Monday, December 21, 2009

work with traditional African potters

We are very excited about this workshop.
We will be bringing some potter/housepainters from northern Ghana to Aba House (southern Ghana) to paint a wall in their uniquely decorative style.

Workshop participants will have the opportunity to work with the woman .

The workshop will also include visits to Vume, a pottery village made famous by Michael Cardew, and visits to contemporary pottery workshop.

contact for an application.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Another witch story

On this day when Americans eat turkey, I am reminded of the expression "to eat crow"...perhaps because I don't eat birds of any kind.

To eat crow means that you made a mistake and have to acknowledge it humbly.

When a crow dies it shrivels up and even insects won't eat it. And in Ghana where people eat cat, dog,and large rodents they don't eat crow because they believe that crows are witches in disguise.

I do know for a fact that Ghanaian crows are large, extremely noisy and easy to spot because they look like they are wearing white T shirts.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

from 37 to Medina


After the previous post, I owe you something less serious.
If you've been to Africa you'll find this very funny.

BTW: an Obroni is a white person. The driver is saying that the mate is good for business and when he doesn't show up for work the passengers are unhappy.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Pastors in Nigeria denounce children as witches

This headline is over a story in the Boston Globe that tells about a father who poured acid down his sons throat after the pastor accused the boy of being a witch.

The boy is dead.

It's not just in Nigeria. In Africa if you don't like someone just accuse them of being a witch. That pretty much finishes them. They may not die, but they are shunned and that can be just as bad. When I asked why one of my neighbors in Ghana was a witch, the proof was that she didn't cry when her husband died.
This is the husband who mistreated her and disappeared, leaving her with 10 children to support.

In the States halloween was celebrated last week. There were lots of little witches wandering around and everyone said they were so cute. Even a dog was dressed in a pointed hat. Can you imagine what an African would say about that?

There were houses decorated with witches and ghosts. Ghosts? My, my...we don't even talk about ghosts in Africa.

In Salem, not far from Boston, witches were burned at the stake. There was a frenzy in the community and many "witches" were put to death. The story goes that slaves told stories to children and the children started to see witches.

My fascination is with cultural differences, and this one is a doozy. It might even be funny if so many corpses hadn't piled up.

The Boston Globe article goes on to say that in the past month alone, 3 Nigerian children accused of witchcraft have been killed and another 3 were set on fire.

All this in the name of religion.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Obama in Ghana

President Obama visited Ghana in July. Ghanaians like to celebrate anything, but they were definately happy that he chose their country.
Above is a picture of commemorative cloth that was made for his visit. I have some for sale. If interested contact
If he every wants to be President of Ghana, I think he's got it!

Obama in Ghana

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Sokope was a resident at Aba House. Everyone loved him more than I did.

He was dirty, flea ridden and a major thief. I was playing scrabble in the yard and he ate my E. He also ate the usual like bananas. One day I gave him some brown bread. He looked at it and then threw it away. Guess it was too healthy for him.

Tourists would hold him and he'd play cute and then pounce...trying to rip their jewelry off.

He was usually tied to a tree in the yard and would wrap himself around and around until he had no space to move or he would jump into the branches and end up hanging himself. I felt sorry for him and was not unhappy when he escaped once in awhile. But he was always captured and brought back.

Eventually he wasn't living with us any more and when I asked, I was told that "he went back to his village". That could mean what it says or it could mean that he died. Ghanaians have a way with words.

And that's the story of our monkey, Sokope.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Reading between the lines

I was flipping through one of the women’s magazines and was struck by the content of some of the articles.

What a window on American culture...well, a segment of American culture.
Even with my body in America, my mind is usually in Africa, so I really chuckled at how an African woman would react to the survey about whether the father-in-law should be consulted for his blessing by the future son in law. Most American women said, “No way. It’s none of his business.”

And the article about how to improve your posture. They suggest walking with something (like a book) on your head. Or maybe just grow up as an African woman and carry everything on your head. (no, that wasn’t their suggestion).

And then the article about whether children should sleep in the same bed/room with the parents. You’d have to pick an African women up off of the floor she’d be laughing so hard when she read the American answers. Give the child his own room...ha,ha. Child abuse..ho,ho...let the child decide..OMG, what will these Americans think of next......

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

This is what time it is in Ghana

Village Food

This refers to food planted and eaten on the farm.

A farmer brings a pot, salt and fire to the farm and when the harvest is ready, he can eat.

My favorite is maize (corn) and groundnuts (peanuts.) Add water and salt and bring to a boil.

Simple, but really delicious.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Ghana Among The Top 8

What does Ghana have in common with Venezuela?

Well, both countries recently made the list of the top eight countries for taking bribes. Not a list to aspire to, but they made it nonetheless.

Read this article to find out the the good company that they are in.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Of interest to potters

We work hard to make all of our workshops unique.
This time we've outdone ourselves because we are offering a rare opportunity to interact with Ghanaian housepainters without traveling to the north.
Aba House will host a workshop July 11-24, 2010 that is of particular interest to potters, visual artists and teachers of African culture.
Women from northern Ghana will paint a wall at Aba House and workshop participants can join in.
Other activities include working with contemporary potters in Accra, traditional potters in Vume ( a village made famous by Michael Cardew) , building a paper kiln, visiting galleries and museums and more...more...more.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

summer in Ghana

Cross Cultural Collaborative offers many exciting opportunities for people who want to spend their summers in Ghana.

You can volunteer to work with children in a fishing village, take workshops to learn indigenous skills, go on a tour or just relax at our cultural center across the street from the ocean.

Because we are a small, self funded non-profit we ask people to pay for room and board and lessons,etc. The cost is low and the rewards are memorable.

There is a wonderful site where you might find funding. This is a comprehensive, pretty amazing source for funding opportunities and also case you don't want one in Ghana!

Friday, May 15, 2009

change comes oh so slowly

There is a book entitled " Africa-Dispatches From A Fragile Continent" written by Blaine Harden.

It's a fascinating glimpse into African culture ,covering many countries on the continent, but because I work in Ghana, I am suggesting Chapter 2: Eye of the family.

Although written in 1990 and referring to the '80's what is striking is the timeliness of the story.
Unfortunately, not much has changed. He talks about the burdens encountered by a Ghanaian who has to support his extended family...sometimes not even a blood relative, but maybe the daughter of your mothers next door neighbor. It's skewing of the economy and the collapse of so many businesses. If you hire a relative to work for you based on his relation to you instead of his skills, you will not be in business very long.

He talks about the belief in juju (magic) which doesn't help either. And there's jealousy- deceit- guilt...

Almost every visitor to Ghana remarks on how happy and friendly the Ghanaians are. Well, it's not unlike life in the rest of the world where there is a public face and the face you show your family.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Interesting film

I happened across a film called " T Shirt Travels " which you can view free on
Although about Zambia, it really represents most of Africa and is compelling on many different levels.

It starts with the question. "What happens to second hand clothes that are donated to organizations like the Salvation Army ? " For one thing a significant number of them travel through many hands and end up being sold on the streets of Africa. And as the film unfolds, many other questions come to mind.

The largest export business in the US, according to the film , is second hand clothes. They have many local names in Africa. In Ghana the term translates into dead white mans clothes. Africans can't imagine giving them away unless the owner is dead and doesn't need them anymore. In Accra there's a long line of second hand mens suits for sale. I am told that they are bought to bury people in. I guess what comes around, goes around.

Although this sounds like it might be a humorous film, it is really very sad. There are no more textile mills in Zambia. And this film raises the question of colonial mentality and the perception thst donating their clothes, to the westerner, is a good thing, but to many Africans it's just another example of throwing them the discards.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Why would someone want to volunteer to work in a developing country? It's not for the money. To volunteer usually means to work for free and often involves paying for the opportunity.
Perhaps it would be to experience another culture, not as a tourist, but as an accepted member of the community. The volunteer is able to intereact with locals on a very personal level.
Your reason for volunteering is very important because it can mean the difference between a good experience and an unhappy one.
Some of our volunteers at Aba House are fantastic and with some I am reminded of the saying, "You get what you pay for."
One might think that there is a correlation between age, experience and maturity in the making of a good volunteer, but that's not necessarily true. Some young people blossom when given the chance to help and some older people can't handle the adjustment to new curcumstances.
Above all, a sense of humor helps. There are times when I think that the only reason that Ghanaians let visitors in is to have someone to laugh at. An outsider is fair game, especially with children. We've had volunteers eager to practice their new vocabularies...only to find that the children didn't teach them to say what they thought they were saying!
I would also suggest that you have a serious conversation with yourself about your comfort level. Can you live without hot water for a few weeks, and how about electricity? Can you, heavens forbid, wash your clothes by hand? Does it really matter if the humidity curls your hair? If you want a foreign country to be just like home, then maybe you should have stayed at home.
As a volunteer you probably expect to be a teacher. If you approach the experience the right way, you will also be taught. It's a very liberating feeling to meet new people and to see things through their eyes. There's something about working in another enviroment that makes people introspective. This is a good time to evaluate what you want to do with the rest of your life.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "No man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself."
And if you're a good volunteer, this will be true.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


If you'd like to see how we make paper at Aba House:
If you'd like to be in the picture, come volunteer. We are interested in all of your skills that can be taught to our kids.
We have some donated computers..would you like to come do a workshop on how to use them for self publishing?
Want to see some more videos? On the VIDEO page at see how to make glass beads, print adinkra cloth and drum without drums. It just takes imagination.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

check out some other blogs

amazingly full of content about textiles, culture , plus much more
with a link to her fiber focus blog which is also full of interesting information
Karen has a big heart which is obvious when you read her blog
Lucky us, she is volunteerting to work with the Aba House kids
Jane is a well know paper maker who travels the world making paper from indigenous plants. This blog is about the show she is organizing called ONE WORLD-MANY PAPER featuring paper artists from over 40 countries and Ghana is represented by the Aba House kids
and the rendition of Aba House which you see above is by Evans, one of our regulars. It will become part of a wall hanging which is being co-ordinated by our volunteer Leslie.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Aba House

This is a picture of Aba House. What you don't see is the ocean across the street, the goats in the back and our neighbor Mr. Hummer. I call him Mr. Hummer because he has one parked in his yard right next to us.
Talk about cross we are in our mud house which is based on indgenous African architecture teaching visitors about traditional culture and there he is. Well, he lets us use his swimming pool, so we'll leave it at that.
Aba House has 8 guest rooms with attached bathrooms. The rest of the house was designed with open areas for exhibitions, classes, workshops and outside, which is where we do most of our creating has alot more space.
In the photo you see sugar cane growing and that is what we use to make our paper. Most people, when they hear that, smell the paper. No it doesn't smell sweet, but it's sweet to look at!
And do you see the crocodile? He and several that you can't see protect us and were made by a young local artist who, wonderously, has never seen a real one.
James is self taught and when asked where he gets his inspiration, he says "I saw it in a dream."
If you come to Aba House, you will meet James, the crocodiles and I'll even introduce you to Mr. Hummer.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

African textile workshop

Once upon a time, in Ewe villages of Ghana, women would save a small piece of each piece of cloth that they bought and add it to a patchwork. For those with alot of cloth this was a public display of wealth.
The culture of African cloth is so fascinating that we offer a workshop each summer where participants can learn textile techniques from African artisans, visit museum and galleries, cloth markets and villages.
African textile workshop in Ghana
August 2- 15, 2009
Workshops and accommodations are at Aba House, a building based on indigenous African architecture located in a fishing village across the street from the ocean. Attending will give the unique opportunity of interacting with Ghanaians on a personal level.
You can download a brochure at

Monday, January 26, 2009

The new year

In typical African fashion we are bit late with our first blog of the new year. It's our goal to get one out each month.....I am in awe of people who manage to write one everyday!
Ghana has a new president, John Atta Mills, and America has a new president, Barack Obama. Last year when President Bush came to Ghana, I asked a Ghanaian why he thought that he had come and the Ghanaian said, "I think that he's selling mosquito nets." Let's hope that when President Obama visits the expectations are higher.

The Aba House kids are participating in One World-Many Papers, an exhibit being assembled in Tawain and traveling around the world until the end of 2010. It will open at the Distillary Gallery in Boston, MA USA on April 3,2009.
The exhibit is a map of the world made up of handmade paper from 42 countries. The Aba House kids were asks to represent Ghana and are the only children in the exhibit. As always, we are very proud of them.

Aba will participate in a conference, also to be held in Boston, entitled "International Opportunities in the Arts" to take place April 3-5,2009.

We have put together a teachers kit ( grades 1-3) that contains everything needed to teach a unit on Ghana. The feedback from teachers using them has been positive. Among other things the kit contains a DVD of various craftspeople working in Ghana and a DVD of Ghanaian music. If interested, contact us and we'll send more information.

For a fun diversion go to and pass the cursor over the symbols.
And if you want to buy adinkra stamps, we'd be happy to sell them to you.

As always, we will be working with the Aba House children this coming summer and have several volunteers to teach papermaking, bookbinding and other creative skills. We are looking for a volunteer to teach computer skills. Aba House has 6 donated computers and many, many children who'd like to learn how to use them. Know any geeks who'd like to summer in an African fishing village?

And we'll end with a poem by GOETHE:

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genious, power and magic in it.
Begin it now.