Yaw Boakye Gyasi II after January 2006:
January 2006, I, Erik Scheller, returned to Ghana for the first time
after 13 years. I returned from Ghana as Nana Yaw Boakye Gyasi
II, the Development Chief of Akoasi, Eastern Region, Ghana.
the primary purpose of the trip was to visit and enjoy myself, I
also spent considerable time learning more about kente and building
report on this trip can be found by clicking on the picture to the
right. The report will open in a separate browser
Scheller before January 2006:
On July 5, 1991, I exited a Swiss Air flight into the sweltering humidity of Accra, Ghana, West Africa, with 50 fellow American Peace Corps trainees. After a couple of months of training in Cape Coast, I was sent to my station in Akoasi, Eastern
Region. For those who are pulling out maps, there are few alternate spellings of Akoasi. Find Nkawkaw, half way between Accra and Kumasi and head southerly 10 miles or so.
My task was to help address water and sanitation needs and educate people on good hygiene and proper water and sanitation facilities. Although there certainly was plenty need in my mind for these types of improvements, the Akoasi residents did not always agree. I had quite a bit of free time.
Although I had a nice home, I had no electricity and hence no TV. I have never been much of a reader …until then. I had to find ways to entertain myself beyond reading. Learning tailoring and weaving was a logical choice because I had a great pool of teachers available and who were more than eager to teach me. Plus, tailoring would be useful skill in the future and kente weaving was so uniquely Ghanaian.
Most Ghanaians could not believe an “obroni” (white man) would even want to learn such things but I did. This obroni could make some great cement paper bag shorts and T-shirts … didn’t want to waste valuable cloth yet. This obroni had to make his loam … I was too big for any existing loams. I went out to the “bush” to collect bamboo for threading the yarn. I went on to become a terrible kente weaver … yet so many of my friends and fellow Peace Corps volunteers wanted a piece of the cloth I wove regardless of how poorly woven it was.
I guess going to Peace Corps was something obvious in my mind. I was born in Izmir, Turkey. I was raised in Germany. I had lived in Spain for a short time. Growing up I had traveled much of Europe and most of continental United States of America. I have a German mother and an American father. Experiencing new cultures and places was simply a part of my being.
“Once a volunteer, always a volunteer” seems to hold true to me. Helping others is such a selfish thing to do, according to me. I help others because I know I get rewarded for it. I may not know when I will get rewarded or even how I will get rewarded or even whether the reward is associated with a particular help I provided. But I will get rewarded. And I am not even a religious person so I am not even considering the rewards after life if there even is anything after life. I just know when I volunteer I feel better about myself and mankind in general. The world just seems to be a bit better place to be in.
Starting my professional life as a civil engineer left a volunteering void in my life until I found Rotary (www.rotary.org). Rotary allows me to develop professionally while helping out people from around the world.
Through Rotary and the Northern California Peace Corps Associations (www.norcalpca.org) I still get to participate in trail clearing/restoration efforts at Point Reyes National Park (www.nps.gov/pore/), help re-paint a school’s hallway with Rebuilding Together (www.rebuildingtogethersf.org/), be a career counselor with Pathways (www.pathwaysforkids.org), help with the hosting/entertaining of foreign exchange visitors, help at least financially with the eradication of polio, and so many other small or large projects throughout the world. And I get to do these around my business.
A few years ago I started my own engineering and architectural outsourcing service business (www.IDDSource.com) and more recently have been involved both successfully and dismally in online ventures including one based out of Ghana. In all these ventures emphasis on giving back to the world community and helping people is an integral part of the business model.
I truly hope you’ll enjoy the kente as much as I enjoy mine. I also wish you much success and a lot of fun.
Knowledge about Kente is so pervasive in Ghana such that almost anybody you meet in the street would be able to tell you something about it. Personally, I don’t really remember making any conscious effort to learn about kente cloth, which has gained a very high international recognition and acceptance. At a very tender age knowledge about kente cloth was unfolded to me through Oral Tradition and Musicology. I also had so many weavers around me in my community. All I had to do as a curious boy was to feast my eyes on the seemingly complex weaving process and sometimes ask very probing and intelligent questions. History about Kente is also incorporated in the curriculum of basic schools in Ghana. I vividly remember a song I was taught about
Kente by my class teacher when I was in the basic school (i.e. Elementary School)
Kro hi kro, kro hi kro , kro hi kro na ayε;
Me dε;o, na ayε;
me dε;o, na ayε;
o. Asante Bonwire kente eei, minhuu bi da oo,
AsanteBonwire Kente eei mentee bi da oo. Kro kro kro
kro, hi hi hi hi
No, I don’t mean to confuse you. The above song literally means:
Asante Bonwire Kente, I have never set my eyes on one elsewhere nor have I heard about one anywhere. “Kro hi kro” is the sound produced when the shuttle is thrust across the weft. Thanks for getting it!
In my pursuit to learn more about the cloth, I made a trip to Bonwire, a small town in the Ashanti region of Ghana. Bonwire is the home of Kente in Ghana and for that matter going there was the best way I could satisfy my curiosity and of course upgrade my knowledge about the cloth. The place is indeed the home of Kente. Almost every shop in the town sells kente cloth. Kente weaving is undoubtedly the main anchor of the town’s socio-economic development and sustenance.
I was born to Mr. and Mrs Boakye at Nkawkaw in the Eastern of Ghana but I have spent most of my life at Akoasi, where Erik embarked on his Peace Corps service. In Ghana Kente is perceived as a very expensive cloth that is worn mostly by people of high social class on special occasions. Thus, by putting on Kente one is identified with such a social class. Being a student in the University of Ghana I sometimes admired the way my foreign students mates put on the Kente colors. By doing so they identify themselves with the Ghanaians and are given the best form of reception by whomever they encounter.
I am a very religious person and as such treat my fellow beings with much respect and caution. Being hospitable is my hobby and I place a very high premium on it.
Erik is indeed the epitome of a generous and resilient person. He was a Peace Corp volunteer at Akoasi in the Eastern region of Ghana and diligently performed to the admiration of all in the community. Though sometimes discouraged by the people, he studied their way of their behavior and fashion to win their hearts and to enable him to accomplish his mission. He was very smart to learn Kente weaving and did well to the admiration of his instructors. I was therefore not taken aback when he mooted this wonderful business idea. He possesses the requisite knowledge and experience in Kente weaving and together with me would offer you the best Kente.