Saturday, November 5, 2016

 Candice Methe
Warren MacKenzie Fellowship, 2016
Sirigu, Ghana, West Africa 
Blog Installment 1- Arrival

In October, 2016 I had the opportunity through the Warren MacKenzie Fellowship and Northern Clay Center to travel to Sirigu, Ghana. There were two specific reasons I wanted to visit this part of Africa. One was to work with an organization called SWOPA (Sirigu Women's Organization for Pottery and Art) learning traditional clay practices from the women and the second was to learn about the traditional mud houses that are specific to Northern Ghana and Burkina Faso.
Sirigu lies at the northern border in the upper east region of the country with Burkina Faso to the north. I flew into Accra, the capital which is in the very southern part of the country which is known as the gold coast. I spent almost a week in Accra exploring the area, visiting art markets, old fishing villages and staying at Cross-Cultural Collaborative where I took a class on Batik, which is a traditional practice in the southern part of Ghana.

In Ghana, one is always expected to travel in style. This was my Trotro to the remote village of Sirigu from Bolgatanga. There were ten of us in this car for the slow 35 mile drive that took almost two hours because the road and the car was in such bad shape and was impossibly loaded down.

The accommodations at SWOPA were simple and pleasant. All the guest houses were painted inside and out with the traditional motifs, such as broken calabash which is most common, and of animals such as crocodile, which are seen as protection.
Courtyard Guest Houses at SWOPA
View from the roof of Guest House at SWOPA
All of the traditional houses in the area are made with mud, locally dug, that are hand-formed, dried and painted (called Bomborisi) and sealed with a natural, organic compound. Dwellings have stairs leading to spaces on the roof for drying crops and for sleeping when its nice. It was still the rainy season when I was there and mosquitoes at night so I slept inside.

Although most of the pottery has been replaced with plastic and aluminum there are still some evidence of clay in use. This a typical  water/food storage vessel that is made by the women in the village.

The Bolga (short for Bolgatanga, a large town in the upper east region of Ghana) Basket is an object that we all are acquainted with nowadays. They have become part of the landscape at grocery stores, boutiques and such here in the United States. This region in Africa is where they are all handmade with grass that is grown and hand-dyed and woven by the men and women.

The Studio building at SWOPA with interior below. A simple open space design with a few tables and chairs. Everyone still sits on the ground here when making baskets and working with clay.

Because of Ghana's close proximity to the equator the sun rises promptly at 6am and sets promptly at 6pm. The morning is lovely and cool where the rest of the day is very, very hot and humid.
Walking on the road is a great way to meet new friends. This is my friend Erika who I met every morning. Her chore was to fetch water in the morning before school.

Here is a link to the new SWOPA website:

No comments:

Post a Comment