Thursday, May 5, 2011

Papermaking in Ghana was initiated through the Kumasi Center for Book and Paper Arts (KCBPA), a grassroots organization focusing, both locally and internationally, on the synergistic nature of book arts, drawing from literary and visual arts. KCBPA functions with strong ties to Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST)—spearheaded by Mary Hark and supported by the Ghanaian artists’ collective, SaNsA; the KNUST Department of Painting and Sculpture; and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Design Studies Department, USA.

Since 2006, Mary has worked in Kumasi towards the development of high-quality paper made from local materials. Hark, along with Rita Yeboah, KNUST MA candidate in Art Education, and Michael Adashie, MFA, KNUST PhD candidate in Printmaking, conducted research that led them to pulp-mulberry. Brought from China in 1969 to explore the possibility of a paper industry, 14 plants languished in a forest preserve for years before drought and fires opened up the canopy and pulp-mulberry began to thrive. Now it is the most invasive, non-indigenous, woody plant in the closed forest zone—yet it is also a botanical capable of producing exquisitely beautiful, strong paper.

Using pulp-mulberry and other fibers, the Kumasi papermakers produce unique papers particular to the region with the integrity appropriate for fine-press printing. Listen, Listen: Adadam Agofomma, the first publication of KCBPA under the imprint of Take Time Press, primarily uses the handmade papers developed by this initiative. This collaboration aids the Forestry Research Institute of Ghana’s (FORIG) efforts to deal with invasive pulpmulberry by establishing a cottage-industry paper mill that productively uses the fiber, and it supports sustainable conservation. The project has the long-term goal of inviting local farmers to participate in the harvest and preparation of raw materials, and to train as papermakers. Friends of the project in Kumasi include horticulturists, artists, forestry professionals, farmers, and the education community.

Kumasi Papermaking Summer 2010

With the goal of producing papers for the inaugural publication of Take Time Press, Michael Adashie, Rita Yeboah and Mary Hark's papermaking workshop produced the highest quality papers to date. Supported by grants from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Design Studies Department, The Department of Painting and Sculpture at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), SaNsA Artist Group of Ghana along with friends from the Art Education community, the Forestry Institute of Ghana, Exotica Garden center and fine art faculty and students from KNUST, a tremendous amount of high quality paper was produced in July and August, along with several youth papermaking workshops and new relationships forged in the rural area where the Pulp Mulberry thrives.

Here Michael Adashie, Rita Yeboah and Mary Hark meet with the Head of the Painting Department and other administrators at KNUST at the end of the summer, to discuss future possibilities.

And some of the papers traveled back to the US in Mary's suitcase for use in the book project.

We are sincerely grateful for the support of the GO! Ingenuity Award

The GO! Ingenuity Award supported the fabrication of tools for youth workshops, as well as supporting the training of papermakers on best practices for teaching hand papermaking and book art activities to children.

Children in these workshops learned the fundamentals of the papermaking process: from identifying appropriate botanicals, harvesting, preparing the pulp, sheet-forming and drying as well as how to sew simple book structures.

Students who participated in the workshops learned how to make paper from local, free materials with tools they can fabricate inexpensively. The goal of the workshops was to familiarize students with the process, materials and tools; to see first-hand high-quality handmade paper; and to practice binding simple books using their own paper. Participants experienced the set up of a small, affordable workshop, which could be replicated at home, with the goal of make papers to sell or use.

GO Ingenuity Award Youth Workshop Goals:

To give secondary students a chance to experience this craft, and the opportunity to consider what it would take to become a papermaker in the Kumasi area.

To model best practices when teaching Papermaking and Book Arts in an attempt to support the development of this craft in the schools.

To build up the tools and supplies at the SaNsA papermaking studio in an effort to support the fine craft of papermaking in Kumasi.

Students become teachers!

Rita Yeboah trained a team of fellow Art Education graduate students. These students help run the workshops and teach the kids - and then some of the older kids in the workshop also helped teach the younger ones.

Youth Workshops: papermaking and simple bookbinding

Each workshop we have run each included around 15 students, 5 or so teachers from each of the schools that the children came from, and 5 or so teachers from other local schools, and a few stragglers who had heard about what was going on and just showed up! In each case, including the Art Ed Masters students who acted as teachers, we had in excess of 30 people actively working at all aspects of production from start to finish.

more Youth Papermaking Workshops

These workshops were sponsored by the GO! Ingenuity Award.

Friends of the Kumasi Papermaking Project

Smart and Caternia, artists, master gardeners and proprietors of Exotica Garden Center, offer horticultural advice, bring fibers for us to experiment with, extend tremendous moral support through their expertise and friendship.

Dorothy Amenuke is an artist, educator and faculty member in the Department of Painting and Sculpture at KNUST. Dorothy, shares her office, her fast internet and helps the project in a myriad of ways. Her ability to solve problems and her friendship is invaluable.