Kuapa Kokoo women hone their batik and tie-dye skills

21 September 2011

Seth Gogoe of Twin sporting his Amankwatia batik shirt

While we were in Ghana for the Kuapa Kokoo AGM, Sophi and I met up with the new Gender Policy manager Monica Aidoo-Dadzie. She joined six months ago and has already visited all 46 Kuapa Women’s groups and will be working closely with them.  In her office she had some wonderful samples of batik made by the Amankwatia Women’s Group (I remember meeting them on one of my first trips – now their leader Juliana Fremah is on the National Executive – I knew she was destined for great things!).

Sophi in her Kuapa print suit, KK President Christiana Ohene-Agyare in a magnificent Kente dress, and me in the dress made from Amankwatia batik

We ended up buying two shirts (see Seth from Twin wearing one of them here), Sophi bought a dress (here she is wearing it when she planted a cocoa tree at New Koforidua), and I bought some fabric, which the local miracle seamstresses transformed into a dress overnight that I could wear to the AGM.  Most of the pieces we saw feature the West African Adinkra symbols you can also see on Divine packaging. There were lots of other designs and styles – we think they have great potential….. hope that with a little more development and marketing they can sell more in Ghana – and beyond.

Sophi in her Amankwatia dress looking at cocoa seedlings

Adinkras in art get a modern and human twist

16 September 2011

Latest update from Tom Allen:

Artwork from Owusu-Ankomah's exhibition at the October Gallery

Last night I went to the private view of a new art exhibition by renowned Ghanaian artist Owusu-Ankomah at the October Gallery in central London. Divine was sponsoring the evening with some very well-received chocolate.

Owusu-Ankomah’s paintings depict monumental human figures moving within an ocean of signs, and they make particular use of Ghanaian adinkra symbols. The West African adinkra symbols are like proverbs in visual form, and were traditionally printed on fabric though they now find their way on to all sorts of other canvases – like the wrappers of Divine Chocolate bars!

There were speeches. The artist is a commanding man, and he began by looking round the room with a slight smile playing on his lips and telling us: “These works are magical… I am magical!”

Then cultural historian and film-maker Nana Oforiatta-Ayim talked to us engagingly about some of the meanings behind Owusu-Ankomah’s work.

Owusu-Ankomah's modern take on adinkras at October Gallery now

One striking theme is how his paintings often juxtapose the past and the present, or the traditional and modern. Owusu-Ankomah mixes adinkra symbols with visual signs of his own invention which often allude to modern scientific insights about the nature of reality. One of the adinkra symbols that crops up in his art is Sankofa, a bird that walks forward with its head facing backwards. It means “go back and pick up what you left behind”, showing that in order to comprehend the present and move wisely into the future you must first understand the past.

Finally, the High Commissioner of Ghana officially opened the exhibition and extolled the virtues of Ghana, explaining to laughs and approval how their country has the best gold, the best cocoa – “I hear that Divine Chocolate are here tonight and they will know this” – the best art … and the best football!

This is one of the first events Divine is involved in for Chocolate Week – which is coming up from 10th-16th October. You can go and look at the art yourself at the October Gallery over the next six weeks. And for you teachers, the charity Trading Visions will be running a free session for teachers at the gallery on 4th October inspired by Owusu-Ankomah and chocolate!

Owusu-Ankomah: Microcron – Kusum (Secret Signs – Hidden Meanings)
The October Gallery
15 September – 29 October 2011
Opening hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 12:30pm-5:30pm

Eat Your Own Art: teacher’s session
4pm-6pm, Tuesday 4th October
Email education@octobergallery.co.uk to book a place or phone 027 242 7367

Democracy in action at Kuapa Kokoo

15 September 2011

Madam Christiana Ohene Agyare, President of KKFU, with members of the National Executive, address the AGM

It’s AGM time again at Kuapa Kokoo – when the 45000 farmer members get together to hear how the organisation and business is doing, celebrate achievements, and debate future issues.  Their chocolate company, Divine,  is invited to report on its progress to its farmer owners.

Kuapa Kokoo organised its Annual General Meeting a bit differently this year. Instead of one enormous event with representitives from all 1400 villages, now  members from each of the 54 districts attend their own AGMs, and then send representatives to the final AGM in Kumasi.  This way, in smaller forums, more people can really take part.

KK members at the AGM

Sophi and I flew to Ghana to attend the final AGM and a week of meetings.  I hadn’t been to Ghana for 18 months – so I was very happy to see everyone again, and particularly to meet up with the farmers who have visited UK over the years.  Many of them, like Anna Awere and Kojo Aduhene Tano, are now on the National Executive Committee.

Sophi addresses the AGM (translated into Twi by Regina Corteley)

The AGM ran over two days at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology – a great university campus with space for all the farmers to gather.  Members are bussed into town, all looking fantastic in best Kuapa outfits, and come with a lot of energy and enthusiasm to participate and celebrate together. Lots of impressive dignitaries also arrive – and Sophi and I are flanked by very stately men in full costume.

There is a full programme – including a comprehensive report on all the different parts of Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union, presentations on issues important to farmers, and a series of break out workshops, where specific issues are debated.  Farmers are not backward at coming forward in these workshops and making their ideas and concerns known.  Views are then fed back in a plenary session.  Drummers and dancers entertain us during the breaks – and, slightly bizarrely, ‘The Kings Speech’ was showing as everyone arrived!  And of course everyone gets to enjoy some Divine chocolate.

Time to put the motion to the vote

The AGM ends with votes and Sophi and I were invited by the NEC to a great dinner dance complete with Hi-Life band.  Sophi was voted best dancer.

Sophi and KKFU President at KK headquarters