Sorry for the radio silence the last few days, but I’ve been obsessively weaving (and only Mike knows just how obsessive that can be 🙂 ). And making rapid progress. While my stripes are still wobbly and my edges far from neat, I’ve successfully woven several yards of kente. Today Kwame helped me weave a placemat, which doesn’t sound like much, but it took eight hours of intense, unrelenting concentration at the loom to complete. (My back, legs, and butt are all sore.) Sort of my graduation present, because I’m moving on tomorrow. Back to Accra, to meet up with Chuku and head north to Medasi on Tuesday.
I’ve really enjoyed weaving on the kente loom. It’s been intensely fascinating and experientially wonderful. While a relatively simple technique with only two threadings and a supplementary warp, using the loom clearly requires a great deal of practice and ability. I found myself trying to focus in four areas at once, and really having to concentrate to get my selvedges even, my stripes some semblance of straight, my warp evenly covered with weft. As a hobby weaver, I really enjoyed the challenge of making something on the loom.
But more than that, there is something wonderful about learning from a master weaver from a totally different culture and tradition. It’s not just about the teaching of craft, it’s also about meeting people and getting to know them, just a little. Craftwork, the urge to create, is universal, and I find that creative folk recognize each other wherever they go. Sort of a universal community, I guess.
I’m finding it hard to talk about the experience without diving either into unwarranted generalizing or timeworn clichés. Suffice it to say that there is a huge difference between reading about something and doing it; between reading about adventures in Africa and actually stepping out into the tropical sun; between talking about kente and actually weaving it. To weave kente is to step into a long tradition of weavers, if only for a moment. Perhaps that’s it: to a Ghanaian, weaving is a spiritual act. Bobbo and I were talking about this earlier today. Weaving is religion, with significance beyond simply throwing the shuttle and beating the fell – even beyond the universal spirituality that calls people to create.
More prosaically, I have bought a beautiful diamond kente in burgundy, gray, and gold, which is about the right size to be used as a (large) tablecloth. It matches my tapestries from Laos perfectly. I think I will put it on my dining-room table – with plastic to protect it, it shouldn’t get dirty. I love it.
I am thinking of buying a second kente, with the typical Ewe riot of patterns, but am not sure – I only have so much space to store stuff, and only so much money to spend on kente. There are also the Ashanti tribe’s kente, which are reputedly quite different. So much craftwork, so little space to display and enjoy it. It’s a sad, sad thing. I wish I had a 5,000 square foot house I could use to display my textile treasures from around the world.
I have put together several webpages on Ghana and specifically on kente weaving. I will try to get them up tomorrow or Tuesday, when I go by Busy Internet, which is reputedly the best Internet café in Accra (and thus in Ghana, since Accra is the capital/largest city). Meanwhile, I continue to use the stone-knives-and-bearskins method of reading my blog entries off my laptop screen and re-entering them into the Internet café’s machines. I gots a computer, you gots a computer, but you com-PU-tah don’t talk to my com-PU-tah. Oh well. At least I’m getting them up on the Web.
Anyway, I am stupidly and silly proud over my placemat. It doesn’t look anything like the one Kwame gave me (his work has straight stripes, mine are all wobbly), but it’s mine and I love it. It’s definitely going in my display case once I get back home.