Friday, November 7, 2008

Gallery opening

The Aba House kids had a show of their work at the Phoenix Gallery in NYC.
We have posted a few photos of the opening at
We'd like to thank everyone who joined us for the opening.

If you couldn't attend, but would like to make a purchase, please go to

All proceeds from sales are used to pay school related expenses for the Aba House kids in Ghana.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Recycle Ghana

We are happy to announce RECYCLE GHANA at the Phoenix Gallery in New York City.

The Aba House children worked all summer to prepare for this exhibition. Although they will not be there in person, they will be there in spirit.
On view will be examples of paper made from sugar cane leaves, adinkra stamping,books, cards, holiday ornaments and much more.
All profits from sales are used to pay school related expenses.

I will be at the opening on Nov. 1 from 6-8 p.m. and would happy to meet you, so if you're in the NYC area, please stop by.

Phoenix Gallery
210 11th Ave. at 25th St.

Oct. 29-Nov.22, 2008

Friday, September 19, 2008

Summer newsletter 2008

As I write this President Kufour is receiving a 21 gun salute in Washington, DC. Last Feb. his friend George Bush visited Ghana. I was in Ghana then and am in the States now. I wonder if they're timing thier visits with mine.

Aba House is quiet now. In July we had a full house of tourists, teachers, artists and assorted visitors. One of our visitors was a BBC reporter who was impressed with our program. Another visitor, a teacher, wrote a blog:

In August our volunteer from Australia returned and we got down to some serious book and papermaking. We also had a volunteer from Swarthmore College help for a few weeks.
The Aba House kids came everyday, a few very early to sweep the yard. Dividing into groups, more or less by age, they made tons of paper, blank books, calendars, diaries and greeting cards.
The kids are always enthusiastic, but the incentive this time was preparing for their first NYC show. They are very proud of themselves and rightly so.
The show will be at the Phoenix Gallery in November, 2008. We are working on an invitation and will be sending it soon. If you're in the NY area, please come and say hello.

One of our volunteers will be selling our books in Hawaii next month at the Friends of Dard Hunter Conference.

We have been invited to participate in a world wide paper map to be assembled in Taiwan. There are 30 countries represented. Guess which one we represent....I'll write more about this project in a followup post.

We had a very generous donation of 3 computers, so in our next session we'll do some creative writing and illustrating.

There are times when I scratch my mind, as a Ghanaian once said to me, about customs in Ghana. There really is no rhyme or reason to some of them. Now a Ghanaian has writen a book that doesn't necessarily explain them, but it makes for amusing reading. The book is "The Imported Ghanaian" and her blog is

We are working on our plans for 2009, so be in touch if you want to come to Ghana. We are also considering a trip to FESPAC, a film festival in Burkina Faso at the end of Feb. Interested?

We like to hear from people and are always open to collaborations.

I'll close for now with my favorite quote: Trust in God, but tie your camel well.


Thursday, July 3, 2008


Bolgatanga is in Northern Ghana very close to the border with Burkina Faso.
The beautiful melon shaped baskets seen all over are called Bolga baskets and ,you guessed it, are made in Bolgatanga.

We are selling a DVD of the baskets being made in a womans cooperative. The DVD also shows music and dance from Bolga. This is the area that is known for the unique designs painted on mud houses and the woman work surrounded by these inspiring motifs.

The cost of the DVD is $18.00 ( this includes shipping in the USA) and can be ordered from
Proceeds from sales are given to the basketmakers.

You can read about the women at on the "craftsmen page". Look for Sherigu Atie-Taaba Woman's Association

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


Not always the most fun part of the job, it's necessary. We did have fun and great success at one of our fundraisers. Go to and find the archives for May 25.

On a Friday in June , the shop called Ten Thousand Villages in Brookline, MA made us their non-profit de jour and donated 15% of sales to us during a 4 hour period in the afternoon.

We have also had in kind donations of a camera, 2 computers, a printer and household items.
We might just get everything to Ghana because our volunteers are each taking a suitcase for us.

We've also had a solar cooker donated and will use it this summer to cook the sugarcane leaves for the bookmaking. Reports on that will be in our next newsletter.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Buying shoes

We had some money left over from a donation and asked the kids how we should spend it. They all wanted shoes. Buying shoes in Ghana, like everything else there, is a challenging experience.
But in the end, everyone was happy. One of the 7 year olds skipped out of the yard with his new shoes and said, "I'm going to sleep with them under my pillow."
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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

more about beads

There is definately an interest in Krobo beads.

The June 2008 issue of BEADSTYLE MAGAZINE has a project that is done with recycled glass buttons - by the way, they mention Cross Cultural Collaborative.

And if you want to see a picture of Cedi, the beadmaker, and a brief bio, go to:

And if you get the urge to buy Krobo beads or buttons, we can sell them to you!

Monday, May 26, 2008

A teacher's kit for Ghana

This kit has been put together by Marcy Prager, a second grade teacher in Brookline, MA and Ellie Schimelman, an artist, teacher and the director of Cross Cultural Collaborative.

It is appropriate for grades 1, 2, and 3 and helps teachers focus on on the importance of Ghanaian culture.

It contains a powerpoint presentation and movies that are learning tools about Ghana, plus many Ghanaian "artifacts".

Price is $210.00 (includes shipping in the US)

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Tuesday, May 6, 2008


APRIL 17 - MAY 1,2009

Limited to 12 participants, this tour is for bead enthusiasts and people interested in African drum and dance. There will be opportunities to observe and participate in traditional drum and dance and there will be a unique opportunity to attend the DIPO*

Airfare from Boston, MA is included in the price . We will meet at Logan airport on April 17 and fly to Ghana together. If it's more convenient for you to fly from someplace else, we can work something out.

We will stay in a fishing village at Aba House across the street from the ocean. Activities will include a visit to Pa Joe's workshop where amazing coffins are made in the shape of fish, cars, planes, pineapples....the list goes on. Pa Joe is featured in the book "Going into Darkness."
There will be adinkra, tie and dye and batik workshops for those interested and also drum and dance workshops and performances.

A trip into Accra to a large outdoor market to buy cloth and then to the seamstress or The Annointed One (our tailor) to have an outfit made. You'll find that you dance better when dressed for the part.
There will also be visits to the National Museum, Nkrumah Mausoleum and galleries.

We will drive to Kumasi, the capital of the Ashanti Region to visit important sites and then to surrounding crafts villages to see demonstrations of wood carving, Kente weaving and adinkra stamping...and of course there will be time to buy from the artisans. No middle men here.

* The high point of this tour will be in Odumse Krobo. The Krobo are famous for their recycled glass beads and we will go to the bead market and then to Cedi's** workshop to see how the beads are made and then......(drum roll) we attend the DIPO ceremony. This is a coming of age ceremony for Krobo girls who are draped in the family beads. Very few outsiders have the privilege of observing this ceremony.

** Cedi is represented in almost every book that mentions Krobo beads. You can read a bit about him at bullseyeglass,com/glassforlife
where he is featured in one of their ads.

Before leaving Ghana we will meet a 95 year old Krobo woman who can tell us about the history of the beads and we will meet with the Chief of Nungua (the fishing village where we stay). Both of these people are fascinating and talking to them gives us an insight into Ghanaian culture.

In Ghana , sometimes the sponstaneous occassions are the best. Maybe we'll happen upon a traditional funeral where the drumming and dancing are mesmerizing or we'll be there when the fishermen pull in their catch.

COST: $ 2699.00 (based on 12 participants)

INCLUDES: airfare from Boston, MA - airport transfer in Ghana - accommodations based on double occupancy - some meals - one bottled water a day - van - driver - guide - fuel - entrance fees - workshops fees
NOT INCLUDED: all lunches - 4 dinners and 3 breakfasts - tips


When deposit is recieved information will be sent about how to prepare for your trip. In the meantime if you have any questions please contact: aba@culturalcollaborative,org

This tour is being offered by Cross Cultural Collaborative, Inc, which has been introducing people to Ghanaian culture for over 20 years.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Ghana beads

Odumase is the name for a large tree with spreadout branches where founders of Ghanaian cities liked to establish themselves. It would become a central gathering place and provide shade.
Odumase Krobo is a town in the Central Region known for its glass beads. Mention Krobo beads to a collector and they get excited!

The beads are traditionally made by men, although there are a few women beadmakers, and they are collected by women. Krobo women are very serious about their beads. They believe that if they sell one from their collection, they will experience bad luck. The beads are passed down to their daughters.

All of the beads have names. There is a large round bead called a BODOM- my dog was named bodom. In Twi, bodom means bark as in woof-woof and this bead "barks".It calls attention to itself.

The beads are made from powdered glass and look deceptively easy to make, but to be considered a master one must apprentice for at least three years.

Ghana is known for its festivals. The Krobo have two. In early Oct. they make a pilgrinage to the top of Krobo mountain. The Krobo lived on the mountain until the conquering British made them come down so they could be more easily monitored.
And in April/May the Krobo celebrate Dipo, a female coming of age ceremony. Young girls are draped in beads from the family collection or sometimes they are rented.

Cross Cultural Collaborative arranges anything that you want to do in Ghana and one of our most popular offerings centers around Krobo beads.

We can take you to Odumase Krobo
We can take you to the beadmarket
We can arrange visits and/or lessons at beadmakers workshops
We can take you to Dipo
Do you know who the most famous Krobo beadmaker is? We can introduce you to him

Not ready to go to Ghana yet? OK

Go to the VIDEO page at and look at some clips of beadmaking

Go to
under CRAFTSPEOPLE look for Nomada Ebinezer Djaba
under SHOPS go to ABA'S SHOP and buy some beads
while you're still on the site, read the GHANA entry under country profiles to find out more about this crafts-centric country

any questions?

P.S. "Janeen St. Louis" what's your email address?

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Kathy Kwosika was our volunteer papermaker in Feb./March and this is a comment from her:

5 WEEKS IN GHANA: Aba House has been a fantastic experience of life in Ghana/Nungua-style.
Aba has created a wonderful vision and a creative center that connects Ghanaians with people from all around the world. During my 5 week stay I worked with local children as well as with Aba, Ruth, Leslie and Talk True. Together we made lots of beautiful paper, primarily from the leaves of the sugarcane plant, which was growing right in the front yard!

I also learned about adinkra stamp printing from David, a visiting adinkra artist. We watched the children print out papers using the warm, thick traditional brown/black ink and the ancient symbols carved into pieces of calabash.

Our papers were then used by some of the children to make beautiful handmade books. Sales of these books support the purchase of shoes and school supplies for the children who worked on this project at Aba House. Shoe shopping was an amazing experience for these Western eyes to behold, but the children beamed with pride when their shoes were finally selected.

Another fiber experience will take place this coming rainy season when Talk True plants the kenaf seeds brought to us by Kwesi Segu early in my stay at Aba House. I'm anxious to hear how this fiber works for Aba House papermaking once these plants are harvested.

Cheers to the ongoing creativity and dedication of all who live and work at Aba House!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Feb./March Newsletter

I'm often asked why I go to Ghana or why, given all the challenges, I continue to go. Perhaps I'm stubborn or perhaps I like to beat the odds. There were plenty of odds this trip.
I delayed our program until the African Cup was almost over as I knew our yard would be empty during the matches. I did arrive in time to see Ghana take third place. Football ( soccer) fever had penetrated and Aba House kids practiced and practiced. I must say some of them are pretty good.

Some of our senior secondary kids had to study for exams. Then, because school was in session, we had some kids in the morning and some in the afternoon. Every two weeks they switch schedules, so we would wait each morning to see who appeared.

President Bush arrived, not at Aba House, but pretty close at a hotel down the street. The traffic on an already congested road came to a standstill. The joke among the Ghanaians was that instead of the elephant going to the bush...the Bush came to the elephant. (the mascot of the ruling party in Ghana is an elephant)

We are located in the village of Nungua. The name Nungua is a corruption of the local words for sweet or fresh water. So here we were in Nungua where our greatest challenge was... no running water. I wonder what the local word for ironic is. Last year we had no electricity. This year we had electricity, but no water. At a trade fair I met someone who is on the water commission. Turns out he's our neighbor. He promised to come see what he could do for us. Anyone who's been to Ghana knows the end of that story....

Making paper involves lots of water. While we were sitting there trying to figure it out, someone said, "we're right next to the ocean." hmmm.... down to the ocean to rinse our pulp. Back at Aba House just a little fresh water to rinse out the salt. Al Gore would have been proud of us!

Did I mention the heat? Most days 95 degrees with equal humidity. The chickens were digging holes and lying in them to cool off. Three of our neighbors goats disappeared from day he had a barbeque. In deference to all of the vegetarians at Aba House he dispatched the goats in the middle of the night. Guess he thought that we couldn't count. Last animal story: something got into our yard late at night and had a chicken dinner two nights in a row. Unfortunately the rooster survived.

We need caustic soda, so off to Accra to Makola market. Nobody knows where the caustic soda is until we found a man who led us here and there and finally into a dank, dark cavern. Maybe it was a shop. It was too dark to tell the difference. Down some corridors, past bodies on the floor and into a corner where, miraculously, a woman sold us caustic soda...maybe. Maybe it was lye. Whatever it was, it worked, and we got down to some serious papermaking.

After much experimenting, we have chosen sugarcane leaves to make our paper. The paper is sturdy, a nice yellowish/brown, easy to cook and it grows at Aba House. Since nothing goes to waste in Ghana, I was not surprised to find that the leaves, when cooked, are taken to reduce fever- alcohol is made from the plant - women use the waste from the plant as fuel to smoke fish - the plant itself tastes good and sweet. Even snakes gravitate to sugar cane. And I recently came across paper plates made from sugar cane waste.

Sgar cane is not indigenous to Ghana. It probably originated in India and went West to become the main plantation crop of the West Indies.

Now we are bringing it to the States in the form of books made by the Aba House kids. We sell the books and use the proceeds to buy the kids school supplies, uniforms, shoes, etc.
How sweet is that!

The kids also had watercolor lessons from a local artist - computer time to write creative stories and opportunities to create drawings for our new line of greeting cards.
They are looking forward to the summer and new volunteers to work with them.