We had the immense pleasure of hosting a workshop at Newrybar Merchants with the inspirational Godwin Yidana and his wife Gayle. Sitting in the magical space for two days of workshops among likeminded creative souls, there were so many learnings.
As Godwin demonstrated how to turn plastic bags into twine using an old rubber thong tied to his thigh, strips of plastic bag and a bit of water on his hands, he recalled stories of his childhood and how his Grandmother had taught him how to weave the Bolga technique – a style unique to the village of Bolgatanga, Ghana where he grew up.
Using a combination of twine made from plastic bags and remnants of fabric, Godwin guided the workshop weavers through the process of creating their own small basket. It was an intricate and at times frustrating process. In the 3.5 hour tutorial, everyone became increasingly aware of the time and skill that is involved in creating these handmade pieces of functional art.
The word 'handmade' gets bandied around a lot these days but rarely do we sit back to think about the many facets of what it actually means; from the time and process it takes to actually make a single piece, to the stories, lives and communities that are benefited, to the fact that these ancient skills are being repurposed to suit modern needs and to solve issues such as waste and continue to be passed on for future generations. Using plastic bags and discarded fabrics is part of Godwin's 'war on waste' and the result is surprisingly sturdy and beautiful.
Godwins' work is also affecting real change to the lives of many in Ghana through teaching and training a community of weavers how to generate an income using their amazing skills. His non-profit organisation, G-lish Foundation, exists to help rural Ghanian families become financially independent and help children have educational choices beyond primary school.
By the time the workshop wrapped up, honestly most of us had not really finished our tiny baskets. But we left with other lessons to take away such as that by embracing simple skills like weaving, we can consciously and creatively slow down our fast-paced lives; weaving is a form of meditation and a lesson in patience. The value of handmade art is the time and generational knowledge it takes to create it, and the benefits of supporting these artisans can run far and wide and create real, lasting and positive change to those that face adversity. We were so very grateful to Godwin and Gayle for so graciously reminding us of these valuable lessons.