#KwahuEaster2022: Kwahu’s Ceramic Industry is our gold mine—the Kwahu Besease’s Story

ceramic crafts tourist village

Kwahu is one of the major tourist destinations in Ghana in the last decades. This is due to its nature, interesting, unique, and fantastic ancient culture and art sites. Creative industries and ceramic crafts play an important role in the development of tourism in Kwahu.

The ethnographic approach is used to describe the creative process and the ceramic crafts industry in the village of “Besease”, Kwahu (a notable Kwahu town known for the mass production of pottery stuff in the Kwahu West District). The ceramic crafts tourist village of Besease is moving toward greater commoditization whereby the ceramics center is now more oriented toward meeting the needs of tourists within Kwahu.
Due to extensive interaction and the positive response from the general public, ceramic crafts practitioners of Besease experience a unique and characteristic creative period. The crafters manage to negotiate between the old and the new values, in the village one can find both traditional pottery and new, creative and innovative ceramic products of export quality. Today, Besease is a trademark ceramic tourism village that is entering the global era.
Clay art plays an important role in the pottery activities of Besease. Early men and women discovered that they could harden molded pottery paste in hot ashes and make sturdy containers to transport and store foodstuffs. It is one of the oldest human technologies and art forms and remains a major industry in Ghana today.  The major type includes earthenware (“Asanka”). Earthenware was the first kind of pottery made, dating back to about 9,000 years.
Earthenware is an integral part of Ghana’s culture throughout the pre-colonial era and is still widely used in the 21st century among the Ghanaian populace. “Besease” has become a popular spot for the ceramic industry in Kwahu. The local inhabitants are commercially involved in pottery production, producing different shades of earthenware, pots, bowls, and clay souvenirs among others.
The local people use some special skills and techniques in making the traditional earthenware hence their products differ from the many available in other parts of the country. Potters from Besease uses creative, simple, and cheap tools such as flat wooden bat, a metal ring, corncobs, sharp-pointed sticks, shells, smooth pebbles, soft rags, metal or flat wood with a serrated edge, pieces of calabash and marble in their production.
They follow certain basic patterns of forms thus oval, circular, and semi-circular forms, especially for styles and designs.  The materials influence the forms the local potters make as well as the decorations. The shape of the pottery vessel is primarily determined by the use for which it is intended and by the plasticity and other properties of the clay from which it is formed. In traditional pottery, the oval form denotes pots for cleansing hence the oval shape of the Akan bathing pot “kutu”.
The circular form denotes receptacles for liquids that are traditionally regarded as life-going and therefore sacred hence the container of drinking water of the Akan “Ahina” while the semi-circular form represents benevolence, tenderness of heart, and kindness hence the Akan meal bowl “Ayewa” for earthenware.
Locals form bodies into objects of a required shape and heat them to high temperatures, this act removes all the water from the clay and in turn induces reactions that lead to permanent changes including increasing strength, hardening, and setting shapes. A clay body can be decorated before or after firing. Prior to some shaping processes, clay must be prepared.
Kneading helps to ensure an even moisture content throughout the body. Air trapped within the clay body needs to be removed. This is called de-airing and can be accomplished manually by wedging. Wedging can also help produce an even moisture content. Once a clay body has been kneaded and de-aired or wedged, it is shaped by a variety of techniques. After shaping it is dried and then fired.  It is common for clays and other materials to be mixed to produce clay bodies suited to specific purposes.
There are amazingly numerous reasons why earthenwares remain competitive in the Ghanaian setting despite the proliferation of steel utensils. Earthenwares are inexpensive and easily available, very beautiful, has an unmatched aroma and taste, provide health benefits as clay pots mix well with acidic food to perfectly balance out the PH level of what one cooks, and are heat resistant as well. The promotion of earthenware has attracted many cultural tourists to the country who turns to pick these items as souvenirs on their journey back home.
As a people it’s about time we focus on this gold mine at our backyard so we can industrialize this sector of our Kwahu economy. We need a proper factory setup, good leadership, management, a strategic sales and marketing team, and a good value chain process and we will be fine as a people in job creation.
Sample ceramics from “Besease” a town in Kwahu West District
>>>The writer is the Membership Director of the Kwahu Professionals Network (KPN) and a native of Kwahu Aduamoa and Twenedurase. He is currently the COO of Yopoo Clean Co. Ltd, a manufacturer of cleaning detergents. Email him at [email protected], 0244023322

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