Batik artists call for support to promote Ghanaian textiles
It is now acceptable for Ghanaian workers to wear local prints, dresses and other accessories to work any day in the week.
Though the made-in-Ghana wear campaign began on Fridays, Ghanaians are now seen in local textiles throughout the week.
The Arts Centre, formerly known as the Centre for National Culture in Accra, presents traditional handicrafts in various forms from all over Ghana. The Centre has got everything from woven Kente cloth, wooden sculptures, fashion accessories and the latest in traditional African textile print, particularly batik.
Located at the centre, situated right next to the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park, where one can also find the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum, are workshops and art galleries.
Most local batik / textile makers at the centre said they were seeking extra funds to expand into the export market after establishing themselves for many years.
Mrs Jacinta Cobbinah, the brain behind Jacsdaughts Enterprise the firm that has fused tradition with modern technology in its production of batik, is hoping to expand into the export market with additional funding from government and other sources.
“Government has to help those of at the arts centre to enable us to promote our goods and Ghana generally. They should deal with us directly and not through the authorities so they can get first hand information on our concerns and help find solutions to them,” Mrs Cobbinah told the GRAPHIC BUSINESS.
She said batik makers like her would not be able to meet global demand without additional financial assistance, even though the business had been export-ready for some time.
“The demand is there. People out there now recognise my batik as one of the best in the industry, in terms of design and everything but then I need support,” she said.
A pioneer on the batik scene, Mrs Cobbinah started hand-printing batik about 10 years ago. Though, a seamstress, she realised raising a family in the early stage of marriage was stressful and so she sought to do something on her own.
She was therefore inspired to do something on her own after a three-week skill training in batik making and other ventures by the Christian Mothers Association of Ghana (CMA), a non-governmental organisation in the Catholic Church, which has a passion to make deprived women productive.
She furthered her training and began making batik. About eight years ago she put up a workshop at the Art Centre and a showroom at Teshie, a suburb of Accra.
She mainly produces pictorial batik and her motivation comes from observing things around her.
It is now popular in Ghana and Africa in general. This is a process for colouring cloth that uses wax to block the dye from some parts of the cloth. Melted wax is applied to parts of the material using a foam-like stamp with the desired pattern cut at the bottom.
The whole piece is dyed, dried, boiled and washed to remove the wax. Places where there was wax remain, the original colour, while the rest is the new colour.
According to Mrs Cobbinah, batik making is labour intensive and time consuming but produces uniquely coloured fabrics. Jacsdaughts has a production manager, a supervisor and does not have employees but trainees.
She trains mainly the youth for free as a way of giving back to society.
“I like helping people and so I have a lot of relatives in my house who are deprived and I am supporting them. When people want to learn the art of making batik but cannot pay I train them for free. Even when I take anything, it is mostly a token,” she said.
Consequently, she resorts to selling her products to get funds to keep the business running. Mrs Cobbinah has so far trained about 15 people, with some well established and working on their own.
Her trainees also include students from Accra and Takoradi polytechnics and Salvation Army Vocational School, who periodically come for internship at her workshop.
Patrons of her batik normally associate it with “Dumas” (Holland Textile) because they believe it is like cloth. It has also grabbed a lot of attention from clients in the United States of America and other places to buy her batik.
In addition, Jacsdaughts batik is preferred by tourists, particularly, during international conferences in Ghana. She has no regrets going into batik making.
“I feel happy being able to help the youth and that is fulfilling. I just love to create things with my hand. Sometimes I participate in local fairs and exhibitions and which is also offers a good chance to market,” she said.
She is grateful to her husband who shares in her dream and has been very supportive. Also, her association with the CMA has helped her business venture. Currently, through sponsorship from the Skill Development Fund (SDF), being managed by the Council for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (COTVET), the CMA has commenced training for 90 female entrepreneurs in prudent financial management, small scale business management, record keeping, banking culture and how to access micro credit.
However, with increased interest comes the challenge of having to supply beyond her current capacity.
She said patrons must come to the centre and deal with the artists directly so that the quality of the products they need will not be compromised. With adequate funding to support the batik sector, they as players could go a long way to improve the sector, create employment for youth and make Ghana a hub for batik.
Mrs Cobbinah said government should take it upon itself to organise periodic fairs and exhibitions at the Art Centre to make the place popular.
“Especially now that institutions in Ghana and ordinary citizens are awake to the need to promote traditional textile, we should cease the opportunity to develop the batik sector, before it is also taken over by the Chinese,” she said.
Through such support in the form of funds and industrial machines to work, people like us can continue to do what they have a passion for.
She aspires to set up a training school. She has arranged with Akwamu fie Presbyterian School in the Eastern Region, to at least bring two interested pupils on board during vacations so she would train, while hoping that such people would one day take over from her.
“I am growing now so I cannot work like before and that is why I am doing that,” she said.
She advised the female youth to strive to work with their hands, even if it means carrying things to sell because that is more dignified than depending on men for all their needs.
Family and education background
She attended Archbishop Porter Primary School, Mamprobi Ebenezer School, Accra and Asumadwira Vocational School in Cape Coast.
She is 55 years old, was born in Accra but hails from Apam in the Central Region. He is married to Mr George Cobbinah, a Building Contractor with whom she has six children.
By Ama Amankwah Baafi/Graphic Business/Ghana
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