The baskets probably look familiar to you - usually round and brightly colored, twined with twisted straws, often with handles of wrapped leather. They are made in Bolgatanga, a region in northern Ghana, West Africa, near the border of Burkina Faso.
The Sherigu Atie-Taaba Women's Association is located in Sherigu, just outside of Bolga. Atie-taaba means to push each other up. Over 70 women gather daily, except during farming season, to sing, to learn and teach, to make baskets.
Abubakari Akologo has provided this special place for the women. Abu's mother was a basketmaker. At age 10, he collected the straw that would be used to make her baskets.
In 1991, Abu rented a stall at the Art Centre in Accra, a destination of most tourists visiting Ghana - a day's drive from Bolga. He started to buy the baskets from the makers to bring them down to Accra to sell. In 2000, he provided a gathering spot for these basketmakers.
The women have established a bank account, with each woman putting in 2000 cedis (about 25 cents) per month. The members are given loans, as needed, to buy more straw.
The straw used as their material is only locally available during the rainy season. There in more rain in Kumasi (a 7 ½ hour car ride); straw is available there year-round. People journey there to buy the straw to sell at the Bolga Market. Three bundles, costing 4-5,000 cedis (40-50 cents) per bundle, will make one medium-sized basket.
To prepare the materials, the straw is split once, then plyed, using a technique called "mia" (pronounced mEa). The basket is twined, started with a split ply base. The dyes are from Nigeria and Germany. Once the materials are prepared, it takes 2 days to weave and finish the basket. The handles are sometimes wrapped with goat leather.
Tourists rarely visit this small basket community. Our arrival was a special event. We were greeted by over 50 women, dancing and singing for us, clad in their special yellow shirts.
Abu proudly displays these baskets at his booth at the Art Centre. He sells and ships them overseas.