Even at breakfast you could feel it was going to be a scorcher. We were going the farthest north we would go today. Up to Sirigu which is famous for its pottery, baskets and the beautiful symbolic paintings with which they decorated their adobe houses with.
The road there was hard packed very bumpy earth. And the countryside has a very stark beauty. Dotted here and there are small compounds of adobe huts and rounded walls. Since the clay used to make these rounded buildings was from the surrounding countryside the scene was almost monochramatic. Golden straw, sand yellow broken by the green of trees.. It was so beautiful … When i first came to Ghana there was an almost disappointment in that the countryside was not what i had expected in some way … and here, to me, was the Africa i had dreamt of. All sky and warm rusty colours and the air thick and soft… In order to get a physical feel of the place we got out and walked for awhile … I was so moved. There is a purity here that is untouched and unspoiled. The feeling that this has been here for hundreds of years .. Everyone i met their face broke open into a smile when i smiled and waved. You could see a few had been marred by the western tourist as they said ‘money, money’ indicating i could take their photo. Here i would only take pictures of the countryside and just enjoyed the people …
We finally reached Sirugu where there is a successful organization called SWOPA, Sirugu’s Womens Organization for Pottery and Art (http://www.swopa.org/). Here Samson, our guide gave us a wonderful tour of one of the compounds we had seen dotting the countryside. Here we were encouraged to take photographs as it was part of the experience. He told us how these compounds with walls had been built during the slave trading years for protection. The front small courtyard was for the animals and there were little nooks and crannies made right in the adobe walls for the chickens to go in and lay their eggs. There were also two round small towers or silos where the grain was stored. Then the family would live in the main bigger compound. The dwellings were round adobes with very low doors into which you had to crawl. Just inside this door was another wall behind which someone sat with a bigger hammer to knock off the head of any enemy that dared poke their head in!! We were invited into the bigger of three rooms and it was surprisingly airy and cool. This was the room where they ground their grain and cooked. There was a connecting door to another room where they could sleep that had no other connection to the outside. There were ‘windows’ in the roof that could be covered or uncovered depending … There was also a kind of stair built into the wall of one of the adobes where you could climb up to the roof. This roof served as the ‘calling’ area. If you hear drum beats you knew your neighbour would be ‘calling’ either news or orders from the chief. One would also announce one’s up coming marriage so the neighbours would know who your new wife or husband was going to be. The roof also served another very pratical purpose in that it was possible to put mats up there and sleep out under the stars when it was very hot!! All in all a very important spot :)
There was an old lady busy smoothing one of her pottery bowls she had made with stones. She brought out some of her bowls and plates to show us .. I just fell in love with two of them and knew my daughter, Clara who does pottery herself, would really appreciate them. The old lady was quite delighted!
Then we went back to the main area of the organization. As we went Samson explained the meaning of the various symbols in the painting.
At the end, Samson wrapped up some pottery i was getting and was putting it into a black plastic bag when i stopped him. I had almost decided to give up on this compaign of mine to try and get Ghanaians one by one to become aware of how these black completely useless (they break and fall apart in two seconds) bags have become the scourge of Ghana but i had talked to my Biologist son and he said ‘mom, it has to start somewhere’ And this is true, I mean look at Montreal who has banned plastic bags as of next year. This started somewhere. So i said to the young woman who is in charge that it would be an amazing idea if she got her people to make bags out of fabric and start an awareness compaign right here. This was so obviously a place that was working where people took enormous pride in what they were doing. She was really pleased with the idea. Maybe a small seed has been planted … maybe.
Finally with handshakes and byes we were on our way again.
I won’t bore you with the details of the TOURIST TRAP we fell into. Suffice it to say at one place they wanted us to buy a poor innocent chicken so they could dangle in such a way so it would scream in fear and bring out crocodiles. Well you can imagine what i said about that!! And then this pompous self important man who took our money well away from the site which was suppose to be a chief’s palace told us to ask him before we did ANYTHING .. He was swinging around his 3 ounces of power for all its worth! The ‘palace’ obviously did not see a single penny of the entrance fee as it is in such a sad state with garbage littered around … And we were told traditionally we should bring snaps and cola beans but since it is modern times we could give the elders money. We were having none of that, if they wanted snaps (alcohol) and cola that’s what they would get!! Just so happens i had cola nuts from the market and we stopped to get a bottle of snap. To finalize the sort of patheticness of the whole thing there were no actual elders to give this gift to so he summoned an old lady who was sitting under a tree. For me she was the single highlight as she had such presence and age. It was an honour to give her the snaps and cola nuts…..
We retreated back to our oasis to escape the worst heat of the afternoon and rest up a bit for the next part of our awesome day…
I had done some research as i said about the baskets and how to buy them from the weavers themselves. I had found g-lish Foundation which sounded and was intriguing and i had found another one…. The Blessing Basket Project (https://www.blessingbasket.org/) is incredibly successful and in Bolga they are partners with Whole Earth Foods. I gravitated towards this project, as i realized afterwards, because i really wanted to see a project that was completely successful …. and this one really does look established and working well. It was so good to see all those people working and all those baskets that had been made by the neighbouring weavers. We could see a woman sorting into bundles the straw used to make the basis of the basket. There were two men finishing the handles in leather.. and there were two other working on baskets.. And baskets ! …. so many gorgeous baskets … i got a few to start off my new Curios and Baskets page … the price was totally right (i had researched this as well) and off we went with lots of cheerful ‘byes’ following us …
We ended the day enjoying the sunset amongst the rock formations around Bongo. Sunset is Dela’s favourite moment. It was easy to see why. The huge red sun cast a golden glow over everything is it descended. Then for a few minutes the huge fiery orb rested at the horizon and then … winked out. It was like the whole world had walked into the blessed cool of shade … And not 15 minutes later it was dark!