Ghana is a beautiful and often overlooked country in Africa with a rich resource of talented local artisans and exporters. Many of the aesthetics you see today have evolved from West African culture. Knock-off imitation items harm the local economy of creators that have worked to export quality items. This guide teaches you how to select authentic Ghanian items to furnish your home and support individual artists.
Carved wood items come from West African trees and are used to create plenty of kitchen items, drums, and furniture. Mortars, pestles, ladles, bowls, and spoons are all carved out of teak or African mahogany. It can be hard to locate authentic carved wooden furniture from Ghana, so your best bet is to purchase from ethical larger companies who commission local designers to create the pieces. In addition to this, you can sometimes find Ghanians who sell directly to consumers on sites like Etsy.
Kente cloth is a major export from Ghana, but must be treated with respect. In the 1600s, people from Ghana became experts in strip weaving with silk, and soon kente cloth became used in fine religious garments. Initially, it was only worn by royals, but today the cloth is used by many people in significant ceremonies and events. African wax print fabric makes the kente designs more accessible by offering a less-time consuming alternative, but it has also led to knock-off kente manufactured in China, leading to local creators being deprived of their livelihood.
When purchasing a kente-inspired fabric, it is important to source the products from manufacturers in Ghana. In addition, if the kente cloth is not part of your culture, it is best to avoid wearing it as it has large historical and religious significance for people in Ghana. Some people are fine with designers using kente to create home furnishings, but others see it as disrespectful and instead offer the African mudcloth as an alternative.
Mudcloth is a cotton fabric that is resist-dyed using mud: the mud painted onto the textile blocks dye from seeping into those areas, so when the textile is washed, it is left with white shapes where the mud was. The textile is also made by dyeing the fabric in a special bath, making it become a golden yellow color. The mud is then applied in patterns on top and later washed off. Because of a chemical reaction happening between the mud and dye, marks remain where the mud was long after it is washed. Modern mudcloth often makes use of textile paints to block out patterns on fabric rather than using mud. Many local sellers offer their textile designs online.
Beads are a major export from Ghana. Ghanian artisans have mastered working with bronze, glass, and bone. The materials are melted down and formed into unique looking and intricate beads for jewelry, hair, and home furnishings. Ghanaians are great about using waste materials to create something beautiful–sustainability is a key part of many creations. Broken bottles and antiques are refashioned into new items rather than being thrown away. It is incredibly easy to find beads from Ghana by connecting with creators directly using their personal websites or Etsy.
Asanka bowls are a mortar and pestle alternative that is a staple in Ghana. They are usually ceramic or wood, and are sold in supermarkets for crushing herbs and spices. If you’re looking for something bigger or more intricate than a mortar and pestle for your kitchen, Asanka bowls are a less well-known alternative that can be found anywhere.
Lastly, Ghana is home to more butterflies than most other country in the world. They also have a very diverse ecosystem full of beautiful plants. Live trees and exotic flowers are exported for beauty, but shea butter, coffee, coconuts, and chocolate are food exports that come from the earth. Butterflies that experience natural death are sometimes collected for scientific analysis and art. Massive swallowtail butterflies are often the centerpiece in butterfly collections and are usually collected from Ghana.
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