fashion:
Women in Ghana are more prone to dressing in the more traditional styles of dress, which is both fashionable and practical. There are about three types of traditional styles for women: a long dress, skirt and top set, and wrap. All pieces are tailored by professional seamstresses using brightly colored, hand-dyed fabrics often in ethnic prints.
The long dress - usually worn during more formal occasions including parties and celebrations.
The skirt and top set - a more casual outfit that is worn during the daytime on trips to the market and around the house.
The wrap - worn to cover up after swimming or showering.

There are many variations of the traditional long dress. Styles include strapless, halter and short-sleeved. Skirts tend to be fitted tightly about the waist although a more flared shape is also worn. Women often wear headbands made of twisted fabric, and accessorize their outfits with sashes tied around the waist. Flat sandals are the most popular type of footwear, while heels are worn during nights on the town.

Men are known to most often wear tunics, short or long-sleeved, with loose drawstring pants. In northern Ghana, men wear striped
smocks that are hand-woven with symbolic designs, and sometimes in the colors of the Ghanaian flag: red, yellow and green. Men often dress in more Western styles of clothing such as jeans and t-shirts. Businessmen tend to wear suits to work,
and formal occasions often call for a tuxedo. Ghanaian males embrace Western fashion more so than the females.
A mix of Western and Ghanaian fashions is also seen among the men as they are seen pairing jeans with the traditional smock and tunic. Footwear alternates between sandals, dress shoes and sneakers.

National Dress: North and South
Dressing in Ghana traditionally reflects the geo-political division of the country into north and south.
Kente is the most popular cloth for festive occasions, commonly worn by men from the south. Ghana's kente cloth has spread in popularity around the world. The kente identifies where a person is from, and sometimes, their station in life.
The smock (a plaid shirt) which is becoming a gown for all occasions are common among men from the north.
The first president of Ghana, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah used both the smock and the kente cloth widely to portray Ghana's culture in the area of clothing. The kente cloth and the smock can be purchased at any commercial market in the urban areas where they are sold by numerous merchants.

Clothing in Northern Ghana is both functional and stylish. Much emphasis is spent on taking car e of one's clothes and appearance. Also, they have natural pigments to dye their cloth with.
Generally red and black are used for funerals, white and blue are for weddings, and other colors are included in their fashion.

More on Vlisco

African Wax Print Fabric

African wax print fabric with pattern of electric shavers

How a Dutch company's batik textiles became the basis of "traditional" West African culture.
By Matt Steinglass, Metropolis Magazine

"Vlisco was founded in 1846 by a famous Dutch merchant family called the van Vlissingens," explains Joop van der Meij, the company's CEO. "One of the van Vlissingen sons had been in Indonesia, where he discovered the batik method of dying cloth. He had the idea that maybe this method could be industrialized in Europe." By the late 1800s Dutch factories were supplying the bulk of the Indonesian batik market, and as Dutch freighters stopped at various African ports on their way over, the fabrics began to gain an African clientele. At the beginning of the twentieth century, when measures were taken to protect domestic Indonesian batik production, the market for imports there slumped. Africa gradually became the exclusive market for Dutch batik, and by the 1960s Vlisco, having merged with all its rivals, had become the exclusive supplier.

In an industry where the reverse is more common, Vlisco is an anomaly: a European-based textile company whose market is in the third world. Almost none of Vlisco's product is bought in Europe or North America. ...

The patterns on the imitation fabrics, meanwhile, are often nearly identical to those on Real Dutch Wax, because the competitors steal them. Van der Meij claims that 80 percent of the designs one sees on wax-print fabrics in Africa started out on Vlisco drawing boards. The company has fought several successful legal actions, but the Asians are not to be deterred. Lately Nigerian textile makers have also been getting in on the act. "We can put the new fabrics out on the market as soon as the containers arrive from Holland," says Agbobli Médémé, service representative of Vlisco's Togolese partner company, V.A.C.-Togo. "The Nigerian copies start showing up eight days later."

So the authentic traditional West African fabrics are the ones produced in Holland, and the stuff made in West Africa is fake? Can this be right?

contemporary dutch wax prints from Vlisco

Check out an image search of Vlisco - a longtime dutch wax export fabric printing company....

Colors and Their Meanings

Where I found this information, it was on an article on Kente cloth from Ghana. Unsure if these meanings only pertain to Kente cloth or can be used on other cloth types. But first...


The Flag of Ghana consists of the colors RED, GOLD and GREEN in horizontal stripes with a five-pointed star in the center of the gold stripe

RED represents the blood of those who died in the country's struggle for independence
GOLD represents the mineral wealth of the country
GREEN symbolises the country's rich forest and
THE BLACK STAR stands for the lodestar of African freedom

YELLOW in all its variations is associated with the yoke of the egg, ripe and edible fruits and vegetables and also with the mineral gold. In some spiritual purification rituals mashed yarn is rendered yellow with oil palm and served with eggs. It symbolizes sanctity, preciousness, royalty, wealth, spirituality, vitality and fertility.

PINK is associated with the female essence of life. It is viewed as red rendered mild and gentle, and therefore associated with tenderness, calmness, pleasantness, and sweetness. According to Akan social thought, these attributes are generally considered as essential aspects of the female essence.

RED is associated with blood, sacrificial rites and the shedding of blood. Red-eyed mood means a sense of seriousness, readiness for a serious spiritual or political encounter. Red is therefore used as a symbol of heightened spiritual and political mood, sacrifice and struggle.

BLUE is associated with the blue sky, the abode of the Supreme Creator. it is therefore used in a variety of ways to symbolize spiritual sanctity, good fortune, peacefulness, harmony and love related ideas.

GREEN is associated with vegetation, planting, harvesting and herbal medicine. Tender green leaves are usually used to sprinkle water during purification rituals. It symbolizes growth, vitality, fertility, prosperity, fruitfulness, abundant health and spiritual rejuvenation.

PURPLE is viewed in the same way as maroon. It is considered as earth associated with color used in rituals and healing purposes. It is also the color used in rituals and healing purposes. It is also associated with feminine aspects of life. Purple cloths are mostly worn by females.

MAROON has a close resemblance to red-brown which is associated with the color of Mother Earth. Red-brown is usually obtained from clay and is therefore associated with healing and the power to repel malevolent spirits.
WHITE derives its symbolism from the white part of the egg and from white clay used in spiritual purification, healing, sanctification rites and festive occasions. In some situations it symbolizes contact with ancestral spirits, deities and other unknown spiritual entities such as ghosts. it is used in combination with black, green or yellow to express notion, spirituality, vitality and balance.

GREY derives its symbolism from ash. Ash is used for healing and spiritual cleansing rituals to re-create spiritual balance when spiritual blemish has occurred. It is also used in rituals for protection against malevolent spirits. Grey is therefore associated with spiritual blemish but also with spiritual cleansing.

SILVER is associated with the moon which represents the female essence of life. Silver ornaments are usually worn by women and are used in the context of spiritual purification, naming ceremonies, marriage ceremonies and other community festivals. it symbolizes serenity, purity and joy.
GOLD derives its significance from the commercial value and social prestige associated with the precious mineral. Gold dust and gold nuggets were used as medium of exchange and for making valuable royal ornaments. It symbolizes royalty, wealth, elegance, high status, supreme quality, glory and spiritual purity.

BLACK derives its significance from the notion that new things get darker as they mature; and physical aging comes with spiritual maturity. The Akans blacken most of their ritual objects to increase their spiritual potency. Black symbolizes an intensified spiritual energy, communion with the ancestral spirits, antiquity, spiritual maturity and spiritual potency.


The Adinkra cloth^ made by the Ashanti people of Ghana tells a story through its many
layers of symbolism. The color of the cloth represents an emotion or concept, such as
love, riches, growth, love or sadness. Adinkra cloth is worn typically at funerals and farewells. Dark colored adinkra cloth in brick red, brown or black symbolizes death. Alternately, bright colored adinkra cloth in white, yellow or blue is worn for festive or happy occasions. Adinkra cloth is still very popular in Ghana today.

Kente cloth^ made by the Fante of Ghana has many different designs and colors with various meanings. Red is the symbol of bloodshed and is frequently worn for political meetings and rallies. Green represents fertility and you can see it worn often during a young girl's adolescence. White symbolizes purity or victory. Yellow represents maturity or glory and chiefs frequently wear this color. Blue symbolizes love, and black represents aging.

images found on Google: "ghana flag," "adinkra," and "kente"

ghanaian interweaving in the nineteenth century

Here is an interesting article about textile production in 19th century Ghana. Unfortunately, you have to pay money to see the pictures, but it's a good read regardless.



Monday, March 29, 2010

Ghanaian Culture and Daily Life

Art and Ghana:

Art reflects social, sculptural, political, and philosophical values of the community. Focus on function and the use of art to create spiritual beauty through sacred and secular powers.

Ghanaian art influenced by Islamic and European factors because of trading with Muslims, Europeans, and Christian missionaries.
There was a discouragement of traditional art through Christianity but since independence from British Rule in 1957 there has been a revival to relearn the traditional arts.

Art objects enhance performing arts/ religious life.

Art objects are associated with performance or ceremony and are not meant to be viewed in a museum. The objects created by artists tend to have symbols of spirituality and status.

Festivals in Ghana:

Ceremonies bring the community together as well as ancestors and God.

Symbols in Daily Life:

Pregnancy: women sometimes carry wooden symbols of fertility on their backs to ensure a safe pregnancy.

Child naming:

children are adorned with beads and jewelry

Ceremony into adulthood:

boys are given sculptures or masks to wear to evoke their ancestors as well as learn how to make textiles, leather, metal, wooden and clay items.
Girls are adorned with beads and gold ornaments in their hair, neck, and wrists. After the ceremony she is paraded around the street or set on a stool in front of her house.

Funerals: seen as a celebration of a new spiritual life. Mourners wear special cloth stamped with traditional design. The color worn depends on the age of the deceased. Russet-brown are for those who died young while white is worn for those who lived a long life. The immediate family/ close relatives wear red cloth and headbands.


Akhan symbolism uses thousands of motifs which come from proverbs, historical events, human attitudes, animal behavior, plant life, and objects.

Kente Cloth:

Ceremonial cloth, different textiles are own for specific occasions. The most expensive Kente cloth used to be reserved for kings and royal family members.

The Asante are the best producers of Kente cloth but Kente cloth is also produced by Ewe craftsmen.

Kente is hand made by men on a traditional horizontal treadle loom which is always used outdoors.

Adinkra (Saying Farwell) Cloth:

Adinkras are hand woven in long narrow strips with heavier cotton and less complex patterns then kente cloth.

Adinkra printing is associated with the Ahsante and was developed in the 19th centuray, it was first used by spiritual leaders and royalty but today it is used for festivals, funerals, and rites of passage.

Images on Adinkra Cloth are created using hand carved stamps and combs using natural dyes from the bark of the badie tree and iron slag.

• Oval shapes represent femininity and beauty.
• Half circles represent fertility
• Cross represents piety
• Arrow represents a new life
• Moon and stars represent love, loyalty, and harmony
• Gye nyame (except God) and sonkoft (go back and fetch it) are also symbols seen in Andikras


Wood carvings/ Clay sculptures:

Stools: important people and family heads own stools as a way to provide their souls with a place to rest after death. The Adenkyem-dwa stool used to be found in religious shrines and has imagery of a crocodile with a fish in its mouth representing power. There are stools for kings, queens, men, women, and stools that can be used by anyone. Some stools incorporate Western imagery such as gun powder kegs and padlocks.

Culture and customs of Ghana By Steven J. Salm, Toyin Falola



Hip hop and gospel are emerging outside the music world and are being seen in public forums.

Ghana uses a combination of hip hop sampling, scratching, rap and older forms of Ahansesem story traditional storytelling. Songs use humor and vulgarity to talk about politics, the economy, and class polarization.

“Scenti No” is a song that forms a connection with home and community.

Ghanaian Music: http://freemusicarchive.org/search/?quicksearch=ghana&search-artist=Artist&search-curator=

Aesthetic of the Entrepreneur: Afro-Cosmopolitan Rap and Moral Circulation in Accra, Ghana



Poor neighborhoods (Nima and Labadi)

Wooden shacks with pirated electric wires

Shared out houses

Hand carried water stands

Cultural Influences and the Built Environment: An Examination of Kumasi, Ghana


Evolution of Style & Design

Ranging from very traditional textiles and style of clothing to Ghana's 2009 Fashion Week runway shows

Church on Sunday.

This is the photos that I took on Sunday at Church.