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
Sometimes, innovations that solve one pressing problem cause another. This is the case with the inexpensive and readily available sachets of drinking water for sale all over Ghana. The sachets look like little pillows, and to drink one, you just tear off the corner with your teeth and squeeze the water into your mouth. This product has made safe drinking water widely available and affordable. This has greatly reduced water-born illnesses, which according to the World Health Organization, are the leading cause of death and disease worldwide. They also provide an income to countless street vendors. There is a never ending demand for drinking water in this country so close to the equator. Continue reading
A few years ago, my family and I returned to the small village in Togo, West Africa, where I met my husband. The trip was quite an adventure for all of us, but especially my 11 year old daughter and my 8 year old son. We flew into Accra, the capital of Ghana, and since our village is right on the Togo/Ghana border, we decided to borrow a car and drive to Togo. Continue reading