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Textiles in Ghana
Textiles in Ghana

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1 The meanings and values of textiles in Ghana

This course looks at three kinds of textile used and marketed in Kumasi and its surrounding towns in Ghana – the hand-made textiles of kente and adinkra and industrially produced waxed cottons – in order to consider meanings and values assigned to them.

The course revolves around a series of video clips originally produced for the course A216 Art and its histories. The Course Team filmed at the market in Kumasi as well as at Bonwire, which is a centre for kente weaving, at Ntonso, where adinkra is made, and at Wonoo. The latter three towns are close to Kumasi.

The course requires you to watch short segments of video and pause to assess what has been discussed and further consider its significance. The course will guide you in an exploration of the following themes:

  • Theme 1: The status of cloth-making

How is the making of kente and adinkra cloth regarded in Ghana? (What is its status?) By what criteria are the various cloths judged? How do you think those with Eurocentric views might regard cloth-making?

  • Theme 2: Tradition and modernity

Western stereotypical views of traditional art practices in ‘other’ cultures have tended to see these as sterile and static art forms. How is this view challenged by the video?

  • Theme 3: Gender and values

How would you interpret the significance of women’s participation in kente cloth making? (For example, might this suggest a new trend and value being added?) What evidence might you find in the video to suggest that women (and, by extension, women’s work) were regarded as belonging to the domestic sphere and stereotyped as ‘other’ by the men?

  • Theme 4: Collaborative and independent work practices

Which textile did you consider to be made more collaboratively? How might this distinction bear upon western views of the status of the cloth-makers concerned?

These themes are further explored in A216, which includes many other examples. The free OpenLearn course A216_1 The Louvre Museum is also taken from A216, and you might find it interesting.

Textiles from Ghana is structured as a series of activities, each associated with a video clip. In addition to watching the clips, you’ll be asked to tackle a number of questions that should help you clarify your thoughts and understanding of the material presented on the clips. You might like to consider taking notes using, for example, your Learning Journal on OpenLearn. Also, you might like to share your ideas in a forum.