Dreams woven in raffia

A trip to Bolgatanga in northern Ghana to meet the women who weave A A K S’s sought-after raffia bags.

Akosua Afriyie-Kumi searched high and low in her home country, Ghana, to find the raffia she envisioned using in her new line of woven bags. As it turned out the tropical palms, whose fronds are made into the papery fibres, grew on her family’s farm in the south of the country. Afriyie-Kumi’s brand, A A K S, draws on the generations-old knowledge of weaving techniques to create textured bags full of character, updated with exuberant colour combinations and modern shapes. Her bags are made by a cooperative group of women in the town of Bolgatanga in the north, not too far away from the border with Burkina Faso. Here, on a trip up north, she shows us their handcrafted process and shares some of her visual inspiration.

A bag in progress (March 2013)

Here Lyinpaka, who is the youngest of my weavers and one of the fastest weavers in the community, is weaving a sample Sese bag for a client. Her hands move so skilfully and with an innate knowledge tending to a craft that has been handed down through the generations. She is incorporating hand-twisted raffia that has been organically dyed.

Roadside inspiration (December 2013 )

The main forms of transportation in the northern region of Ghana are motorbikes and bicycles. In this picture, a local weaver is cycling to her nearest community to weave. She is dressed in traditional print cloth with a modern t-shirt and print headscarf.

Under the baobab tree (March 2014)

Weaving is predominately done by women in the northern region of Ghana. Here a weaver carries straw and raffia on her head in a metal pan as she travels from her neighbouring home to the weaving centre. Every time I visit I am inspired by the sight of things such as her bright print cloth skirt.

The dying process (July 2013)

Raffia is sourced from family farms. Weavers twist and dye the raffia in a big dying pot. It is stirred and boiled in water and then dried in direct sunlight to achieve colour intensity. Here we are dying the raffia yellow.

Handcrafted by Aninya (July 2013)

Each AAKS bag carries the tagline “Handcrafted by [the weaver’s name]” to prove authenticity. This is Aninya, who is 67 years old and the most gentle of my weavers. She is extremely wise and weaves the small intricate bags as her weaving skill is impeccable. Her hands alone tell a story.

Nearing completion (October 2014)

Before the woven hang bag shape is completed and the strands of raffia cut off, weavers use a special technique where they pull the strands vertically through horizontal panels – these gives it a steady look and feel. This bag is handcrafted by Aberima.

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