|Before leaving, I wrote to the director of the Blakhud Research Center outlining a quite ambitous project. Luciano, having constructed a replica of a Ghanian loom, had taught me some basic weaving methods. I therefore wanted to learn the Kpevi (brocading patterns) technique a most complex weaving technique involving double warps.
I was somewhat apprehensive being a Western woman in a society traditionally composed of male weavers. I was also concerned about any reactions my persistence and all of my questions might cause. As I wanted to learn a significant amount of movements in a small time frame, I feared forcing a study method I had imagined to be slow and progressive. In Klikor one learns to weave as a child, observing and mimicking adults movements. By the age of six or seven children are able to wind the warps on spools and at ten they weave their first fabrics. I imagined no one suggesting to take notes and that no photocopies would be handed out, as I do when I teach. I would have to watch long and hard and then try with the help of an expert.
|The day following our arrival I was introduced to my teacher, Robert Aleavobu, a neraby villager and relative of the head of the Center (of course, family relations being a difficult matter to comprehend in Africa!). He was around my age, serious and reserved, and an excellent weaver.
A study plan was promptly decided, a loom was constructed and a list was made of the required materials: yarn, normal heddles, special heddles longer than those usually used, and a fine reed which was lent to me. Out of all the samples, my model was to be the Kpevi, the most simple technique. I felt a bit disappointed, but I understood that I couldnt expect to grasp the most difficult task upon arrival.
The next day we wound the yarn on the spools that were available, each with the owners name diligently written on them. I still wasnt able to obtain my tool set from the Agbozume market
When market day arrived, we left bright and early to buy our tools. Together with two of the collaborators from the Center we made some other important purchases needed for the opening ceremony: two hens, a considerable amount of corn, palm oil and two bottles of alcohol.
|I was to be entered into the weavers guild of Klikor. Women are now accepted as weavers, and there is presently many female weavers working in textile production.
Now we were ready to start. It is common in Ghana for many people to be present when weaving, the workers alternate turns as quick and sure movements are needed to wind the 2 ply yarn on the spools to make the warp. Only having asked was I invited to try. Due to the completely different manner of working, I often found myself tangled in yarn. Looked upon with patience, and no doubt, treated with the same attentiveness and kindness shown to young children, someone was always ready to correct my errors.
|Being a good little Westerner, not trusting my own ability to observe and remember, I spent most of my energy taking pictures and slides. I also had a thick notebook on which I relentlessly took notes.
The next day the ends of the ground warp were inserted in the heddles of the harness. The African weavers attached the groups of heddles to a bowed piece of wood held between their legs, and sitting comfortably on a bench, they thread the warp through the harness and the reed and brought it all towards the loom. The heddles were attached to a pulley, and the comb tied to a raised traversal stick.
After watching for awhile, I decided to give it a try. The Kpevi system is very ingenious. The patterns are obtained due to such a unique weaving technique. The weavers have no graphs nor drafts; they simply make mental calculations while carefully watching the patterns.
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