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KINKAHE - The Story

KINKAHE - The Story

By Pegi Amarteifio     Jul-01-2021
KINKAHE - The Story

Twenty-five years ago, I returned to my birth country Ghana, having left there at six. My memories of Ghana up until then were fondly peppered with numerous family gatherings, colourfully dressed aunts and uncles, multi-coloured buildings, uneven red soil roads, bustling markets, and a distinctive warmth that's hard to explain.

I found all this and more on my visit, but I was particularly blown away by the rich artistry I discovered. Batiks, beads, ceramics, oil canvases, wood-carved sculptures, and baskets. Baskets in a multitude of shapes and colours. Baskets with strong form that could easily withstand the weight of several Ghanaian yams. Baskets that, to me, were pieces of art in their own right.

I carried as many as possible back to London and did so with each visit, never tiring of my growing collection. My career in luxury travel and hospitality has taken me to many destinations ranging from The Bahamas to Zambia, and with each trip, I would pick up different local baskets. My Ghanaian finds, however, remain my favourites…they seriously are the most durable baskets.

These baskets, widely known as 'bolga baskets', are unique. They're hand-woven by the most brilliant artisans in Bolgatanga, a town tucked deep in Ghana's Upper East Region. Bolga, as it's more commonly known, is the arts and craft centre of the region and five years ago, I started collaborating with a wonderful social enterprise based there to commission bespoke basketry for myself and others. I quickly realised it wasn't just me who loved them, and so fast forward to today, with plenty of time to reassess life during the lockdown, I've finally decided to share my love of basketry, interwoven through my home interiors via Kinkahe.

Kinkahe is my iteration of 'bolga baskets'... stylish, sustainable and storied basketry, made for contemporary lifestyles. The name derives from the Guruni (local dialect in Bolgatanga) name Kenkanna, which literally translates to 'elephant grass', the grass used to make the baskets.

I've collaborated with these talented artisans to bring more basketry into people's homes because I believe every home needs basketry. They're a natural and beautiful way of adding texture and earthiness to your abode. Most importantly, every basket sold helps to empower the weaving communities in Bolgatanga.

The Artisans

Over the coming months, I’ll introduce you to different members of our weaving community. Today, meet Adombila (L, pictured with colleague, Anthony), co-founder of the social enterprise we partner with. He is a trained tour guide but, first and foremost, a weaver. He was born into weaving, like many others in Bolgatanga. His family passed down the tradition, and he's proudly continued it through his foundation. We've built up quite a relationship in the last five years, and the work he and his team do is incredible. They aim to empower the communities in many ways, specifically targeting six of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.  These include: operating a FairTrade market, training for competitive advantage, building better accommodation and working facilities, improving medical care and health insurance and educating children in formal education as well as art and crafts.

The foundation currently works with 323 women in nine of the 19 weaver communities within the region. To give some context, Bolga’s population is almost 67,000, and approximately 10,000 of them are involved in the basket trade. In recent years, their skill has become internationally recognised, and I'm proud that Kinkahe will be helping to throw a spotlight on their talents further. Each of the weaver communities has its own individual style of weaving; for example, our K1 basket is made by the Sumbrungu Nongre Women Community and K4 by the women in the Durungo community.

I'll bring you more updates on the community and additional ways to support them besides purchasing the baskets.