AKWAABA: Weaving Unity Between Ghana and Staten Island

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COAHSI presents an exhibit and demonstrations of Kente Cloth weaving, a strong cultural tradition for the people of Bonwire, Ghana. Kente Cloth weaving is a tradition that is carried down by the men in the society, and they take great pride in continuing their traditions. Three men who moved from Ghana to Staten Island will educate the public on their tradition, with the help of COAHSI's folklorist. The men will weave the Kente Cloth on a loom that will be built by a local carpenter on Staten Island.

Traditional Kente Cloth Weaving

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The Council on the Arts & Humanities for Staten Island and the SI Immigrant Council, present AKWAABA: Weaving Unity between Bonwire and Staten Island, an exhibit at the Newhouse Gallery which will open on November 6, 2010. Opening reception starts at 3pm, and will feature a DJ from Ghana living on Staten Island. The Newhouse Gallery is located on the grounds of Snug Harbor, 1000 Richmond Terrace.

Akwaaba will serve as an exhibition and presentation of indigenous Kente cloth, and the art of weaving on a traditional loom that will be built in Staten Island. This project will introduce the greater Staten Island community to the history, origin, and cultural significance of this beautiful tradition that dates back to the 1600’s. The story of how this tradition has been carried down through the generations will be told by a family of tradition bearers that are currently residing on Staten Island but originate from Bonwire, Ghana—the birthplace of the Kente cloth industry. Bonwire is to Kente cloth as steel is to Pittsburgh. This project will feature a traditional loom built by local carpenter, David Riccardi, from Staten Island, in collaboration with the tradition bearers from Bonwire, Ghana.

“Akwaaba,” which means “Welcome” was organized by Samuel Owusu-Sekyere, Staten Island Immigrant Council and Christopher J. Mulé, Folklorist. The tradition bearers from Bonwire, Ghana are Anthony Oti Kegya, Francis Marfo, and Nana Adu-Bofour. These men are from the same family and originate from the Ashanti region of Ghana which is the birthplace of the Kente cloth tradition. Traditionally, in the town they grew up, boys are introduced to the industry of Kente weaving at the age of six years old. In 2005, Samuel Owusu-Sekyere, a member and leader in the Ghanaian civic association and Staten Island Immigrant council, coordinated with the brothers to participate in cultural events on Staten Island, encouraging them to reconnect with their cultural heritage.

The Kente Cloth, the family of weavers from Bonwire, and the traditional loom built on Staten Island have been regular participants at Wagner College’s “Celebrate Diversity” event, and this year at the Black History month celebration at Mt. Carmel Catholic School. However, because little is known of its meaning, cultural significance, and artistic creativity, it is important for this project to shed more light on this unique living tradition from the perspective of the tradition bearers themselves as an educational venture.

The exhibit combines photographs, video, textiles and a newly constructed Kente Cloth Loom. A more lengthy public program on November 20, 2010 will feature an interpretive talk about Kente cloth weaving by the family of tradition bearers from Bonwire and Samuel Owusu-Sekyere; a live demonstration of Kente cloth weaving on a loom on specific days in December; an exhibit of various Kente cloth designs with information about the meaning, and an overview and conversation with the Staten Island loom builder, David Riccardi. A program with contextual information will accompany the presentation and exhibition.

The Kente Cloth Weaving exhibit and demonstration will be done by Anthony Oti Kegya, Francis Marfo, Nana Adu-Bofour, and Samuel Owusu-Sekyere. Their program was made possible by a JPMorgan Chase Arts in Our Communities regrant from the Council on the Arts & Humanities for Staten Island (COAHSI).

About COAHSI:
The mission of COAHSI is to cultivate a sustainable and diverse cultural community for the people of Staten Island by: 1) making the arts accessible to every member of the community; 2) supporting and building recognition for artistic achievement; 3) providing artists and organizations technical, financial, and social resources to encourage the creation of new work. COAHSI does extensive outreach to communities that are underserved geographically, ethnically, and economically. The organization works hard to impact the arts across all borders. (COAHSI Website)

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Christopher Mulé

(718) 447-3329x1006
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Racquel Cornali

(718)447-3329x1003
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