Sunday, November 13, 2011

Day 1289 - Kpong and Odumase-Krobo

Pronounced like this.

After Shai Hills, we pressed on north toward Kpong.  I'd read about a traditional bead factory, Cedi Beads, up near there.  Again, we had some trouble finding it.  We took the road north from there, and it looked on my map as if we needed to hang a left at the Somanya junction and head up through Odumase-Krobo (spoiler: I was right).  But the Somanya road looked a little rough, so George hopped out to ask directions, and we were sent back up the main road.  I shrugged - the maps in the guide have been wrong before (especially in Congo!).

Where we ended up was at the "annex," which was nice but just a place to buy beads, not where we could see them made.  Fortunately, the man running the annex was able to give us better directions to the factory itself - we had to loop up through Kpong and then back through Odumase-Krobo, which is where the factory was - back to where we would have come up from the south had we taken the Somanya road. He also gave us a number so that we could call ahead and ask Cedi himself if it was OK for us to come and look around.

Odumase-Krobo itself was a bit of a trip.  The entire place was like one big market that ran for miles, and going was slow.  There was a sort of astroturf street party at one point with shirtless guys dancing on a flatbed and handing out free samples of some sort of new bitters (didn't catch the brand, sorry).  And every chop bar was blasting window-rattling music.

Ruth slept the whole way.

We did eventually find the factory, down a side road that we again worried would rip out George's undercarriage.

When we got there, Cedi apologized that it wasn't really in full swing.  As it turns out, this was related to the craziness in Odumase-Krobo.  We had unknowingly arrived at the beginning of the Nymayem festival, originally a millet-planting (I think planting) festival, where people would travel up to the ancestral home of the Krobo people, mount Krobo, and otherwise party for a week (we were sorry to have missed it, but it may have been just as well!  Chieftancy disputes are no joke here, folks.)

Despite everyone else at the factory being off at the festival (and us feeling a little guilty, but he assured us that he was there anyway), and hence the kilns not running, Cedi was happy to show us around and walk us through some of the beadmaking.  It was actually quite fascinating - the Krobo are one of the originators of the tradition of bead-making in Ghana, and widely considered the best (the archaeological museum here on campus has a ton of displays on Krobo beadmaking).  At Cedi's, they do a few kinds - the cheapest and simplest ones are ones made by breaking up and fusing glass bottles (beer bottles for green, Coke bottles for a sort of faintly blue-white, etc.).  Everything else requires the work-safety-defying process of grinding up glass (usually clear bottles, like from soda) into powder in a mortar and pestle and then adding pigments.  They use the powder both to create straightforward beads in colors you can't find bottles in (e.g., red) and to make more complicated ones that involve painting designs on the outside with a slurry of glass dust and water (then re-firing) or building a pattern up from glass dust (Cedi made it look easy, but oh my).  They also reclaim broken ancient beads by putting the shards into a form and re-firing them, fusing them into multicolored ones.

I was listening in interest (and wrangling Ruth, who was fascinated), so I only got the one photo of the demo work table, after he was done:

The kilns themselves are traditionally made from the clay from termite mounds - apparently the termites secrete a saliva that makes it more heat resistant.  But, in the olden days, they would still only last a few months of heavy use before the bottoms and sides where the heat was most intense would start to break down.  So the new thing is to use car parts to strengthen them - the floors of most of the kilns were made from leaf springs (my dad has photos).

And, of course, we bought some beads - I got a strand of small purple ones and black and yellow painted ones for Melissa (and a surprise for Channukha, of course).  Ruth got some yellow ones for herself (and a larger star-shaped one), and we got a bunch of beads for Ruth's class (I hope - Melissa is checking with the teachers) to string into bracelets.

Then, everyone was exhausted, so we came home.  I did not make George stop the car so I could try grasscutter at the place advertising it.

1 comment:

Ed Levine said...

Thanks for your detail accounts with info. links. I will also be posting Ghana photos in the next few days.