The Buchele Adventure

This is record of the Buchele Adventure, as reported from West Africa.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Culture of Food

I've had this conversation about American Food with several of my Ghanaian friends. It usually starts out with us talking about the different traditional foods of Ghana, and me asking about the ones that are from their village. I don't mean Fried or Jollof Rice, Red Red (beans and fried plantains), or Groundnut Soup for which variations are available across the country, I'm asking about the local dishes unique to that area, and what sets them apart.

My friend will then ask about America's food, and I say "Ahhhhh, not so much. American is a country of immigrants, and so when we are think about what to eat for supper we think "Shall we have Chinese? Mexican? Italian?" Americans adapt and adopt foods like Pizza and Hamburgers but a purely American food, we don't have. But maybe I'm wrong about that, after all there is Meatloaf, Roastin' Ears (for all you non-Midwesterners : corn on the cob), Casserole Dishes, Jello, Fried Turkey…

But in the States I don't see the almost infinite variety of dishes, and the pride in them that Ghanaians have for their food. I wonder about the Francophone countries that surround Ghana, if they have that same variety, or did the French cuisine overpower the local foods like they did with their language.

Ghanaian Home Economists, Christine Joyce Boahene, author of The Best of our Foods, classifies food into four groups: proteins, fats & oils, carbohydrates, and minerals & vitamins. Her understanding of the roles that proteins and carbohydrates play is consistent with what is taught in the west, but having a separate classification for fats & oils, and minerals & vitamins, only makes since once you get to know the culture of food here. She writes that fats & oils "keep the body, warm," which I would think wouldn't be a problem here since its already so swelteringly hot. When I ask Shelia about fats and oils, she says "We believe that they are necessary to help the body sweat." Again I think, this should not be a problem. She continues "When you take plenty oil, your body may sweat well." I wonder if she is talking about stored energy, which would be more consistent with our understanding of the roll fats and oils play in the diet.

[Scott & Lorrie & Essian] In this culture, being what we would consider overweight is a desired appearance. Our friend Lorrie, who along with Scott (her husband) and Essian (their dog) stayed with us their last few weeks in Ghana, told a story about eating with a Big Man in Kumasi. In this case Big Man refers to both his girth and his importance to the community. He was so large he used to just sit at the table, and nod off with these enormous plates in front of him. At one point when they were staying there, they offered to help pay for their boarding. Big Man was offended, and stood up saying "I am a Big Man, look at me, look at my size, I am a Big Man, and can afford all that I want." I guess the answer was no, they couldn't help pay.

When we returned from a summer in the states, our friend Emmanuel came over to visit, and seeing Suzanne come down the stairs, said, "Madame, you are looking FAT," and it was a complement but confirmed what had happened to us all that summer.

Red Red is this wonderful dish of beans and fried plantain that is served for lunch, but not later as Ghanaians believe the beans with give you trouble with digestion. In its most basic form, its like refried beans with a lot of palm oil added. The name Red Red comes from the twin sources of red palm oil leaking from both the beans and the fried plantain (which is fried in red palm oil). I asked Shelia to make it one afternoon, and against her better judgment she did, except it was going to be a late dinner so she reserved the last step until everyone was home and ready for dinner. The last step was reheating it and adding three cups of a special red palm oil that had had onions fried in it.

[Plate of Red Red]

Its hard for me to get my brain around the way oil is used as an added but necessary ingredient in Ghanaian food. For example Palaver Sauce (or its cousins Okra Stew, Cabbage Stew, Garden Egg Stew) all contain pal oil, and canned tuna, and not only the can of tuna, but all the oil of the can too. I watch Shelia dump the whole thing in, and shutter. She too must shutter when she sees me drain the oil making tuna fish salad. [Shelia, my cooking Teacher]

Palaver Sauce
This may be Suzanne's favorite dish here in Ghana, at least when she is eating at the Ashesi Canteen. Its so good that she regularly asks Sheila, our house keeper to make a batch, and me, to learn how to make it. The name Palaver actually comes from the Portuguese, and means a meeting between important people to achieve a common understanding. Tradition tells that when the Europeans came to Ghana and met with the chief in Elmina to negotiate trade, the food served at that Palaver, took on its name.

[Cocoyam Leaves] Its more traditional names are Kontonmire, Kentumere, or Nkontommire, which are local names for the cocoyam leaf. Interestingly, by just changing the main vegetable, it can also become Okra Stew, Garden Egg Stew or Cabbage Stew, all equally as wonderful.

Palaver Sauce, Okra Stew, Garden Egg Stew, or Cabbage stew can all be served with rice, though its just as good with boiled yam or boiled plantain, called Ampesi.

The Method:
4 Roma tomatoes
2 onions
10 small green hot peppers
5 cloves of garlic
1 finger of pealed ginger

An onion sliced in quarter moons for one minute, then add a chunk of salty, really smelly dried fish called Momoni. I suppose canned herring or anchovies could be substituted (for cabbage stew Shelia says omit).

After 2-3 minutes, add the puree and stir in well over high heat.

[Momoni] [Adding Momoni to stew]

Cook until onions are soft, but not brown.

1 medium can of tomato paste
1 cube of Maggie (like bouillon or flavoring cube)
Stir well. After 2-3 minutes, add
3 T of dried shrimps. – If Maggie omitted, add extra dried shrimps.

A word about dried shrimps – these are small shrimp, that are dried, ground and rather salty, and give a dish that quintessential Ghanaian taste. Sheila will buy it as needed in the market.

Cook for 5 minutes

[Dried Shrimps, Maggie, and Tomato Paste] [Adding Dried Shrimps to stew]

2 cans of tuna packed in oil. DON'T DRAIN THE OIL. Tuna can be flake, chunk or solid. If tuna is packed in water, then may need to cook a bit longer until the water is cooked out. Stir and blend the tuna in well as it cooks.

Add correct vegetable for what type of meal you are making

Palaver Sauce – (1 pound) add chopped cocoyam leaves, or chopped spinach.

Garden Egg Stew – (1.5 pounds) add steamed Garden Eggs with the skins slid off. But only use the long ones, as the more round ones tend to be bitter. Do this first to give the Garden Eggs time to cool, so the skins can be slid off without burning fingers.

Okra Stew – (one pound) add okra chopped in half inch chunks.

Cabbage Stew – (one head) add thin sliced cabbage, don't chop.

[steamed garden eggs] Add one cup water and cook on medium heat (may need to add more) for 30 minutes until vegetables are soft (cook less for Garden Egg Stew since garden eggs already cooked).

If serving with boiled yam add 3 T of ground melon seed, called Agushi.

Add 2 cans of solid tuna (and the oil) but don't blend so much, leaving chunks of tuna visible. Keep on fire until tuna is warm, or cover until ready to serve.

Serve with the starch of your choice, rice, boiled yams, or boiled plantain.

I didn't take this picture, but I could have.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Caveat Emptor – Are You SURE?!

The Practice of Knock-offs, Fakes, Pirated, and Substandard Product Dumping.

Kenishe Market - a place full of imported goods.

It all started when I ran out of deodorant. Its hot here, and we drink 2 to 3 liters of water a day. Sometimes I feel like a water processing unit. Drink, sweat, drink, sweat… Deodorant isn't really an option, and I'm not talking about that namby-pamby natural stuff, this kind of stink calls for the big guns. So anyway, a few weeks ago I ran out. No problem, pick more at the store, which is what I've been doing for the past 20 months.

Except that I notice the new stuff is not working. Its really not working. My mom used to say that when you can smell yourself, its too late…so can everyone else. And they could. I tried everything, washing harder, scrubbing, even putting on Purell (antiseptic hand sanitizer) and still I stank, or to quote scripture (King James) "He Stinketh," that's me. After about three days the thought occurred to me…the deodorant is fake.

[Can you tell which one is the fake?]

I've come up with four different classifications for sub-standard products: Knock-offs, Fakes, Pirated, and Substandard Product Dumping

Knock-offsA copy of the original product with perhaps a slight change in the spelling of the name. For example Enerwizer for Energizer. I used to think it was just an error of poor spelling, but now think its intentional, as if they want you to know its not the original product. With Knock-offs, there is some assurance that the product will work, but not as well as the original product.

[Shire for Sharpie]

[Pilphs for Phillips] – thanks Charlie Jackson for supplying this example!

[The Copper Top Battery]

[the " Zyrtech that is available here]

Fakes – Near perfect reproduction of product packaging, with no assurance of the product actually working. The intent is to fool you into thinking you have bought the real thing. These fakes are hard to tell until you start using the product. Of particular concern with fakes are the local pharmaceuticals, which the government calls "unwholesome medicine." USDA officials estimate that 10% of the global supply is fake. Here in Ghana they have signed up with a new pilot project called "The Medicine Transparency Alliance" [MeTA - for more info: click here] to build an "approach toward increasing transparency around selection, procurement, quality assurance, and sale and distribution of medicines." Personally, I love that line, "to build an approach toward…,"no feeling of over commitment here. the Chinese have the reputation of being the worst offenders. Every so often Ghana Customs catches a boat of imported Ghanaian cloth, made (or I should say) copied in China. I've heard it said that per capita, Ghanaians spend more on their clothing than any other country. The Chinese capitalize on this by buying samples of locally made and designed cloth, sending it to China to be reproduced, and then illegally importing it. What to do with the seized contraband is a problem. Ghana Customs has tried public burning of the cloth, but that caused an uproar from people as being wasteful, when it could be given to the very poor up north. So next they sent it up north, but a few weeks later that same cloth showed up in the marketplace in Accra, and Cloth Makers were rightly so, outraged.

[SURE - this is the fake one – if you look closely, the label is slightly out of focus]
Pirated – Copy of original product, but with value added changes to the packaging. Usually this is in the form of DVDs or CDs where they will be packaged with 50 other films or music of the same genre. For example one can buy a complete library of every movie Harrison Ford has been in, or the complete seasons of SG-1, Mash, even Ugly Betty. The products seem to work pretty well, although sometimes in the movies, you'll hear a baby cry, or see a man stand up, and then realize you're watching a video of the movie. Oddly enough if the DVD is defective, vendors are happy to trade for another. Its odd because the general rule in Ghana is that return are not a part of the general business practice. Now its just the movies and TV shows from the West (and Nigerian Films) that get pirated this way. Ghana has very strict enforcement of Ghanaian produced movies and music CDs and they even come with their own certificate stamp of authenticity.

[Movie DVD set] [not pirated copy of Ghanaian artist Ofori Amponsah's album Emmannella] – Ofori is my favorite Ghanaian musician.

[close-up of its authenticity stamp]

Substandard Product Dumpingwhere shoddy or poorly made products are knowingly imported. For example the LG air conditioning (air con) units, that have a one star energy rating (out of five) and big writing on the outside of the box that says "NOT FOR IN COUNTRY SALES" which translated loosely means "BEWARE: THIS IS A PIECE OF JUNK." When I first started gathering stories for this entry, this was by far the most common one I heard. A ship load of these poor quality energy hog air con units must have just come off the dock. I also see product dumping in the processed food stuffs in the stores that are already well past their expire date. I used to think it was the long journey to Ghana, or the fickle customs officials that can hold up a shipment indefinitely, but these days I'm seeing it more as product dumping. Have expired product? …dump it on Africa. Have product manufacture defect? …dump it on Africa.

It took us a few months to understand the complete lack of an "implied warranty of fitness" at both the marketplace and the stores. At one point, when I had bought and burned through several poorly engineered power strips, I dashed the vendor (paid extra) to provide a warrantee so I could bring back a defective one and he would replace it. I should have negotiated the replacement fee, which turned out to be half the cost of a new one. Thing is, he gave me the best quality he had, and still it only lasted six months. Of course it cost less than $10, and I could have picked a South Africa made one for $22 which I am sure would still be working.

When I talk to my Ghanaian friends about this lack of quality of imported goods in the marketplace, they exhibit a typically Ghanaian stoic attitude "that's just the way it is". When given the choice between new or used parts car parts (called "Home Use,"), the used parts are often preferred for price, but also reliability. Who really knows if that new car part was actually new, or a cheap knock-off? These things come with a drive away warrantee. When you drive away, the warrantee does too. So Caveat Emptor ya'll, buyer beware.

Monday, April 21, 2008

When to Eat

Its amazing how you can think you can understand a culture, and then something happens that helps you realize, you're still just a tourist. This week-end Suzanne and I attended an Ashesi Student function at one of the nicer hotels in Accra. Event start time: 6:30, so we understand that to be Ghanaian Time and not Obruni Time, so it could start anywhere from 7 – 7:30, but really "start time" is a foreign concept, no I mean literally, its really a foreign concept. Unlike in the states where events are time based, or schedule based, here they are relationship or people based. When enough people arrive, the event can start. Last night was a perfect example.

So we saunter in about 7, and I'm not kidding there are four students, two obruni teachers from the school, and a Ghanaian teacher, who Is on leave from a college in the Midwest, and us. The last hour or so the sky has been filling with lightening, but so far no thunder is heard so everyone assumes the rains are not coming.

[Students the next morning at the Research Fair]

About 7:45 enough students show up, and by 8pm the programme begins. There are 150 place settings and at most 60 people. The tables are all set, but mostly empty, its outside and the cool pre-rain wind has charged the air. Two buffet lines are ready, and flames keep the food warm and whipped by the wind, fire lashes out and flare about the sides. Then the programme starts with the introduction of tonight's MCs. Public events like this always have an MC (usually two, a man and a woman), even movies, plays, and apparently student celebrations. The MCs warm the crowd, bantering about this and that to a backdrop of gathering storm clouds and flashes of lightening.

A prayer is given, the vice-president is invited to speak, then the event organizer. Suzanne whispers "Oh, I hope they start soon, so we can eat before the rains come." Silly girl. The rains do come, as the event organizer is giving the schedule for the night. How ironic, since its raining and now everyone is rushing inside. I keep thinking about the 90 we spent milling around waiting for the programme to start when we could have been eating. Silly boy. Its really raining and now I'm I'm the hallway leading to a not quite large enough room in a different part of the hotel, that the programme is moving to. I catch the student leaders talking.

"So what should we do?"

"I guess we could eat first, and then do the dancing."

"EAT FIRST, who does that?! Ah!" She walks away disgusted.

Wow, I think, this really is a different culture. The students see me watching them and ask what they should do. I say, "well in the states, we would usually eat first and then do the programme." By the look on their faces you would have thought I was suggesting that we eat first, oh wait a minute…I was.

"If we eat first, then everyone will go home." Oh, so eating is the terminal event, I realize, the last thing people do at such a gathering. I guess that makes since, especially considering Ghanaian Time, and that events are people driven and start when enough people come, and not by schedule or time.

We were to attend an Out Dooring last Sunday. An Out Dooring usually happens 11 days after a baby is born, and in the traditional since, the first time a baby is brought outside the house, or outdoors to greet its family. It was Stephen, our guard's son who had come last September. I gather he either had trouble raising the money for the Out Dooring, or the child was sick. But now it "looks like he will stay" as they say, or "he likes it here," meaning that the child will live, as if the choice not to was his. The invitation, a printed envelope (to put money in and bring), said 7am prompt, but I'd asked Stephen what time it was going to start obruni time. He laughs and said, 7:30, so we left at 7:45, and later I learned the time had changed to 8, which means maybe 8:30, but we never got there, as our car over heated and we had to limp home. I was sad, I'd looked forward to seeing it, to taking pictures, and yes, even blogging about it, and now I was going to miss the whole thing. I'd even had Eric drive me out over the week-end to the remote place so I could find it early on a Sunday morning. I had our other guard call to let Stephen know that we could not come, so that if they were waiting for us, they could go ahead and start.

[The Envelope, please]

Back to the hotel and the student celebration. The rain stopped, and so they thought about moving back outside for the dancing, but then it started raining again, and about 8:45, we gave up and went home. It had been a long week—most are these weeks—and Suzanne was tired and hungry. I've learned to eat before I go to these events, because while we know the food is coming, we just don't know when.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Kumasi with Anna - Wooden Stools

After not buying any death cloth, as the black on black Adinkra Cloth is called, at the Adinkra Village [read that post], we went to the very next village, the wood carving village of Ahwiaa. I think this was the village our family bought stools at 40 years ago. Then they were made of Teak, or Mahogany, but today the wood of choice is cedar, or a soft white wood, that gets stained golden brown. Fox and Suzanne have given us designs to look for, but Anna and Ididn’t know what we wanted. 40 years ago I picked out the “Latter of Death” or “Stairs to Heaven” stool, but I only saw a small scale replica of that stool.

[Stool Carver] - note the white soft wood
The selection was actually a disappointment, we could basically pick between Wisdom Knot, Sankofa, and Gye Nyname, the last two not even being traditional stool designs, but cooped Adinkra Symbols. [Read the entry on Sankofa] [Read the entry on Gye Nyame]. Both Anna and I reject these designs as unauthentic. Finding a quality stools for Fox, Grace and Suzanne took several hours, and in the end the prices were about half those of Accra, and the quality much better. I guess in a few weeks we’ll head back to the Cultural Arts Center [read that post], and bargain hard to find something there that we want. [stool selection] – these are “production” stools, all made from the white wood, and will be stained, and sent to Accra to sell. They were not for sale here.

Here are three stools we did buy:

KONTONKOROWI GWA: The circular rainbow stool – Suzanne had wanted a Queen Mother’s Stool. , which they did not have, but this one looks very close to what she requested. Actually, I think it came from someone’s home. When they first showed it to us, it was dusty, and had numerous water stains in it. 30 minutes later it was all shiny new.

NYANSAPOW GWA: The Wisdom Knot or Reef Knot. It means only the wise can undo a wise knot. This was the stool we bought for Grace. Anna thought it represented her well.

TAFOHENE GWA: The Tafohene’s stool, or the Tafo Chief. Old and new Tafo are near Kumasi. This stool is similar to Grace’s stool, and contains a variation of the Wisdom Knot, again meaning only the wise chief of Tafo can untie it.

Left Hand Injury
Somewhere along the Kumasi trip I injured my left hand wrist, the one that had been doing most of the work since my accident. I’d been warned by Nancy Ann in an email that this sort of thing could, and often happens to people with a brachial plexus injury.

I want to caution you about something that all us BPI people have to deal with everyday. OVER USING your "good" arm. I was in quite a bit of pain this summer (my gardening got out of hand) and my left arm started to have problems too.

So now I’m wearing a brace on my left arm, which is quite amusing because people get confused, and think its my left arm that was injured almost six months ago. I figure its just God’s way of getting that lazy hand into rehab, as I’m now using it a lot more than I was.

Ministry Update
I’ve been doing a lot of teaching these days, continuing to co-teach Leadership III at Ashesi, a visiting teacher for the Youth Groups at both Asbury Dunwell Church, and Elim International Family Church; continuing to teach the Youth Singing Group at Elim which did the worship music on the first Sunday, and it went well. I’ve also been doing some print production work for Ashesi, developing a brochure for their Alumni Association, and their 2008-2009 on-line catalog.
Between those two projects – one for the already graduated and the other for the someday to graduate--I’ve really come to understand the magnitude of the miracle that is Ashesi University College. Though it is officially a secular, non-religious based institution, I have no doubt that God played a large part in helping it become what it is today. It exists because God wanted it to, that and a lot of hard work, vision, and support from an amazing collection of very dedicated people.

If you want to contribute to a place that is really making a difference, give to the Ashesi General Fund [click here].

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Kumasi with Anna - Adinkra

One of the interesting things about the different accounts of the life of Jesus as preserved in our New Testament, is the ordering of the events. Mark & Matthew pretty much agree, John is just way different, and Luke has the same events as Mark & Matthew, just a different travel itinerary. The Kumasi blogs are written from the Luken tradition, or as my dear former pastor David Gilliam used to say about the Bible, "I'm not sure it happened that way, but I know its all true!"

Visiting the "Adinkra Village"

The next day Anna and I visited Ntonso, one of the main Adinkra villages just north of Kumasi, and very near Ankaase, where we had spent the night with Cam & Anne Gongwer [] Osei, our Kente Village guide, had lined up a guide for Ntonso, a friend of his who was trying to replicate the village tour of Adanwomase, but has, in my opinion, a long way to go. At the end of the tour I tried to buy two yards of Adinkra cloth to have a funeral shirt made and the artist wanted $60, that’s $30 a yard. I could buy a whole piece (that’s 12 yards) for $70. I offered him $10 (twice the going rate), and he got offended (something I’ve not seen a Ghanaian do before in the bargaining process). Usually, when a seller quotes a ridiculously high price, and I counter with an equally ridiculous low price, we all laugh, and then inch (or should I say centimeter) toward something reasonable. But not this guy, which is why I didn’t come away with any Adinkra cloth, something I really wanted to do, even though I know Suzanne would (quite rightly) ask, “What are you going to do with that?!” So I guess I should be thankful, but…

I grew up with a dark blue Adinkra cloth that was used at one time or another as a bed spread, table cloth, or chair cover. I carried it around through college and its afterlife as a reminder of Ghana and today, wish I knew what happened to it. I suspect it didn’t survive a washing after it started to smell musty, and got washed. Adinkra cloth is never to be washed.
Years ago, Adinkra cloth was only to be worn at funerals, but today, its symbols are all over Ghana, but the black on black cloth is still reserved for funerals.

[Funeral Clothes – picture by MB]

The process is an ancient one, passed down from one generation to the next, one that still uses the traditional materials of root and bark from two different trees. First the cloth is made black in a several step process using dye made from the roots of the Kuntunkuni tree, which is comes from Northern Ghana. For the symbols, its a black and shiny, thick dye, that is made from the bark of the Badie tree. First the bark is separated, then boiled, pounded, then boiled, strained, then boiled, and boiled again until it its a thick syrup, which they call medicine or adinkra aduru.

[Badie Tree bark for the dye stamp]

[boiling pots] - notice the non-traditional engine blocks, or brocks as they are called here. [Anna helps pounding it]
[each pots reduces it, until it’s a a thick syrup]
After the medicine or adinkra aduru cools, Adinkra stamps are dipped in the thick, syrupy dye and either stamped on the cloth, or silk screened on to it and left to dry in the sun.
[box of Adinkra symbols stamps]
[close-up of the stamp, NYAME BIRIBI WO SORO - "God is in the heavens," which is symbol of hope and a reminder that God's dwelling place is in the heaven, where he can listen to all prayers.

[silk screening symbols]

[black on black cloth drying in the sun]

Though stamping is the more traditional of the process’, I’m seeing the product of silk screening more and more, and the dyes are now a days other colors, like brown.

For more information on the meaning of Adinkra Symbols, [click here], or for a fun kid activity follow this link to Oxfam.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Kumasi with Anna - Kente Cloth

Within an hour of Kumasi you can see most of the major indigenous art crafts that come from the Ashanti Region of Ghana: Kente Cloth, Wooden Stools, and Adinkra Cloth.

Of the five original "stooled" villages, the ones that were officially designated by the paramount chief as Kente Villages, only two still produce at, or produce it for Tourists to see it. In Eastern Ghana, the Ewe also produce Kente and last year Suzanne and I toured one of those villages [read about it here]. But here an hour outside of Kumasi, the granddaddy of Kente, the most famous of the Asanti Kente villages is Bonwire (pronounced bon-re), it is also the one with the highest hustle factor.

We drove up and immediately were greeted, or rather our white skin and pocketbooks were greeted. Its still early and I am just not up for that experience yet, and didn't come this far to get an experience I can get in Accra anytime I want. (Yes, I know should be getting used to it now). In the new Bradt Guide, I had read about another one of the stooled Kente villages that promised a hassle-free tour of the village and Kente making. So, instead of getting out of the car, we asked for directions, directions our "greeters" were reluctant to give. Eric pressed them, and finally they relented. "They should have signboard," Eric grumbled going out of town.

At Adanwomase, we drove up and were completely ignored. There was an Office of Tourism, but it was empty. No one was rushing to greet us, and I looked around the simple office. There was an agreement of behavior sitting on the desk that had two columns: Expectations for Visitors, Expectations for Townspeople. Under the townspeople column it said something about leaving the visitors along, smiling at them, and treating them with respect. So that's what's going on, hey I like this.

On the Visitors side, it talked about respecting townspeople, and asking before taking their picture. They even had a brochure, [click here] that explained the offerings. Anna decided on the Kente Tour, and I arranged for a lunch to be served after. While waiting I met John, a Peace Corp volunteer who lives in the village and has set up this tour and brokered the agreement for the townspeople not to "worry the tourists." Turns out that 40% of what the tour makes goes to the town Library, so people are willing to abide by these expectations.

Adanwomase was settled by the women of a village Hemang, who left with their children. They found a small river and decided to build their new community under an Adanwoma tree, calling their new village, "Adanwomase," meaning, "Under the Adanwoma tree."

Unlike the village of Bonewire (where they do Worry the tourists), the chiefs of Adanwomase swear their allegiance to the Asantehene (the paramount chief of the Ashenti) while those of Bonwire swear to the paramount chief of Juaben.

It used to be that only the Asantehene could wear kente, hence the kente cloth used to be called Ohene Nko mfira, literally meaning that the woven cloth was for the sole use of the King. The story is told of the early weavers being sequestered at the Kings Palace, since the Asantehene was the sole user of kente cloth, the weavers were under oath of secrecy about their designs. Then it was a serious offence if anyone outside the palace saw process but later as the process leaked, the weavers were allowed to return to their homes.

Our guide was named Osei, and he took us from start to finish, from where they sell the string, to where they sell the finished cloth, and then we sat and had Jollof Rice in the back part of one of the shops where we bought Kente cloth strips.

[Osei, holding a loop of thread]

[Making a bobbin of thread at the string shop]

[Putting 25 bobbins of thread]

[Ananse, the spider design]

[Anna, making weaving cloth]

[Steve pretending he is Bill Clinton, pretending he is Ghanaian]

(Even today if you wear a shirt under Kente, you’re called Bill Clinton, since he did so when he visited here)

[Black & White Kente, a speciality of the town.]

As we leave Adanwomase, I think about the previous Kente village that Suzanne and I toured in the Volta Region. That village was Ewe, so the people, traditions, and cloth was different, but also the age of the weavers. There we saw 100s of small boys, ages 9-12 who were doing the weaving. They were very fast. Our guide said they were Ewe boys from Togo, who had been sent to learn the art of Kente weaving. We also saw women weaving, but set apart from the boys. And there the weavers sat in community, long rows of weavers, who worked and sang together. But in Adanwomase we only saw men weaving, and doing so in solitude. The government had built a marketplace for the town, but like so many other towns, it goes unused.
Some say the townspeople don’t use the marketplace because its located in an out of the way place, away from the main road and town, others say they don’t like because the wrong political party built it. The NPP built it and this is a NDC town. So the weavers use it, though it is ill suited for their use.

[this is tripple weave, a very difficult design to make]

After Adanwomase, and buying several strips of cloth, we went to visit our friends Cam & Anne Gongwer [click here] who have served with The Mission Society in Ankaase since 1999. I met Dr. Cam at Lake Bosumtwe over a year ago [part1, part2], and like then like now, I found him to be one of the kindest, most gentle hearted man I have ever known. He is the director of Methodist Faith Healing Hospital, while Anne has let God use her to work on a literacy project, and building a new Reading Town Library.

[Cam & Anne at the Hospital]

Anna was excited to see their 11 year old daughter Caylor (who just kick me, I didn’t get any pictures of).

While Anna had girl time with Caylor, Cam gave me a tour of the hospital, and what an amazing ministry he has working with God and serving the people there. Then Anne showed the future Reading Town Library, currently an almost finished brick building, awaiting books, and computers. Again, amazing.

[Anne in front of the Library][Reading Room]

I stood looking around this cavernous hall, “What is this, about 5000 square feet?” I ask. Anne tells me it’s a bit larger, like 5250, and I think, yep, still got it. To me it looks like a great place to start a new church, but for her it is a reading room, community hall, education center where people from all over town will come to further their education. Its hard not to catch her vision and enthusiasm for the project. I’m just impressed that it is a brick building, and out front grass, and how unusual it is for Ghana.

[Empty Computer Room]

The empty computer room pulls at my heart. Its ready, there are outlets on the wall every few feet, and tables, and all it lacks is 10 to 20 networked computers. As a pastor, I often wondered if the money we threw at missions projects could ever make a difference, but here, in this town, in this Reading Town Library, I see that some well placed dedicated money could really make a difference. I hope you will want to contribute something to this project [click here].

Then we went back to their house and made the best pizza I have ever had. There was real mozzarella, I sliced the pepperoni, and Anne had made her secret sauce. “Now how is it,” I asked, “that I have to come all this way into the bush to find pizza this great?” Its true, and in the morning we had blueberry pancakes, homemade maple syrup, and strong Starbucks coffee. I had forgotten that weeks ago Anne & Cam had just returned from a month in the states, where they had returned with all these provisions that they were eating through before they went bad. They are better people than I, I’m not sure I could have shared.

The Gongwers have a nice video about their Mission: [click here to see]

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