WHEN OUR grandmothers and grandfathers started weaving the basket, it wasn’t originally meant to be used for fashion or commercial purposes but to sieve pitoo…”
These are the words of Mr Raymond Adongo, a traditional basket weaver who hails from the ‘home’ of basketry, Zaare, Bolgantanga in the Upper East Region, and conducts business at Osu, Accra.
Adongo said nowadays the basket has multiple uses, most dominant among them being its use as a handbag, a hat, a jewellery box or a carrier bag.
“If only the ladies knew their basket handbag was originally a distillery device,” he said it humorously.
According to Mr Adongo, basketry is a craft that has been with the people of Zaare way before their interaction with other people.
He explained to the DAILY HERITAGE how the basket transitioned from a pitoo siever to a multi-purpose item.
“One day when our folks were going about their normal distillery processes, a white couple riding a horse stopped by to request for a sieve they were discarding. It is believed that it was given to them without hesitation and the white people offered to pay for it but the people declined the payment.
“The couple insisted and they took the money. This was the first time payment was ever made for a basket, albeit even a discarded one.
“This prompted our people to wonder what could be the other uses of the basket. As time went by and our people began to interact with others ideas to diversify the single use of the basket emerged, hence the multiple uses today, ” Mr Adongo said.
Pride of the North
He said he could not remember when he started weaving, primarily because the craft is a family business into which he was born.
He mentioned that this craft is the heritage of the people of Upper East Region over a long period of time, and that it is due to this that some non-governmental organisations (NGO) have helped the art grow by aiding its commercialization and in training the weavers.
“Currently when you go to my village most of the youth have found something positive to do with their lives because of the training given them by these NGOs, and basketry has been a major cure for the rampant rural-urban migration,” Adongo said.
Raymond, as he is affectionately referred to by his clients, said currently there are not enough basket weavers in the capital despite the growing awareness of the craft.
He charged the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry to pay extra attention to the lesser known arts to make them attractive to the youth to reduce unemployment.