Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Combining Traditional Clothing With American Culture

I have mentioned in past posts that if you have an eye for a particular fabric for sale on top of someone's head or in a shop, you haggle for a price and then get it for a few cedis, then take it to a tailor and get something nice made to fit you. It really is a much better way to go about dressing oneself then heading to a giant store to find pre-made clothes that may not be the best fit in colors and patterns that don't quite match your style. That is all well and good and something that I find lifts my spirits up a bit (I am currently waiting for a shirt to be made that is using a print that the school sells to the students here, a print that has a photo of the statue of St. Francis and has written around said photo the words St. Francis College of Education), but how about making your own cloth and then getting something traditional made?

Enter my fellow volunteer friend in Hohoe, Scott. He works at the Volta School for the Deaf and he is their art instructor. Scott and I have had many conversations at the Grand Hotel just chatting about life and often our work. He was telling me that this year he had made a concerted effort to get some of the students who have an interest in doing art to use that inclination for the school's benefit. They make stuff and Scott is finding ways to market it for the benefit of the school. It is a great idea, and one that seems to be helping out everyone involved. The students have also taken to weaving kente, a type of cloth that our area in the Volta region is well-known for. So through his school I had a ready source of weavers for some fine material that actually is quite expensive on the open market. The first step is taken care of.

What type of shirt to make though, that was the question. I have regular shirts already, ones that might not be too out of place were I to wear them in the U.S., but I didn't have something that was a bit more Ghanaian. Here is where the smock comes in. The best way to describe it would be to say that it is a sleeveless shirt which has about one extra shirt too much cloth in it. Smocks are usually big, baggy, and heavy. Typical to the north, but still worn throughout the country, I have been tempted to find one that I could get as 1) a formal Ghanaian shirt to wear to class, and 2) a souvenir for when I return to the States. But when I see these shirts for sale they come at a hefty price and often I am not interested in the color or the style of the pattern. Then back in April I met a Ghanaian who was wearing a smock, and it appealed to me for one specific reason. It was a smock meant for the Miami Dolphins.

Well, not exactly, but it was certainly the correct color scheme. Vertical strips of white, bright orange, and turquoise blue. White was the dominant color, and the orange and blue were thin lines running top to bottom. I commented to the man wearing it that I liked it because of what it reminded me of, and he smiled and thanked me. Here is where the two ideas merge then.

I need a Philadelphia Flyers smock.

Scott was very supportive of the idea since he had already made a go of letting his students weave a kente pattern with Ohio State colors included, and he said this would be something the students could easily handle. He bought three colors (orange, white, and black for the uninitiated in hockey team colors) and yesterday I set out to arrange a pattern. We batted around about six ideas and settled on one that will have a lot of orange in it. The cost of the thread, the students time and the effort to sew the smock will most likely come out to 70 cedis which is expensive, but the smocks last a long, long time, and I hope to be showing it off to people when I return so I think it is a good purchase.

Oh sure, the Flyers lost to the Bruins in a four-game sweep not too long ago, but they won't fold the club up and move to Wichita any time soon, so there is always next year. When the smock is finished I can wear it on game days and tell students that the Flyers are playing, hence I must sport their colors but with Ghanaian sensibilities. I will post some photos of the project as it moves along. Go Flyers!

1 comment:

Ryan said...

Sounds neat. Maybe post a pic when it's done? Being a Bruins fan I am happy they avenged the previous year's embarrassment! Better luck next year for you ;)