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Splendour of Traditional Art - By Prof. J.K. Anquandahpdf print preview send to friend
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When twelve strips long were sewn together, it became a pantjes or sash. One strip might be white, the other one blue, or sometimes there were red ones among them. King Opoku Ware bought silk taffeta and materials of all colours. The artists unraveled them so that they obtained large quantities of silk threads which they mixed with their cotton and got many colours.

Ghana is noted for three historic textiles first, the stamp-decorated cloth called Adinkra; secondly, the appliqu picturesque Cloth of the Great, known as Akunitan, and thirdly Kente. Ghana is world famous for its strip-weaving textile, Kente.

This entails the use of narrow horizontal double-heddle looms for the manufacture of long narrow lengths of cloths which can then be joined edge to edge to produce a large square or rectangular cover cloth. Strip-woven textile is also produced in Togo, Sierra Leone and among the Nufawa, Yoruba and Jukun in Nigeria.
But Asante and Eweland are regarded as the Cradle of Kente and their craftsmen as the peerless masters of the craft.

Ghanas kente evolved in stages:

Stage 1: 15th-16th century BANKUO Blue and white strip cotton cloth.
Stage 2: 17th century Cotton enriched with imported silk yarn inlays.
Stage 3: 18th century BABADUA simple silk cloth with colour inlays.
Stage 4: 19th century ASASIA All silk complex patterned Twill Weave

In Asante the future of the cotton and lesser silk cloths known as Ntama (the favourite of the lower and middle class population), is apparently guaranteed. On the other hand, the Asasia which is commissioned by the Asantehene and produced by the Bonwire artists with complex artistic motifs has become an endangered species.

History Professor, Alistair Lamb wrote in 1972:

It is a tragic fact that the one remaining weaver alive in Bonwire at this time who remembers the Asasia patterns is no longer capable of weaving them. A proper full-size Asasia cloth, it is said, has not been woven since before World War II even though the Asantehene Prempeh II who came to the throne in 1931 used to take considerable personal interest in cloth and even made up his own designs for Bonwire weavers to execute.

Authentic Ghanaian visual art also finds expression in the media of gold, silver and brass. Ghana is noted for its expertise in cire-perdue or lost wax casting in the media of gold, silver and brass.

For some 500 years, Portuguese Dutch and English traders imported brass wares into the Gold Coast in exchange for gold and slaves.

Local smiths melted the brass for the production of treasure vessels called Kuduo, Forowa, vessels for storage of shea nut oil and ointment and weights for weighing gold dust.

Cire-perdue casting entailed depicting a great variety of images, many of them representing local proverbs. It is estimated that the Akan manufactured some three million brass weights for the gold trade in the period 1400-1900.

The Akan also exploited their vast deposits of natural gold for the production of artistic works such as Royal sword ornaments (abosodee) and beads.

Similarly metal casters in Northern Ghana have a tradition of production of silver works of art while the Ga-Dangme ARE known for production of gold figurative ornaments.

Although Ghanaian metal smiths continue the historic tradition today unabated for the tourist market and for local consumption, the quality of cast art works is a very pale shadow of the elegant figures produced by the ancestral smiths of past centuries

Ghana is immensely blessed in diverse forms of tropical wood which haVE been exploited for the production of furniture for building and for the production of art works such as stools (asesedwa) drums (atumpane) and linguist staffs (Akyeame poma). The art works depict images or figures that serve to communicate totemic didactic and philosophical ideas.

Ghanaian art attains its climax and magnificent splendour in what is known in art history as the art of festival. over the past 100 years, Ghanaian festival art has come under the searchlight of anthropologists and art historians, and a variety of Ghanaian traditional festivals have been examined in detail, in Kumasi, Akropong-Akwapem, Peki, Elmina, Cape Coast, Accra, Winneba, Axim, Dagomba etc.

THE first Odwira celebration which received international coverage and worldwide publicity was the 1817 Odwira held in Kumasi and attended by Thomas Bowdich and the British Mission to Asante.

The Mission was immensely impressed by the splendid royal durbar, orchestral music, singing, dancing and display which he described as truly magnificent.

The typical Ghanaian festival has been described as a total work of art, at once subtle and complicated. It has a structure with component parts including visual aspects, verbal and performance aspects, all of which are unified and orchestrated into a harmonious celebration.
For most Ghanaian ethnic groups, a festival is not merely a holiday for celebration and entertainment, It is also a holyday involving religious observances and rituals designed to honour deities and ancestors and also to renew and rededicate the living.

A good example of Ghana festival art is seen in the Odwira, a five-day event celebration once a year at Akropong-Akwapem. This Odwira involves 14 distinct ceremonies, some of which occur simultaneously.

The work of art exhibited for local and foreign observers to appreciate and enjoy includes:

Firstly, the elegant and ornate arrangement/patterning of different socio-economic classes of Akwapem citizens both during processions and when seated at the durbar grounds. The hierarchical patterning depicts royals, linguists, elders, priests, warriors, executioners, members of different voluntary associations and musical bands.

Secondly, there is evidence of striking body art such as the profuse rich kente and gold ornaments of the royals, the cultural shaving of male heads, the impressive array of female hairstyles and the stamped/painted decorative motifs on female bodies.

Thirdly, the variety of REGALIA, such as sculptured stools, linguists staffs, gold ornamented swords, the hierarchy of double and single royal umbrellas, carved drums, ivory horns, etc, and finally the verbal kinetic and musical arts such as speeches, gestures prayers, drummed proverbs, royal eulogia praise songs, recitations, dances, funeral dirges and lyrics.

For several centuries, among different Akan societies in Ghana, it was customary for all royal and nobility while they were alive to commission skilled female artists to manufacture facsimile terra cotta or baked clay personal portrait sculptures called Nsodia and Abusua kuruwa. These portraits were used to celebrate the funerary ceremonies of these important personalities when they died.

These terra cotta funerary art works caught the attention of European trade, military and administrative officials who resided along the Gold Coast in the 17th to 19th centuries. They documented the production, use and religious/cultural significance of the Nsodia in past centuries.

Today, the production of Nsodia has declined due to the prevalence of Christianity and Islam and is now limited to only a few royal houses as a cryptic practice in private.

On the other hand, Europeans have always regarded such terra cotta images very highly as belonging to a class of Fine Art, and even today they are much sought-after by Western public and private museums.
Among certain ethnic groups in Northern Ghana such as the Bulsa, Koma, Sissala and Mamprusi, the practice prevailed for several centuries of producing terra cotta fine art that was used for funeral ceremonies of both royals and commoners.

One art connoisseur, Herve Detavernier, recently paid tribute to the historic terra cotta art of the Bulsa/Koma:

We may reservedly celebrate the discovery of a new unique aesthetic current characterized by the exquisite portrayal in the clay medium of a complex of geometrical forms and motifs-cones, pyramids, cuboids, triangles and circles in a way unparalleled in any other culture or civilization in West Africa.

Here, we find the artists style of simplicity placed at the service of an astonishing power of expression to facilitate continuous creation of the strange and the unusual.Lancienne civilization du Komaland est la dernier decourverte archeologique dimportance en Afrique de louest.

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