Saturday, October 27, 2007
‘TRADE BEADS FROM VENICE TO THE GOLD COAST’
By: STEPHEN K. EFFAH
AN exhibition dedicated to the art and story of trade beads from Venice to the then Gold Coast has opened at the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park in Accra.
The three-month long beads exhibition themed: “Trade Beads: From Venice to the Gold Coast”, has been organized by the Italian Embassy in Accra as part of activities to mark the “Week of the Italian Language in the World’.
Opening it, Professor Christopher Ameyaw-Akumfi, Minister of Habours, Ports and Railways, called for the revival of the cultural linkage between Ghana and Italy through the creation of beads week in the two countries.
That, he explained would market the beads of the two countries, and create employment for bead producers, especially those in the rural areas and alleviate poverty in those areas.
He also proposed an exchange programme between bead producers in the two countries to create a platform for exchange of ideas to benefit all.
Prof. Ameyaw-Akumfi who represented the Minister of Culture and Chieftaincy, noted that Ghanaian beads are being used all over the world as tourists come to Ghana to visit villages where beads are produced.
“Ghana would highly appreciate it if a joint Museum of Ghana and Italian beads could be established in Ghana to further preserve and promote the beads culture of both countries”, he said, assuring of the Ministry of Culture and Chieftaincy’s support.
He said beads are some of the cultural objects through which a people’s culture can be developed, promoted and preserved, noting that they have assumed deep symbolic values for many diverse ethnic groups and become part of daily lives.
“Girls wear garter and neck beads to shape their legs and their necks. During puberty rites beads are largely worn by girls to enhance their beauty when they were are outdoored”, he said adding “the kind of beads a woman wears around her waist signifies her character”.
He said one John Barbot who visited the then Gold Coast in 1704 described glass bead making in Ghana as “a sort of false gold grown commonly among blacks.
“While dry powder-glass bead-making is known to have gone on in Nigeria and among the Ewe of far Eastern Ghana Togo and Benin, most bead-making today is found among Ashante of Central and Northern Ghana and the Krobo of South Eastern Ghana”.
Prof. Ameyaw-Akumfi said Ghanaians make clay beads and have precious beads some of which are named “Abusua Kruwoa”, “Nyoli”, and “Nyankonton”.
The Italian Ambassador, Mr. Fabrizio De Agostini, said the idea of the exhibition arose from the common passion for “those beautiful small glass masterpieces”, shared by a group of collectors and found in Italy and Ghana.
He said the Venetian glass beads are spread throughout the world but no other continent part from Africa has revealed such a widespread and imaginative use of these small coloured objects, the essential components of traditional ornament.
Although the 17th Century Venetian techniques were perfected in Central Europe, Venice maintained, at least, up until the middle of the 20th Century, a central role in the production of glass beads. Models such as “millefiori” and “rosetta” beads were realized in Africa which became famous and greatly admired.
“The artisans who produced these small works of the Gold Coast who made these small works of art for centuries and the women and men of the Gold coast who made these objects their own with a symbolic intensity is surprising even today”, Mr. Agostini said.
“We found that the relationship established between Venice and the Gold Coast was worth studying and illustrating to the public”, he pointed out, adding “it is interesting to note that Venice never sold its beads directly to the final consumer but always through European trading companies” in the 15th Century”.
In Africa, he said beads became part of the traditional culture and acquired their symbolic meaning. He said local artisans produced beads initiating the original models making use of different techniques.
He indicated that common language of beauty and art is the force that strengthen the relations between the people of Ghana and Italy.
The exhibition will close on January 24, next year.
The Ghanaian - Saturday, October 27, 2007 Page: 11