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.