Batik has been around for centuries, in lands as diverse as Japan, India, and Egypt. As an art form that grew and thrived in multiple cultures before the time of recorded history, it is impossible to trace its direct origins, but there is no doubt about its popularity in West Africa today. Textiles have long played an important role in many African cultures, often carrying with them symbolic meaning, communicating social cues, and being used ceremonially. Batik gained popularity in the region as early as the sixteenth century, when Dutch soldiers and tradesmen brought the fabrics from Indonesia, introducing them into coastal markets. Once there, the cloth spread inland and quickly became assimilated into local cultures, which then influenced the patterns being produced and made the fabric their own.
A handwritten sign in the offices of Design Niche spells out the group’s philosophy in green letters: to earn happy living for ourselves, families, and neighbours. In this small rural community in the Akwapim mountains, a thirty minute drive from the Ghanaian capital, Accra, a happy living is not always easily found. Although Ghana’s economy has experienced a good rate of economic development in the past twenty years, people in rural areas have been little affected by the economic growth. Many are subsistence farmers with no opportunity for anything else, forcing young people to leave their villages and move to urban areas to look for work, leaving behind an aging population. Continue reading