Friday, October 23, 2009

Art Reception/Exhibition, Adugyama, Ghana, Sat. Oct. 31, 12-5pm

Art Reception/Exhibition

Hello Everyone,

You are cordially invited to a one day exhibit and reception of art work by Daniel Kerkhoff, the children of Adugyama, and guests.

When: Saturday, October 31st, 12pm to 5pm.

Where: The Area Council Hall, Adugyama, Ashanti Region, Ghana

Adugyama is 45 km northwest of Kumasi on the Sunyani Road. The Area Council Hall is across the street from the MTN tower.

We hope to see you there. Everyone is welcome!


Reception n. 1. an act or process of receiving; a reaction to something.
2. an assembly held to receive guests. --Oxford English Mini Dictionary

Since April, I have been an artist-in residence in Adugyama,.Ghana and have been running an informal drop-in center for children, providing books, paper, pens, pencils, and colored pencils. Children from the neighborhood stop by, draw, and look at the books available.

The children are all ages and draw in a variety of eclectic styles. Some have focused on drawing animals, cars, airplanes, computers, houses, football players, scenes from village life, planets and stars, trees and nature scenes and many other things. Some have been drawing patterns, focusing on shapes and lines, and creating unique compositions. Many of their drawings will be in the exhibit, and you can see some of them on my flickr site,

Also, children/adults from Lisbon, Portugal; Mobile, Alabama, U.S.A. ; and Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.A. have also sent some artwork to the village and this will be included in the exhibit as well in The Obruoni Gallery.

I have been doing my own art using pens, pencils, a water color set, a ream of A4 computer paper, a gallon of acrylic house paint, the dirt and charcoal around his residence, and vegetable and palm oils. Many of my dirt paintings have evolved into large collages.

These collages relate to my own preoccupations, interests in symbols and shapes, and my personal aesthetic sensibilities interweaving with my experiences in Ghana and the village of Adugyama. I see them as acts of receiving and discovery; they are my journal of witnessing that also honor those mysteries that transcend narrow definitions and rigid labeling.

Mortars and pestles, basins, yams, mobile phones, Adinkra symbols, cacao pods, footballs (soccer balls), stars, tea bags, benches, and ladders have all grabbed me in one way or another and made there way into these pieces. These large scale collages have also taken on a hide, animal skin-like quality. In November, I will fold them up, put them in my suitcase, and return with them back to the U.S. to show. Hopefully, they will become acts of sharing as well and become a part of the Great Weaving Project that has been going on for a long time now.

The children's art of Adugyama will be shown again in June, 2010 at Homewood Studios ( in north Minneapolis, MInnesota. Homewood Studios is owned by George and Beverly Roberts who have stayed in the village of Adugyama and have many connections here. Their son, Andrew, was the Peace Corps volunteer in Adugyama for three years and the reason why I am here. Many thanks to them for introducing me to the people here, for all the work that they've done in the communities of Adugyama and north Minnneapolis, and for their encouragement.

I will also have a solo show of my art in June 2010 in north Minneapolis at The Warren-An Artist Habitat,

James Joyce had written, "History is a nightmare that I'm trying to wake up from." From Mankato, Minnesota to Adugyama, Ghana, to wherever you are, perhaps within the realm of the "nightmare", little "waking ups" are happening all the time. I use art and travel to try and wake myself up and also notice how much I am sleeping.

Ghana just won the FIFA under-twenty world championships beating Brazil in the final. The Ghana Black Satellites are the first African team to win the championship. Everyone is excited here. I watched the match in Adugyama (Adugyama just got electricity 10 years ago). I was with five boys, Yaw Bimpe, Kwaku Baah, Sadick, Yaw Gyamfi, and Agya. They were dancing, clapping, and shouting in our room and it was an amazing moment for them. Nana and Auntie Bea came in the room and celebrated as well. I took their photos, witnessed this moment, and will take it back with me along with so many other moments.

Many thanks to everyone I met and got to know in Ghana and to those of you reading and commenting on the blogs and photos. Many thanks to my family and friends for all of their support. And a special thanks to the people in Adugyama who helped me so much and shared so much of their lives with me; the family I lived with--Mr. Atta, Auntie Bea, Nana, Rose, Becky, Sara, Ama, Yaw Bimpe, Kwaku Baah, Jennifer, and Sandra. Meda se Pa Paa, Thank you very much!

Over the winter, I'll continue blogging, uploading more photos, reflecting on my experiences here and doing more art.

You can follow along at

And my photos:

Nante Yie (walk well, safe journey), Keep in touch! --Daniel

Daniel Kerkhoff
Ph. 0278913055

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Sirigu, SWOPA, Bongo--Northern Ghana

On Monday, July 27th, I went to Sirigu, a village north of Bolgatanga where the Sirigu Women Organization for Pottery and Art(SWOPA) is located.

I first heard about SWOPA when I saw their paintings at the Loom Gallery in Accra back in February. The paintings on canvas are done in the traditional styles that resemble the wall paintings on their adobe homes. Colors are mainly earth tones of browns, blacks and whites with strong geometric shapes and symbols of animals (cows, pythons, crocodiles, chickens, fish). The geometric symbols may represent a broken calabash, or a male or a female.

SWOPA was founded by Melanie Kasise, who is the first woman in the community to receive a higher education. It is composed of women who will often work as a group on a painting. They are also experiementing with newer styles and their free styles which includes more colors. Their pottery consists of many styles as well, and SWOPA had a nice shop with very affordable prices.

I went on a tour and was shown different styles of houses. The homesteads I saw were drying millet and shea nuts. I tried some of the dried millet and it was quite tasty and crunchy. The homesteads also had silos to store the millet and adobe walled pens for their goats and chickens. The women were also applying black tar to their houses. I saw many women going to and fro from SWOPA with cans of black tar.

The homes had very unique doorways (photo above). They were created for protection during the slave trade. Whoever entered had to crawl to get in, thus leaving themselves vulnerable to a big whack on the head.

I went back to Sirigu again on Thursday, Sept. 24th and saw Asoikipala again. It was market day and she was busy preparing fried yams to sell. We walked through the market saying "Toma"(hello)to everyone. I bought some handmade ropes and also some kola nuts that I've read so much about. They are used a lot by workers because they give you energy. I ate one which was on the bitter side making my mouth dry. I didn't really notice a burst of energy and maybe should have tried some more to get their affects.

I did try their locally brewed millet beer called Pito. Asokipala and I stopped at an outdoor place where a woman had a large plastic barrel of Pito with many calabash bowls. She gave me a good amount in my bowl and we drank while talking with some of the men there. They enjoyed watching me try the millet brew. It was yeasty and looked maybe a little similar to a hefeweizen but with a bit stronger yeasty taste.

Besides the beautifully painted houses, Sirigu is also famous for "the elaborate facial scarring--almost like a spider's web in complexity--practised by the Nakarisi people (Ghana Bradt Guide, p.375).


Bongo, Ghana
Originally uploaded by Daniel Kerkhoff

On July 26th, also a day trip from Bolgatanga, I went to Bongo, famous for the baobab trees and incredible rock formations. Some children met me along the way and escorted me through these amazing scupture-gardenesque rocks and trees. There were many grazing sheep and cows which gave the place a pastoral, almost English countryside feel that reminded me of the land of the Hobbits. We climbed up a hill and had incredible views of the countryside. It was definately an other worldy experience that felt like being in some kind of fairy tale book.

Bongo, Ghana
Originally uploaded by Daniel Kerkhoff

These are notes I took from a Ghana travel magazine (I don't remember its name) while I ate in a restaurant in Accra:

The baobob tree--its leaves contain vitamin C, sugar, potassium, calcium, leaves are cooked or crushed for later use. Seeds roasted as a coffee substitute. Baobob tree is an object of worship by Africans in the savannas. It has a foul smell. Its parts were used to ward off evil spirits. The baobob tree is a sacred tree and is also called God's thumb. It has a long life, can survive long periods of time without water and has many uses. People make soap, necklaces, glue, rubber, medicine, and cloth from the baobob tree. The spirits inhabit the flower of the baobob. Some believe if you pick a flower, you will be eaten by a lion. Drink an infusion of the bark and a man will become strong. Baby boys bathed in this infusion to become strong. Witches have their nocturnal meetings at the top of the tree.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou, Bobo-Dioulasso, July 17th-24th, Sept. 20-23rd, 2009

I went to Burkina Faso primarily to get my visa stamped for another two months. I had to leave Ghana after being there for six months, and I was curious about Burkina. If I had more time, energy and resources, I would have loved to look around more and go to Mali as well.

Burkina Faso is a French speaking country and its "Frenchness" seemed very apparent from the sidewalk cafes with baguettes, bowls of cafe au laits, wonderfully sweet and fresh yogurts, and the scooters and bicycles zooming by with many stylish, colorfully dressed women wearing sun glasses. And then there's also the ever present prevalence of les cigarettes which is a rarity in Ghana, at least smoking en publique.

I walked around Ouagadougou(pron. Wuagadoogoo), the largest city in Burkina Faso, and the architecture frequently caught my eye. There were many unique styles evoking mid-century modern, sixties Vegas to architecture that reflected the landscape which reminded me of architecture from New Mexico in the U.S.; adobe styles with curves much like the buildings in villages. The photo below is an example that also reminded me of Wright's Guggenheim Museum in New York.

On the way to the STMB bus station, I came across this avenue lined with carved trees that were a visual treat. I wish I could tell you who did them and how they came to being. There must have twelve trees in the area with different carvings of people, animals, and sayings.

Near the STMB bus station, I also come across a restaurant/bar called Baratapas. It is full of junk metal scuptures and paintings. I meet the owner from France and he tells me he commissions some of the pieces and also lets artists store their work there. I enjoy looking around and he says it's okay to take pictures. I drink a bissap, which is a non-alcoholic drink that tastes like a sangria.

I return in September just for a couple of days and come across an artisans shop for people with disabilities called Tigoung Nonma. Tigoung Nonma ( is also connected with Handicap Solidaire Burkina ( I walk in and a man shows me some of the jewelry and other craft items he has made and I get a couple items. The artisan's name is Dabre Issa Guerrier. He's very enthusiastic about the center and wants me to meet an English woman who is volunteering there. I end up going to the main shop and get an motorcycle crafted out of metal and Nescafe cans. The woman working the shop is practicing her English and does quite well because my French is so poor. It was quite the creative place with a great spirit. I talked with the English woman for awhile and she told me how many of the people at the center had their houses destroyed by the recent heavy flooding. She and her organization were able to raise some funds to help them out, but it was a devastating summer. After visiting in the shop, I drank a coffee at their little cafe outside and then moved along.

In July, I also went to Bobo-Dioulasso for three days. Bobo is southwest of Ouaga about a four hour bus ride. The European Union help fund the highway and it was very new and smooth riding. Bobo is smaller and quieter than Ouaga and I spent a lot of time enjoying bakeries and cafes. It was a nice place to relax.

I came in to this Total gas station in Bobo-Dioulasso to buy some water and thought she was the most elegant gas station attendant I had ever seen, so I asked her if I could take her picture. Her eyebrows are also the fashion of Burkina with some women having even more pronounced and darker lines

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Bolgatanga, Ghana, July 16-17,24-27, Sept. 19,23-24

I spent a few days in Bolgatanga on the way in and out of Burkina Faso in July and again in September. Bolga is the capital of the Upper East Region with about 70,000 people (Bradt Guide). Bolga was a good base to go on day trips to Bongo and Sirigu. When I first arrived in Bolga, I was walking along the major highway that connects with Tamale and Paga. The lanes were wide, lots of concrete, and the low mountains were off in the distance. The way the light was striking the mountains made me feel very much at home. It felt a lot like Albuquerque, New Mexico where I had lived for two years. I enjoyed these comparisons even as I traveled through Burkina Faso.

While in Bolga, I came across the Roots Art Gallery (photo below) and enjoyed a couple cups of Ethiopian coffee while looking at the crafts and artwork. I ended up buying a couple pieces of jewelry. Joy and Nyaaba were two of the artists there who are part of the cooperative. They said that Peace Corps volunteers helped establish the cooperative/gallery. Joy makes jewelry, teaches drumming, does various other crafts and is into reggae music. Nyaaba had several French books he was looking at and loves studying languages.

We listened to cds of Kologo music from the Bolga region. Kologo (Koliko,Koloko) music is played on a two-stringed instrument similar to a banjo or a guitar. The body is made from a calabash gourd with a hide stretched across its opening. The strings are played with an intense rhythm. I loved the music and asked them the names of the musicians. I heard Atongo Zimba, Sambo, King Ayisoba, and Amodo. Atonga Zimba sang a song with lyrics something like, "In heaven there is no beer, so that is why we are drinking all the beer here." They told me he is now in Accra and doing well.

When I returned to Bolga again in September, I stumbled upon Sambo's recording studio while venturing to the loo at the lorry station. Sambo was there working on his motorcycle. I asked him about cds and he took me to the back where he sampled them. Sambo's full name is Aburiya Adabire. His music seemed the most intense and urgent of the Kologo players I heard. Joy said his lyrics are good and intellectual. I ended up buying four cds.

I returned to the Roots Art Gallery again and asked about the Koloko musicians. Nyaaba said that Amodo (Akadumah Amodo) lived nearby and he'd check about me paying a visit. While I drank my tasty cup of Ethiopian coffee, he came back and said that Amodo has malaria but he would still like me to come by. We went there walking through various dirt paths behind houses where several pigs were resting and children were playing.

We entered Amodo's courtyard (Agoo, Agoo, knock, knock). He was lying on his cot in the middle of the courtyard. His face was drenched in sweat and I thought we'd just inquire about some cds and then get out and let him rest. But he picked up his Kologo and started playing for us. His music was a melancholy almost wailing bluesy style with a heavy pulse and rhythm from the Koloko strumming. His voice was raspy and sweat was streaming down his face. Nyaaba who was interpreting the lyrics for me assured me he was very happy to be playing. His wife was in the corner washing dishes. I enjoyed a small, very special concert while thinking from here to Mali was the origins of the Mississippi Delta Blues.

Amodo didn't have any cds that day and so I returned again to buy three of his cds. I also ended up buying Atongo Zimba's "Savannah Breeze" cd at the Roots Art Gallery. I'll look for King Ayisoba in Kumasi.

In Bolgatanga, I ate several dinners at Sala's Fast Food (photo below). It was near where I was staying, the Nsanmini Guesthouse, and it was delicious food; all for 1.50 cedis I ate a leg of chicken, a large heaping of white rice and stew. I told Sandra, the owner, that it was some of the best pepper stew I've had in Ghana. It was nice and spicy.

Sandra is only 22 yrs. old and was running a good business. She was training a teenager how to cook. While I was there, several street boys came by and she gave them large heapings of rice. They called her "ma".

She had a T.V. set up in her small sitting area so we would watch music videos, and she would educate me on who the various singers were. We watched the group P Square from Nigeria, twin singers and dancers. They're very popular and Sandra said they are her favorite. We also watched several videos by the singer and dancer, Costuleta. He's originally from Angola but lives in Portugal. He has only one leg and is an incredible dancer, sometimes humorous but also playfully sexual, innovative dancing. Another dancer appeared in his videos who would do comical moves and funny, distorted, facial expressions. They did a lot of dancing with the ladies by a swimming pool or out on the streets.

Sandra enjoys clubbing, often trying out different wigs, and would go on Friday night when it was ladies night at the Soul Train, the local night club. Her friends would stop by and eat, watch videos, and try out various accessories and hair styles. I almost went along with tired, but was too tired when 11:00 came around to eventually go out.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Mole! Mole!, Mole National Park, Ghana, July 13-15, 2009

This is the view from the observation deck at Mole Motel in Mole National Park.

According to my Bradt Guide, Mole National Park is Ghana's largest wildlife sanctuary, about 4,480 square kilometres. It has more than 90 mammal species and 344 bird species. There are about 800 elephant, 1,100 buffalo, hippos, warhogs, and antelope species such as kob, Defassa waterbuck, bushbuck, and roan.

At 6:30 am on Monday, July 13, I started walking from the village of Larabanga to the Mole Motel, about 5km on a gravel road. Along the way, I saw Pata Monkeys and Kob Antelope. The guinea fowl crossed in front of me, and a warthog and I passed each other on the road, both of us keeping our eyes on the other. When I got to the Mole Motel, warthogs were on the front lawn eating grass. One stared me down and snorted at me. I already felt like I had my fill, and it was only 8 am.

At the motel restaurant, right in front of the swimming pool, I ate a tasty breakfast --an onion and mushroom omelet and coffee. Then, I proceeded to the observation deck where I stayed for the rest of the day until 7pm; that is, when I wasn't going back for another refreshment.

Just all the green alone could have kept me fixated at that observation deck, but there were also various antelope down there grazing, chasing each other, trevassing and lounging. At around 10 am, I saw big trees moving, and then some grey, and then out came the large pachyderms. Five elephants slowly made their way to the watering hole and started swimming. They submerged themselves turning from light, dusty grey to almost black. Their trunks would rest on each other's backs and intertwine as they waded around for a couple hours. These were all males. The females were with their young in the bush. I also saw a couple crocodiles floating like logs not too far away from the elephants.

People come and go, various volunteers from Europe or the States, and we have little chats while were looking out over the expanse. I talked with David, a Ghanaian studying biology at Novrongo. He said he was doing some research at the park for three weeks. He told me that there were about 100 lions in the park but they are being reduced. They believe it is due to inbreeding. He was researching creating migration corridors between Mole NP and another park in Burkina Faso. The corridors would be about 200 km wide and would alleviate the inbreeding problem. He also said there were hyenas around, but they were very endangered. Park rangers go through the park and search for poachers.

At around 2 pm, three elephants are back in the water playing and swimming. Six elephants all together are near the watering hole. Baboon monkeys occasionally pass behind me looking for some grub in the trash cans or on some unsuspecting tourists table. One surprises me by knocking over the trash can about 10 feet away. I don't have anywhere else to go. Luckily, I don't have a sandwich in my hand. He moves on to the swimming pool, and I hear some women scream. Later, I talk to a European guy who says the baboon jumped on his table and grabbed his sandwich.

I eat guinea fowl for dinner and am back at the observation deck to watch the sunset. Just when it's getting too dark below to notice much, I spot some very dark shapes moving across the slightly lighter grasses. Judging by their size, I reckon they are African Buffalo, about 50 of them walking slowly. Thus ended my day at the deck before I retire for another refreshment. The whole day seemed surreal, like I was some hawk watching a hyper-real, HD, computer generated, digital paradise.

The next day, I woke up at 5:30 am and was back at the observation deck. I'm all alone, misty layers upon layers of light and dark green canopies of trees for miles and miles. Below on the grass, the brown kob and bushbuck antelope go out into the green fields to do some grazing. Hugh Masekela's "Grazing in the Grass".

At 7am, I head over to the visitor's center to go on a two hour walking safari, only six cedis (about $4.00) for a 2 hour plus safari. Along the way, I encounter about 30 baboons walking towards me. I step to the side and hope they just pass me by. At the visitor's center, I put on my Wallenting boots, tall rubber boots, for the walk and wait around with some Europeans. A big group of South Korean students arrive. Then, out of the bush comes an elephant with big tusks. Everybody starts taking pictures and are excited. The Koreans get too close and the guides warn them to stay back. You're supposed to stay 50 meters, but we all get too close because a couple more elephants come and mosey by us to eat some of the nice shrubs and grasses.

I get with a group of 10 people and our guide starts walking us out towards the bush. We see green monkeys and many many kob antelope watching us, then prancing away. We see bushbuck which have incredible white lined markings like tattoos. We also see Defassa waterbuck. Our guide shows us a natural salt-lick. It's smooth, light gray rocks are visited by the antelope and the elephants for a little treat and necessary nourishment. We walk all around the areas I had seen from the observation deck. When we get to the watering hole, there are a couple elephants bathing. Then, some more come into the water and they all swim and play and we watch and take photos. On our way back to the hotel, we come upon a elephant in the bush, only 10 meters from us. Our guide quickly takes his rifle from his shoulder and tells us to back off and go around. As I'm moving away, I snap a photo.

Watching these elephants go for a swim while we were on safari was pretty cool.

This green monkey and her baby passed me while I was eating breakfast. Many baboons were around and would get close. The waitress gave me a big silver platter to use to scare them away. I would stand up occasionally and wave my platter and then go back to my coffee and omelette. On my last morning in the park, I sat at the observation deck and about a dozen green monkeys were eating leaves off the trees around me. The way they ate, those leaves must have been tasty.

West Africa isn't really known for its wildlife and safaris. Most people go to east Africa and southern Africa for that and I've seen some amazing photos from there showing what most people associate with Africa. But Mole NP was a wonderful place, not very crowded or on the beaten path. The motel had its comforts and the rainforest and animal and bird life were mesmerizing.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Larabanga! Northern Ghana, July 12 and 15th, 2009

On July 12, I took a very bumpy bus trip to Larabanga, the gateway to Mole National Park. I sat next to Cecelia, a school teacher going to Damongo to visit her family. She was in her thirties and still single so I complimented her on her "singleness" and we had a nice chat while we rode the bucking bronco bus.

Larabanga is a village of about 4000 inhabitants. According to my trusty Bradt Guide,it's also the place of what is considered the oldest extant building in Ghana, the mosque. Some say it dates to the 1400s and others put it more in the range of 1600s, but opinions vary.

In Larabanga, I stayed overnight at the Salia Brothers Guestlodge. As soon as I arrived, Alhassan took me up to the roof where we chatted and watched the sunset. He told me about the projects he and his brothers are doing. He wanted me to visit the school they ran, and I said I would after I returned from the park.

I slept on the roof. A mattress was put up there and I spectated at the twinkling starchestra in the sky with the occasional flute and piccolo solos of shooting stars. I actually got cold and eventually had to bury my head in the sheets. The next morning, I walked the five km gravel road to Mole National Park.

On my walk back from the park, I stopped at the "Bambeniye", Community Basic School of Larabanga. It was founded by the Salia Brothers. I got a little tour, took some pictures which the children seemed to really enjoy. They were working on a kindergarten classroom that would hopefully soon be running.

The Salia brothers saw that there were many children not attending school. These children didn't have the money for school uniforms or school supplies. This motivated the Salia brothers to start a school. Whenever they see someone in the village not attending school, they encourage to come to their school.

The school is largely dependent on funds from outside and volunteer help. While I was there, I met three volunteers from Austria, Germanay, and Holland. I had beans and rice with Hussein Salia and Monika Els from Austria. Hussein explained how the school was run and some of their issues. Monika is raising money in Europe and put together a calendar that is for sale to raise funds.

They are looking for volunteers to help with teaching and working with the children. The volunteers stay at the guestlodge. They are also looking for anyone who wishes to donate supplies or money. A little more info is at: Here is their addresses below if anyone wishes to contact them and support them:

Hussein and Al-hassan Salia, Project Coordinators
Larabanga Community Development Center
P.O. Box 47
Damango, Northern Ghana
Ghana, West Africa

Alhassan Salia, Co-director, e-mail:
Monika Els (Project Coordinator Austria), e-mail:

I also spoke with another brother who has a vision of putting a internet cafe at the guestlodge. His goal is to obtain three computers and go into business.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Hot Tamale, Alhassan, Obamamania, July 9-12, 28-30, 20009

In July, I went on a three week trip. I started out by taking the bus from Kumasi to Tamale. Tamale is the third largest city in Ghana and the gateway to northern Ghana. I stayed in Tamale with an artist, Alhassan, a brother of Sumaila, the taxi driver who picked me up at the airport when I first arrived. Alhassan does commercial art/sign painting as well as traditional village-style art. He apprenticed when he was younger, then studied journalism for awhile, and then decided he wanted to do art as a career. He works from his apartment which he set up nicely with a big sign. He is also working on getting a shop going with another artist across from the Alhassan Hotel and next to the Decency Spot. You can see his work at and search Alassart.

The sign Alhassan is painting is for a barber shop. This is a common style for painting for sign painters/commercial artists. Many small businesses advertize by employing sign painters.

While I was in Tamale, President Obama was visiting Ghana. Alhassan and I watched a lot of his visit at his friend Muda's house. We saw him get off the plane on Friday evening and enjoy the cultural greeting (music and dancers) he received. Then, the next day, we saw his speech to the Ministers of Parliament. From people I've talked to, his speech went over very well.

It was Obamamania leading up to his arrival. People were talking about it a lot, his books were out on the streets, people were wearing t-shirts. People were excited and there was a feeling like he was coming home. The Daily Graphic, Ghana's major newspaper devoted most of it's articles to the Obama visit on the days leading up to him coming. The question was: What does this mean for Ghana and what will it mean for Ghana? People seemed to want the world to know that Ghana was open for business and were proud that he chose Ghana over Kenya and all the other sub-saharan African countries.

People would ask me where I was from and then right away say "Obama!" and would look at me to see how I'd react and I'd give them a smile. When his speech was over, I would ask, "What did you think of Obama's speech." One man said that the only U.S. President that could give a speech like that would have been Obama. It would not have gone over well if any of the previous presidents had done so. Then, the question was how much were Ghanaians or Africans relying on Pres. Obama to be some kind of savior. Pres. Obama seemed to realize this and down played his ability to change Africa by himself emphasizing it will be Africans who will change Africa for the better.

In the Daily Graphic, they showed one text message that was circulating Africa during the U.S. presidential elections. Many of you have already heard this. It went like this:

"Rosa Parks sat so that Martin Luther King could march, Martin Luther King marched so that Obama could run and Obama ran so that our children could fly."

This seems to be the mood about Obama here as in so many other places.

The two major political parties in Ghana are the NDC (the National Democratic Congress) and the NPP (the New Patriotic Party) The NDC just won the election last December and are in power for four years before the next election. The NPP were in office for the previous eight years, and before that the NDC.

Jerry John Rawlings who was in power from 1982 to 2000. A new constitution and a multi-party system were formed in 1991, and J.J. Rawlings ran on the NDC party. He won in 1992 and in 1996. John Kufour of the NPP party won the next election against John Atta-Mills and was in office from 2000 to 2008. Then, John Evans Atta-Mills (NDC Party) won a very close election against Nana Akufo-Addo (NPP). Because the election was so close, they had to have a run-off election at the end of December. There was a lot of tension and some skirmishes. I had bought my plane ticket a couple days before this run-off and I was a bit nervous as were many people. What happened in Kenya was fresh in people's minds, a supposedly stable, African country. But by and large, the transfer of power went smoothly and peaceably and it was lauded around the world. Hence, Obama's choice to come to Ghana instead of his father's native land of Kenya.

From what I've gathered the NDC is somewhat similar to the U.S.'s Democratic Party and the NPP is somewhat similar to the U.S.'s Republican Party in their philosophies regarding government's responsibility, social services, and business. Also, the red state, blue state phenomenon in the U.S seems to be the case as well in Ghana. The Ashanti region heavily favors the NPP and northern Ghana seems to be strongly NDC. But, I did see many NPP signs when I was traveling north. The NDC is perceived to be strong in Accra and the coastal regions, but I was told that is just a perception because J.J. Rawlings is from Accra.

Inflation has risen sharply in the past few months and many people are blaming the current government. I explain that in the U.S., Europe, and Asia, there are also recent economic problems. Talk radios seem similar here as in the U.S., very loud with lots of political opinions flying about.


On my return from Burkina Faso, I stopped back into Tamale for a couple nights. A family invited me to stay with them. They lived in the nurses quarters, the mother was a nurse. The daughters liked to watch professional wrestling on satellite television. We also watched Akon music videos and Michael Jackson videos. I also relaxed in their courtyard.

Eating yams, beans and pepper stew,
Three year old Bridget drawing,
A flat stone in the courtyard.

"A Tamale Courtyard"
for Glen Gould

In the corner, a rusty oil drum
for water,
A low wooden bench, weathered,
loose nailed.

Against a wall,
a darkened metal pot on a
blackened grill, old charcoal,
a mortar, a pestle.

Flies and ants
scour and forage
concrete, cracks, and crevices.

Torpid, hardened, aged surfaces,
textured and layered,
a scarred, infertile landscape,
rain pounded and foot pressed,
solar molested with persistent,
unrelenting sun gropes and other
courted weights, patiently waiting
for the night.

And inside of this,

a solid walled space of sound visits,
gentle meetings of various engines and
human voices, of bird songs and floating
televisions, winded leaves and waning
branches, vital movements of metals
pounding surfaces and other
waves of outside activities,
a goat's call, a schoolyard cadence,
a dove's coo, a fly's buzz.

They introduce themselves,
pass by unintruding,
an interweaving solitude,
orchestral and symphonic.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Yefre me Yaw Daniel...

Yefre wo sen (What is your name?)? Yefre me Yaw Daniel (I'm called or they call me Yaw Daniel). So, this is Twi. Unfortunately, there are Twi letters and sounds I can't replicate here, but this is close.

The Akan people and also people from other parts of Ghana who have adapted the Twi language are often named after the day of the week they were born. Hence, I am Yaw Daniel because I was born on Thursday. I've written about the family who I live with, Ama, Yaw Bimpe, Kwaku Baah. These names are all based on the days of the week. Here are the names of the other days:

Sunday: Kwasiada, Boy's name: Kwasi, Girl's name: Akosua.
Monday: Dwoada, Boy's name: Kwadwo, Girl's name: Adwoa.
Tuesday: Benada, Boy's name: Kwabena, Girl's name: Abenaa.
Wednesday: Wukuada, Boy's name: Kwaku, Girl's name: Akua.
Thursday: Yawoada, Boy's name: Yaw, Girl's name: Yaa.
Friday: (E)Fiada, Boy's name: Kofi, Girl's name: Afua/Afia.
Saturday: Memenada, Boy's name: Kwame, Girl's name: Amma.

This info was taken from my Twi book, A Comprehensive Course in Twi (Asante) for the Non-Twi Learner by Florence Abena Dolphyne.

According to my Bradt Guide, the Akan believe the person's soul is linked to the day of the week they were born. I was told by one Ashanti that there are different personality types for each day of the week. He said "Yaw", Thursday born, are strong. I've asked around, but the people I've talked to don't know the personality types for the days.

Also, according to Bradt: Eight days after the child is born, the parents decide on another name to be given, often that of a respected family member. Kwaku Baah was named after his grandfather on his father's side.

Mr. Atta, the father of the household I'm staying at, is named "Atta" because he was a twin. Other spellings are "Ata" or for a female, "Ataa"

Two three year old girls who were twins stopped by over the weekend and did some drawing. Their names were Sefenica and Levina(most people I've met also have an English name). I've met some people with beautiful English names such as: Gifty, Comfort, Patience, Lovejoy.

For boys, the name, Ebenezer, is alive and well in Ghana. I spose Dickens put the kabosh on this name in most other English speaking countries. It's refreshing to ask a little boy his name and he responds, "Ebenezer". Also, Emanuelle is more common here than what I've heard in the States.

Yefre wo sen?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

"The Beautiful Game", Ghana Black Stars, Asanti Kotoko

The U.S. football (soccer) team almost pulled it off on Sunday. They were ahead an unbelievable 2-nil at the half against the mighty Brazil in the FIFA Confederation Championship game!

I started thinking about the extra clout I'd have in the village if the U.S. won(Maybe I'd be invited to some fufu dinners in honor of our victory). But, alas, the Brazilians did what they do best and scored three goals in the second half to defeat the U.S.

It was an amazing run for the U.S. though. They started out losing two matches in a row, then they beat Egypt 3-0, then totally unexpectedly stopped Spain 2-0. Spain was ranked number one in the world I believe with a 35 game winning streak, and in this tournament, they hadn't had any goals scored against them. And then, the U.S. of all teams comes along and humbles them. So, maybe this will increase the popularity of the sport in the U.S. Maybe someday it will rank right up there with baseball, basketball, American football, and ice hockey. I don't know where it ranks now, but I'm sure it's gaining popularity.

I hardly ever watched soccer in the States. I did play soccer for two years in high school. Our coach was a Mankato State University student from Nigeria, Ebbi Clark, who had posters of Jimi Hendrix in his dorm room and taught me the opening chords to Foxy Lady. When I was 16 yrs. old, I spent two weeks in Germany and got to see Bayern Munich play 1860 Ingolstadt at the Olympic Stadium. When there was a goal, beer would rain down on us. Large groups of blue(1860) or red(Bayern)clad young men would gather outside and march together chanting their teams songs or name. Intense.

Football(soccer) is BIG here in Ghana! In fact, it was football that got the inkling going about Ghana as the country to go to. It was 2006, and I stopped into a Greek Cafe in Astoria, Queens for a coffee and baklava. The match between Ghana and the U.S. was on during World Cup. I sat down and watched it. Ghana won 1-0. I remember being really happy for them, enjoying all the dancing and wild red, yellow, and green outfits, and all the flags being waved. It was truly a jubilant experience, and I imagined the whole country celebrating.

The Ghana Black Stars are doing well this spring and summer. They did lose to The Democratic Republic of Congo 2-0 in the final of the Pan African Games, the Chan Tournament in March. These past three months, they shut down Benin, Mali, and Sudan. I was at a spot in Kumasi when they were playing Sudan. It was a huge crowd gathered around the T.V., mostly men with some children. When Ghana scored, the place erupted with everyone standing up and cheering. Ghana won 2-0. Hopefully they'll go far in the World Cup which is being held in South Africa next year.

For the Ashanti's, the team that is the favorite is Ashanti Kotoko. It's also the Asantahene's (Ashanti King's) team. I was told Kotoko is porcupine in Twi and that's their mascot. A couple weeks ago, they beat the Accra Hearts of Oak and the village was shouting and celebrating. In this area, there is also teams such as King Faisal, Kesben FC, and Obuasi has Ashanti Gold.

Originally uploaded by Daniel Kerkhoff

Here are the boys playing a local pick-up game near the house I'm staying at in Adugyama, Ghana. They play here often and have teams of usually 4-6 players on each side. The boys and many Ghanaians are really into European football. England's Chelsea FC is a really popular team because one of the Balck Stars, Michael Essien, plays for them. They also imitate their other favorite players. At the moment, Barcelona's Messi from Argentina is a favorite and so is Kaka from Brazil who I think will be playing for Real Madrid next year. Kwaku Baah, one of the boys at the house I'm at, likes Kaka, so I now call him Kaka Baah. I preferred Liverpool as a team this spring. I think they were the first team I watched play and they did well that game, so I liked them. Also, probably because of the Beatles.

So, I've finally gotten into what the rest of the world has been into for so long. Football (soccer), "The Beautiful Game", all you really need is a ball or something kind of round...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

SaNsA International Artists' Workshop, Kumasi, Ghana, June 2nd - 15th, 2009.

The Asantahene of the Arts
This is Bernard Akoi-Jackson and his installation at the exhibition for The SaNsA International Artists' Workshop. The workshop took place from June 2nd to June 15th, 2009 at the Ghana Cultural Centre in Kumasi. Ten artists from different parts of the world and ten artists from Ghana came together for a two week workshop. In the evenings the artists gave presentations and had discussions in which I was very fortunate to attend a couple.

The artists attending were:
Adwoa Amoah (Ghana) Adwoa also teaches at the Foundation for Contemporary Art in Accra,
Amenyo Dzikunu Bansah (Ghana)
Asokipaala Aberinga (Ghana) Asokipaala is a member of SWOPA (Sirigu Women's Organization for Pottery and Art) located in the village of Sirigu in northern Ghana. I'll be visiting there in July.
Atta Kwami (Ghana) Atta is also an art historian and a professor of art at The Univ. of Kumasi, K.N.U.S.T. He is the main organizer of SaNsA.
Bernard Akoi-Jackson (Ghana) Bernard lives in Accra and teaches at the Nubuke Foundation,
Elias Tiger Oppong (Ghana)
Eugene Ampadu (Ghana)
Emmanuel Adjare (Ghana)
Isumaila Moro (Ghana)
Jennifer Opare Ankrah (Ghana)
Ji Hye Yeom (South Korea)
Jorge Rocha (Portugal)
Goddy Leye (Cameroon) Goddy also runs an art center called Art Bakery in Cameroon.
Umesh Kumar (India)
Li Chuan (China)
Mary Hark (USA) Mary also teaches art at the Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison.
Rasheed Olaniyi Akindiya (Nigeria), Rasheed works with street kids in Accra,
Amara Hark-Weber (USA)
Tooraz Khamenehzadeh (Iran)
Urmila Venugopal (India)

The photo below is of Atta Kwami's work. You can google his name and find more of his work on-line. Atta Kwami shows his work internationally and lives and works in Kumasi.

The workshop was held in a large building at the Cultural Centre. This allowed for artists to really use space. These paintings by Atta were very large.

Here is Jorge Rocha (below)singing some Fado. One of the installations was based on music. Two guitarists played and there was an open microphone. Many students came to the exhibition and often a student would go to the mic and start singing. I heard some wonderful music and often other students would begin to dance, a nice festive occasion. Jorge's art was based on food and would cook daily for the workshop. He would go to the market and would create meals based on Ghana dishes along with specialties from the various regions of all the participants. I was lucky to be able to taste some of his art as well.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Family I'm Staying With, Adugyama, Ghana

Since the beginning of April, I've been staying with a family in Adugyama, Ghana. I was introduced to the Atta family by Andrew Roberts, a former Peace Corps volunteer who lived with them for three years. I'm paying rent for a room and for the hallway area as an informal art center for children. They have been gracious in taking me into their family, teaching me Twi and Ghanaian culture, and helping me get oriented to the village.

Here's a photo of Mr. Atta, Auntie Bea, and their 15 yr. old son, Yaw Bimpe. We had just come back from church. It was Holy Thursday and we were at their Jehovah's Witness church, my first experience in a Jehovah's Witness Church. We sang in Twi and passed the bread and wine and afterwards everyone wanted to shake my head and welcome me. Mr. Atta is a successful farmer who is often working at his cocoa farm some distance away. He comes back every two weeks for a week or so and works on the farm he owns in Adugyama.

Auntie Bea is also very busy working on the farm. She is often bringing back cocoa, plantains, casava, yams or maize. At home, she drys the cocoa, prepares and sells maize, and cooks fufu (the main staple food made of plantains, casava, yams). Every Sunday, I eat fufu in the evening with the family. Fufu's the main staple in the Ashanti Region. It took me awhile to get used to the doughy texture but kakra kakra (little by little). It's usually served with a stew made of peppers, palm oil, and tomatoes.

Mr. Atta and Auntie Bea are often laughing and talking with those who stop by. The family spends a lot of time just enjoying each others' company and people are always stopping in for a chat. Pretty much everyone's speaking in Twi and someone will help me with a translation, usually Yaw Bimpe.

Yaw Bimpe goes to school in Abuakwa, about 25-30 km away on the way to Kumasi. He enjoys soccer and is often playing in the evening in neighborhood matches. He hangs out with his friends a lot and is singing songs he learns on the radio or on T.V. He likes to joke around and reminds me of so many other teenagers I know.

Sarah is going to nurses training school in Kumasi. She comes back to visit occasionally and is outgoing. Ama (in the middle) is close to finishing her high school studies. She attends a boarding school in Kumasi. She said she wants to go into business. She was home for the month of April and helped me with translating Twi which was really nice. She and Yaw Bimpe are really close and entertain each other a lot.

Becky has only been back home a couple of times while I've been here. She's studying geological engineering at K.N.U.S.T, The University of Kumasi. She has one more year left and says she'd like to visit the U.S. maybe in a year or two.

This is a picture of Nana. She has a good sense of humor and as you see in this picture is not camera shy. She's often listening to her radio in the evening. I've gotten into the habit of drinking Chelsea tea and will often share it with her which she appreciates. She reminds me of my own grandmother. She'll sometimes bow down to me as a gesture of respect and then I'll bow down to her a little lower as a gesture of respect until we're both close to the ground and chuckling.

Nana has a room in the adjacent bldg along with Kwaku Baah, her grandson whom she takes care of. Nana is the mother of auntie Bea and Rose. I wrote about Rose and her daughter Sandra in the hairstylist blog. Nana's other sisters stop by and chat and it seems like family of one type or another is always stopping by. Her son also lives in a little house in the back. I see him occasionally. There is also a couple of farm laborers that live in the house. And then of course the goats have a room of their own and in the evening mosey into it or are coralled into it.

This is a picture of Kwaku Baah. He lives in the house with Nana, his grandmother. He likes to draw and has been drawing a lot of houses lately. He also like to play soccer, joke around, and tell stories. Yaw Bimpe and his friends, Kwaku Baah, and I have been going on walks to neighboring villages.

Besides the family I'm staying with in these pictures, there are so many other friends and family that are always stopping by. Just staying at the house seems to me a pretty active experience. I do a lot of my painting in the back now by Nana's room and the kitchen. I have a little space to work and still be a part of all the family happenings.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Filling Stations, Tro-Tros, Chinese in Ghana

This is a filling station, not far from the Cultural Centre in Kumasi. It's an example of many that are popping up. They are very large, containing many stores like a mini-mall. Their glass structures stand out amongst the many concrete buildings. Oil was recently discovered off the coast of Ghana, maybe a year and a half ago it was announced in the news. The government quickly said that they will use the resouces to the benefit of all. This probably due to the troubles in the Nigeria Delta where the riches from oil production are not benefitting most of the people in the region.

This is where I'm typing right now. It's about 30 minutes from the village I live in, Adugyama. Kwame, a friend of Doris's first took me here, and it's the fastest internet cafe I have found in the area. The ones in Kumasi were much slower than here. Kwame and Doris both know the owner of this filling station and I had lunch with him one day. He lived in Germany for many years. He said the new addition (left in the photo) will be a Chinese language school. His wife does international trading and goes to China often.

The Chinese are very active in Ghana. They are doing joint partnerships with Ghana on road construction. On the road I travel on to Kumasi, I see advisors working on its expansion. I also have seen Chinese/advisors on the expansion of the highway north of Accra. There is a book that was making the news here in March called Dead Aid by Dambisa Moyo. She has degrees from Oxford and Harvard. She argues that aid has actually been detrimental to Africa and the business/partnership approach such as what China is doing is a better approach.

At Star Oil, there is also a grocery market, an MTN phone office, and a restuarant. I usually eat Jolof rice(fried rice), chicken, and a salad along with a Star beer.

Originally uploaded by Daniel Kerkhoff

This is a tro-tro. It is the primary way I get around and it's inexpensive. Kwame explained to me that the lowest pesewa is called a tro-tro, basically a penny. And it usually costs pennys to get from place to place, thus the name. The vans I see mostly are Nissan vans. They can get fourteen passengers in, not counting the driver, the "mate" (coin collector), or children.

The "mate" operates the van door, will chant the names of the destinations alerting people on the sides of the road. He often sounds like an auctioneer and it took me awhile to get used to the chanting. Abuakwaabaukwaabuakwa was what I would listen for. Or when I was staying in Kumasi studying batik at the Culture Center, I would listen for Santasisantasisantasi. This was where I went to for the night, my teachers residence.

Hand signals are also used. In Accra, I often would go to Nkrumah Circle, also called Accra Circle, or just Circle. The hand jesture I would look for from the tro-tro would by an index finger pointing down and making a circle. The chant would often be Circcirccirccirc.

When I was staying at Lincoln School and needed to get to Kumasi, the tro-tros would be going to Kejetia Market. The hand signal used would be an index finger pointing upwards and jabbing upwards.

If a tro-tro is not full, the driver would beep his horn and he or his mate will make a hand gesture with the hand open and upward going in a twisting manner, saying which way you heading? I often mouth the name of the city and they would stop. If it's the next place coming up, I will often make a gesture pointing downward and that's sufficient.

Originally uploaded by Daniel Kerkhoff

I've had to wait a long time for a tro-tro and sometimes it gets competetive getting into one. In some cases, I'll opt for a taxi. A shared taxi is cheaper and fills with usually four other people. A drop taxi is one you take by yourself and I've hardly taken that one. Oftentimes I might wait inside of a parked tro-tro until it gets filled up. I've only had to wait 20 minutes or so, but I've heard it can be hours in some remoter places.

I like the tro-tros. It's not the safest way to get around, but when you're packed in with so many other people, there can be a community experience, an intimacy. Some of my favorite moments in Ghana have been looking out the windows of a tro-tro at the beautiful, lush countryside--trees, plantains, fields of green, maize, and rocky hills. When there's some nice African music, it doesn't get any better. Oftentimes, there's talk radio in Twi. It sounds similar to talk radio in the States, often very loud and constant.

Friday, April 17th: From Adugyama to Kumasi. This morning there were 4 goats stuffed into the back end. I was near the back and one of the passengers was complaining about the goats nipping them or hoofing them in the heels. The owner who looked like he came from the north because he had on a moslem like scarf gently moved to the back so that a woman complaining could be further from the goats.

Between Accra and Kumasi, I've taken the government buses called STC and also the O&A buses. They're similar to Greyhound. A 5-6 hour trip between Kumasi and Accra costs 10 cedis on STC buses and 9 cedis on O&A buses. They show movies during the trip, usually Nigerian movies because they're in English and are entertaining. I watched one that was about a father an son, called Ibu and his son. The father is a mechanic and his son is usually getting into all sorts of trouble. They make for a comical pair. I watched a horror movie based on African witchcraft about a young woman defying her father and going to a party. A demon comes and haunts them and kills them off one by one. There was another movie where a woman is tired of the way men can marry more than one woman. She ends up courting three men and gets three marriage proposals from them. In the end, they find out what she's up to and play a trick on her.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ghana Money, Perspectives on Ghana, Cell Phones, Misc.

The cedi is the main currency of Ghana. I've been mainly using the one, five, and ten cedi notes. One dollar is equivalent to about 1.35 cedis. Only about a year ago, I believe, the cedi and the dollar were fairly equivalent. In the past few months, there has been inflation which has many people concerned.

The pesewas are the coins used. The ones in the picture from top to bottom are 5, 10, 20, and 50 pesewas. There are signs around Kumasi encouraging people to use coins. The coins were not too long ago meaningless until the new cedi notes were introduced.

The notes used to be in the thousands before the new system was introduced. One cedi was equivalent to 10,000 cedis before the change. 10 pesewas was 1,000 cedis. People often prefer will use the older system when asked about prices.

Perspectives on Ghana and Africa in General:

People often have certain ideas of Africa that are often overly simplistic from what the west is given in the media. I've talked to Ghanaians who tell me that the west only reports about the negative aspects of Africa and lump the whole continent together as if it was one country. When people asked me why I was going to Ghana, one of the reasons I gave was because my own ignorance was intolerable. I didn't want to just believe what I read in the papers. I wanted my own experience.

Ghanaians who travel overseas hear all sorts of crazy stories from Europeans and Americans who believe that they still live in trees or are all in little thatched roofed houses. They can't believe that Ghanaians would even want to return to their own country. This is what I've heard several times from Ghanaians.

Although there are certainly major problems in Ghana, it is considered one of the model countries on the continent for its stability, democracy, and economic growth. I have read that Uganda and Botswana are the other two model countries. Many people here in Ghana are thriving in business, building big houses, driving BMWs, Mercedes, Toyota SUVs, and all sorts of models associated in the west with wealth and financial status. Some Ghanaians I have talked to wish the west were more aware of these aspects as well.

Unfortunately, I am not that interested in taking photos and writing about nice cars, successful businesses, big houses, and other affluences and modern developments. I'm staying in a little village where they don't have as much financially. They are mainly a tight knit farming community who have some modern conveniences but also live traditionally.

I'm interested in witnessing how traditions combine, coexist, or get deferred to what is considered modern. I'll be mainly writing about these things and the people that I live with and meet.

That being said, I'll probably devote a couple blogs to modern developments and the increased affluence that is happening here in Ghana. Cell phones are everywhere now. Many people have maybe two cell phones, each from a different company. Those that don't have a phone, can go to a little kiosk, often a wooden box with an umbrella and pay to use the attendants phone. Kiosks and phone shops are everywhere The main phone companies are: MTN, Zain, Tigo, Kasapa, and Vodaphone.

Vodaphone, the recent merger of Ghana One Touch and Ghana Telecom, has done a big media blitz. Their color is red. Many buildings around Kumasi have been recently painted in a gloss red with the white Vodaphone symbol. Zain has T.V. commercials showing young people dancing and singing. One of their pitches is: Zain, your world of freedom...

My favorite T.V. commercial if from the cell phone company, Kasapa. It shows an older couple in their living room. It's late at night. The man is wearing a muscle shirt sitting on the couch watching T.V. The woman is in her night gown and wearing curlers. She is heavy set.

Her cell phone rings, she answers and begins a lively conversation. While talking, she walks back and forth blocking the T.V. Her husband gets irriated that she's blocking his view. Finally, she sits down and says goodbye to the caller. Her husband, exasperated, says something like, "Who was that? You were talking for two hours." She says, "Ahhhh, it was the wrong number."

Kasapa was advertizing reduced rates in the evening and night time. I bought one of the cheapest phones I could get for 30 cedis. The company I'm using is Tigo. I buy little cards of time that I punch into my phone.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Hair Stylists: Sandra and Her Mother, Rose

This is Sandra doing a really cool hair style for her friend using little sticks placed in her friend's hair. Sandra is five yrs. old. She spent a lot of time and was very focused on creating this really interesting hair fashion. I'd like to see this catch on and be seen on the streets of New York. An expansion of the two chopsticks style.

Sandra lives at the same place I do and is often drawing with me or hanging out and playing. She has many friends in the neighborhood. I see them playing hand games and 'kitchen' with tin cans and dirt and water. Her and her friends have all sorts of games they devise. They're often dancing and singing songs as well. Sandra's mother, Rose, runs a successful hair salon in town right on the Sunyani Rd.

Here is a top view of the hair style by Sandra.

This is Rose, Sandra's mother. She is Auntie Bea's sister and lives in the place that I'm at where there are two houses right next to each other. Here she is having fun posing for a photo in her hair salon.

She's usually very busy in her salon coloring hair, adding extensions and wigs, and doing various types of hair cuts. She has a couple of assistants as well who are learning from her.

Rose taught me how to hand wash my clothes properly and will occasionally cook me local Ghanaian dishes. I also have difficulties with my back on occasion and she teaches me different exercises and stretches.

Here is the view of her hair salon on the Sunyani Rd., the main highway between the cities of Kumasi and Sunyani.

A fashion note or cultural note: I noticed girls wearing two or three rows of beads around their waist, a belt of beads. I was told girls wear these beads because it will help them have wider hips and a larger bottom. Girls wear them up to ten yrs. of age or even older.

Another fashion note: I watched on the news that in Burkino Faso, the country north of Ghana the latest fashion trend is to create very dark, pronounced eyebrows using eyeliner. They showed all sorts of very long and interesting shaped dark lines on the eyebrows of women in Burkino Faso.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Children's Art from Adugyama, Ghana

I have fulfilled my mission. I came into the world with song. No one can sing with my voice. But I have nothing, neither children nor wealth. My reward is beyond, and here in the words I leave with you the youth. My songs are gifts from the creator himself.

--Hesino Akpalu, Ewe Poet from Guardians of the Sacred Word (New York: Nok 1974 Ed. Kofi Awoonor.

I was working outside and Papa Yaw Opare stopped by. He was watching me for awhile. Then, I gave him some paper and a ballpoint pen. He did some drawings and then he started writing. Below is what he wrote.

What Papa Yaw Opare wrote:

Narrated by Papa Yaw Opare
My Self

My Name is Papa Yaw OPare. I at the age of elevn years old (11) My mothers name is cinthia Asamoah and my fathers name is Kofi otu.

I attend school at hope international school. I am in class five (5). I come from Akwapim Manfi but I stay at Adugyama. I am Chocolate in complexion.

This is the table I've been working at. Children stop by and I will give them paper, a pen, or colored pencils, and then they draw with me. I also have books that they will read.

For two weeks I was working mostly at this table. Lately, I've been going outside to draw and paint. Maybe one or two students will drop by and I will give them some supplies to work with.

If some students are at the table, I'll give them supplies as well and stop by and see what they are doing. This past week, I started painting with dirt and charcoal, so that has been keeping me busy outide.

It's great for the students to see. I tell them it's Adugyama Paint, very affordable. They look inside my little tin can and see dirt. I show them all the different tones I can make by adding water or using dry brush.

This drawing by Yaw Bimpe is based on one of my drawings. He came up with the idea of using Adinkra symbols in his drawing. In this one, there are two. Then, he took some of my elements and created a new composition.

The age of the children drawing range between 3 and 19 yrs. old. A few adults have also drawn with us. I'll be gradually posting more photos to my flickr page, so you can see more there.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Batik, Ghana Cultural Centre, Ghana

Originally uploaded by Daniel Kerkhoff

This is the Batik Workshop at the Center for National Cutlure in Kumasi.

For the past month, I've been studying Batik every Tuesday and Wednesday at the Center for National Culture in Kumasi. My teacher is David Anokye (pron. a-NO-chay). I was studying with University of Kumasi (K.N.U.S.T) students who were getting a degree in Rural Arts. They were studying various traditional arts and were at the Centre for a couple of months.

There are also a couple students who were doing national service. Students who go to a government school spend a year of service. The government then assists them with school funding. Some students go into the military or work in hospitals. These students were studying tradional arts.

The Batik at the Center for National Culture uses cotton as their main fabric. It is usually cut in yard lengths. Wax is applied to resist the dyes. Where the wax is applied, the color of the fabric will remain the same. The first wax applied to a white piece of cotton will maintain the white color of the cotton where ever the wax is.

Foam sponges, brushes, and wooden stamps are used to apply the hot wax. The wax needs to be hot in order to adhere to the fabric and also dissolve into it and through it. We use a charcoal burner to heat the wax.

Applying hot wax
Originally uploaded by Daniel Kerkhoff

My teacher, David Anokye, using a cut piece of foam sponge to apply lines of hot wax to the cotton fabric.

The wooden stamps are mainly Adinkra symbols. There are sixty symbols on the chart that I am using. These Adinkra symbols in Ghana are used to represent a moral, a teaching, or something related to a cultural trait. The ladder symbol called Owuo Atwedie Baako Nto (obiara bewu) means "All men shall climb the ladder of death." The heart shaped symbol called "Akoma" means, "Have patience." You can learn more about them at the website:

These symbols are seen all over the places I've been in Ghana. They are used on packaging, on clothing, on walls of houses and businesses, and many other places.

After the initial wax is applied, then the fabric is folded and places into a plastic bucket of dye. The dying process usually goes from light colors to dark. At the Centre, we have been applying three different colors of dye.

The fabric is kept in the bucket of dye for about 10 minutes turning it every 4 minutes or so. Then, it is layed out to dry. After it is dry, then wax can be applied to the design where you want the first color to remain.

After all dying is complete, the fabric is placed in very hot water to remove the wax. Then, it is placed in cold water and layed out to dry.

Tie and dye is also another Batik technique. I've seen strings, plastic bags, and rocks used to creat different effects

tie and dye
Originally uploaded by Daniel Kerkhoff

Here is an example of tie and dye. The fabric is folder and only the edges are placed in the dye.

Besides batik, the center also has programs in weaving, pottery, wicker, wood carving, and drumming and dancing. They have painters and crafts people also selling their work, and there are many giftshops.