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.