28-09-2010

Beads, Beads, Beads Part 1

West African women, men, locals and obroni alike adorn themselves with necklaces, bracelets, and other jewelry made of beautifully coloured glass beads.
Bracelets made in Ghana of recycled glassBracelets made in Ghana of recycled glass

This jewelry is typically inexpensive and one can own quite a few pieces and match your clothing with something different each day. Many people purchase loose beads and make their own jewelry for their personal use.

It took me a while to understand the importance of beads and beading. At first it looked just like any other fashion jewelry, but I became fascinated with them once I learned the history and the process. Bead making has been a flourishing industry in West Africa since the sixteenth century. The beads are made today in much the same way as they were then, and a lot of the work is still done by hand as shown in the photos at the end of this post.
Necklace of Ghanaian glass beadsGhanaian glass beads

Today, bead making and beading (stringing the beads into beautiful Jewelery) is a potential source of income for enterprising women who can make or purchase beads and, with an eye for colours and artistry, create beautiful necklaces for sale. For some it is an escape from poverty or at least a way to step across the bread line.

Glass Beads for sale at a bead marketGlass Beads for sale at a bead market. These will be used to make beautiful jewelry.

Today I met one such enterprising woman, Florence Asare, Director of TK Beads Industry. Blushing a bit, she tells us that when she left elementary school in 1986 she decided to go into bead selling. She had access to some old (and therefore valuable) beads which she piled in a basket on her head each day and took to the market. As her supply of old beads waned she realised that she had to make some plans for her future.

She speaks with obvious gratitude for the support and encouragement she received from one man who supplied her with discarded broken glass even before she knew what she was going to do with them. She also speaks proudly of the assistance she got from the owner of a very well established bead making company, Cedi Beads, who encouraged her to aim high in her plans for her business.

Florence’s story is an example of how far one can go if one is focused on the goal. She told us that before she married, she let her husband know that she would not marry him unless he was willing to come into her business and share in her dream. They started about 1990 with just a few employees and have grown to 25. The business has become a beacon for other Ghanaian bead makers and they have achieved international acclaim, traveling overseas for Trade-fairs, exhibition as well as giving lectures and training on how Traditional Ghanaian Beads are made.

Read tomorrow’s post for a detailed look into the creation of Ghanaian glass beads!

Akwaaba

“You are welcome.”

Three words that I hear several times a day. It is a form of greeting that encompasses Ghanaian hospitality.

When I enter a store or visit a Ghanaian’s house, their first words are “You are welcome”.

If I walk into a room where people are eating, they invite me to join – “You are welcome”.

I have read repeatedly that “you visit West Africa for the people and East Africa for the animals”. I have only been to one West African country (Ghana) and nowhere in East Africa, however, I can definitely account for the hospitality of the Ghanaians.

27-04-2010

Driving in Accra

Whenever I complain about driving in Accra, someone tells me how much worse it is in other African countries. I cannot imagine how much worse it could be.

The first rule of driving in Accra is that you must start with the premise that everyone else on the road is crazy. That way you won’t be surprised at whatever happens next. Continue reading “Driving in Accra”

Shopping!

I pride myself as someone who is difficult to surprise, but two things came as a shock to me as I began to learn the art of shopping in Ghana.

The first was that most of the brands in the grocery were unfamiliar. I know, this was pretty naive of me, but in our part of the world it is easy to forget that US products do not flood the market everywhere, and besides, what is a tissue if it is not a Kleenex? And I’m sorry, but only a few companies really know how to make ketchup. It has been a whole re-education, trying new brands from Ghana, South Africa and Lebanon and determining which ones suit us best.

Hawkers selling their wares between the traffic on a busy street in Accra
Hawkers selling their wares on a busy street in Accra

Continue reading “Shopping!”

Ghana

Each time I told someone I was moving to Ghana, the response would be the same.

“You’re moving where?”

“I’m going to Ghana.”

“Guyana?”

“No, Ghana …. in Africa.”

“How do you feel about THAT?” Continue reading “Ghana”