Potential New Beginnings, Investments for Continuity, Visibility – Abena Danquah, B.ARCH 2023
What an experience this journey has been! In this post I will be highlighting one of my last interviews with Mr Kwesi Ntiamoah, a Kente weaver who has been involved in the trade for decades! I remember walking into the Accra Arts center, asking any artisan who was willing for an interview or to learn more about their trade. When I got to this stand with Kente fabrics, from the wrappers to sewn clothing, there were about three men guarding the area. I asked if I could interview them about the cloth and their process, and one of them told me to wait for 5 minutes. He exclaimed that I was in luck, the man who actually wove them was in the back and he’d call him at once. This was a great amount of luck because most of my encounters at the center had been with people who were selling the crafts on behalf of the artisans themselves.
Through our time, I got to know how Kwesi had gotten into the trade, having been introduced to weaving by his father and how much of an impact it’s had on his own life and journey. He shared how the industry could generally do with some more support, and more so that being in training of the artisans and them being invested into. That was a new perspective for me because with most interviews, we’d focused on how the work of the artisans was being patronized and supported from the side of the customers or those interested. What hasn’t really been taken into much consideration has been the encouragement on more people actually getting into the industry as artisans themselves. More and more, people are not encouraged by the difficulty that comes with being an artisan or artist in Accra, from the lack of investment in their craft to the unpredictability of the trade without a strong network or support system. While my experience has focused on how to gather more support and interest into the work of these artist and artisans, another important angle to consider also is how can more people be encouraged to pursue their interests in being an artist or artisan with the existing financial and socio-economic barriers or concerns that are currently causing disinterest.
I’ve made wonderful encounters through this experience and learnt so much from the artisans I’ve met. I do wish I had met more female artisans as while I did encounter a few working in the industry, I didn’t have the opportunity to meet as many at the forefront of the crafts/ artisan work per se. Despite the summer experience coming to an end, I am hopeful that this is just the beginning of much needed personal and general curatorial journey, working towards the visibility and empowerment of more and more artisans and artists in Accra and beyond.
I will continue to work with the Diaspora Affairs Office, wrapping up on the database successfully and exploring the possibility of working with the artisans collectively in the near future.