Odile Tevie is Director of Nubuke Foundation
Odile Tevie is Director of Nubuke Foundation

Woori Festival props up wealth, worth of Upper West

They came from Nandom, Hamile, Nadowli, Lawra and other locations in the Upper West Region while others journeyed all the way from Accra.

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The meeting point was the Nubuke Foundation’s Centre for Textile and Clay at Wa, capital of the region. The event that pulled all those enthusiastic, curious folks there on March 3, 2023 was the opening of the third edition of the Woori Festival.  

Woori is a Wali expression meaning ‘weaving.’ Since its inception in 2021, the Woori Festival has celebrated the long-standing weaving and pottery traditions in the Upper West Region. It has helped bring more attention to their hardworking artisans and given them the opportunity to increase their productions and sales.

No wonder the opening of this year’s festival attracted royalty and elders, government officials, researchers, cultural entrepreneurs and academia as well as members of weaving associations and students in the region.  

The Nubuke Foundation is a private visual art and cultural institution based in Accra. Founded in 2006, it serves as a connection for arts and culture across the country while supporting the artistic practice of young, mid-career and experienced Ghanaians.

 The outfit’s Director, Odile Tevie, proudly said at the opening of this year’s festival that almost 13 years after setting foot in the region, Nubuke Foundation had nurtured the talents of weavers through artistic interventions and skills upgrading workshops to bring economic transformation to them, their families and their communities.

 “Our work has also extended to the Wa Methodist School of the Blind and School of the Deaf,” she said, adding that through cooperation with some of their partners, they had helped weavers explore opportunities by connecting them to peer networks within Ghana, Mali, Cote d’Ivoire and other places.

 “I am happy to say that since 2021, with support from European Union, Organisation of ACP States, Institut Francais and Centre Culturel Kore in Mali, we embarked on a grant programme which is enabling us promote strip weaving as one of the main anchors around which tourism is promoted in Nandom, Nadowli and Wa.”

  An important component of the Woori Festival is the accompanying art exhibition. It is a platform that effectively showcases the practice of fibre and textile artists in Ghana. Though the festival officially ended on March 5, the art exhibition is on till June 2023.


Weaving is a cherished occupation in the Upper West Region

Artists

 Artists with works in the exhibition include Alice Raymond, Fatric Bewong, Frederick Bamfo, Isaac Gyamfi, Kate Wand and Nii Nortey Dowouna.

 The Woori Festival usually recaps workshops, collaborations and activations Nubuke had executed in a specific year. For 2022, it built a new website for its Textile and Clay Centre. So the centre now has its own website, separate from the main web platform of Nubuke Foundation.

 It also relaunched a digital platform: woveninwa.org with their Assemble UK partner in a British Council-funded grant which can be used to connect weavers in Upper West with clients who are not resident there.

Nubuke also developed an easily accessible tourist map that visitors to the Upper West Region can use to easily reach weavers and notable tourist sites. To date, about 23 tourist sites, 200 weaving centres and 100 sales points and shops for woven fabrics in the region have been captured on the map.

 Nubuke is also now a member of the World Craft Council. This will help highlight the weaving traditions from the Upper West Region on a global stage and bring opportunities for exchanges of know-how and experiences for weavers within an international craft networks worldwide.

 A key aim of the Textile and Clay Centre is to encourage the Wa community to make use of its facilities. With that in mind, the centre launched and declared its resource centre of a library with books and materials for schools and weavers which is open to the community.

 Nubuke’s love affair with the Upper West started in 2010 when two of its senior officials visited the region. They admired several things about the place, including the abundant availability of clay for making pots for storage of alcoholic beverages, water and grain as well as the art of weaving which had been transmitted from parents to children for decades.

The officials convinced themselves to buy 10 acres of land to build a cultural centre. They observed that institutions that trained weavers in vocational schools did not have enough facilities and resources to enhance teaching and learning.

There were also no opportunities for staff development and for the children to practice what they had learnt from their trainers. They knew a centre like what they had in mind could help fix some of the problems, thus, the creation of the Centre for Textiles and Clay.  


Other activities

During the Woori Festival, the conversation is not just about weaving and pottery. After all, the Upper West is a land of many sides. So there’s food, spoken word, games, literature, fashion and music, which all help to add a special verve to the occasion.

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 Internationally-acclaimed daughter of the soil, singer Wiyaala, was in the mix this year with conversations and music and tasting of yummy dishes from the Ghana Food Movement.

 It was, undoubtedly, a love at first sight situation between Nubuke and the Upper West Region back in 2010.  It, however, seems the ignited passion will go on for a long time as the former stays determined to keep propping up the wealth and worth of the latter.

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