Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Bolga Beginings

After various long travels, three days of training and a two and a half hour bus journey, the International Service TradeAID team made it to Bolgatanga – our home sweet home for the next 10 weeks. Following a relaxing (!) weekend of meeting out host familie, we were in the office and raring to go.
By our second day of work, Team Bolga was straight out to visit the three basket-weaving communities we will be working with this cohort. TradeAID doesn’t mess around!

Team MakeFuFuNotWar living it up on the way to Zaare

The first stop of the day was the community of Zaare. The basket weavers of Zaare gave us a warm welcome, and were happy to show us their work. The baskets created by these women are beautifully bright, cleverly designed and – of course – hand made. The weavers make creating the baskets look easy- however this is far from the truth. The process is in fact very complex and intricate: for each basket the straws must be rolled and dampened with water before they are ready to be weaved. For coloured baskets, the straws must also be dyed before this process takes place, and overall each basket can take approximately 3-4 days – sometimes even a week- of a basket weaver’s time.  However, these talented woman enjoy their work, and like being able to showcase and make a living from their craft.

The Basket Weaving Group of Zaare, showing us how it's done

Back in the car, we were now on our seriously bumpy way to the community of Zorkor, which was definitely an ...interesting experience for the more motion sensitive members of the team (myself included). When in Zorkor the weavers had many examples of their finished products for us to look at, resulting in a short catwalk display by our volunteer Derrick – Tyra Banks ain’t got nothing on him. Although all the communities we are working with during this cohort are primarily basket-weaving collectives, the baskets are not the same. Each community has a unique style – which varies the sizes, shapes and colours of the baskets they make, and highlights their distinct creativity and skill.

The Zorkor community were far from camera shy!

The last stop of our day was the community of Sumbrungo. While visiting these communities, we talked to them about what we are planning to do over our time here. Our cohort is lucky enough to be participating in the organisation and delivery of the Bolgatanga International Crafts and Arts Fair, more commonly known as BICAF.
BICAF is a craft fair, intended to support, showcase & promote the beautiful workmanship of highly skilled artisans in and around Bolgatanga. It was founded by TradeAID in 2013 with the aim to eradicate poverty through the creation of sustainable business, helping to generate more employment and wealth across the region. By attending the fair, craftspeople can secure orders, network internationally, increase tourism and also educate them on fair trade practice.

We used our community introduction as an opportunity to discuss BICAF with the basket-weaving collectives. All three communities had mentioned to previous volunteers that they wanted support with finding buyers, so we felt it was important to inform these artisans of BICAF and encourage them to register.

The issue with this however is the language barrier. The communities we visited all speak the regional dialect of Fra Fra, and despite our best efforts we hadn’t quite managed become fluent in the 2 days we had been there (stay tuned for progress). 

Lucky for us we had assistance from a previous ICS TradeAID volunteer Zack, and our own very talented Simon, who translated what we were saying, and helped us avoid any miscommunication.  The communities did not hesitate to share their questions or reservations with us, however by the end of our discussion they were feeling positive about registering and taking part. It was a fantastic day, and I think it is safe to say we are all very exciting to continue working together!

Finally, it was time to head back to the office. After a short delay for some photo opps, and to rescue the family of chicks that had made themselves a home behind the tyre of our car, we waved goodbye to the Sumbrungo community and went on our way. It had been a fun but tiring day, so when we got back the team headed to one of our host home for milk and biscuits! Perfect end to a great day in Bolgatanga! 

That's a wrap
Written by Emma Caldwell 
Edited by Hugh Cruickshank and Eunice Blankson

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