Ho and the weavers

When I hurried away from Accra in order to escape the urban trap, I knew I’d be caught into another one sooner or later, but I didn’t anticipate this would come so early. In fact, as I got to Ho, I was met by an unbreathable mixture of escape fumes and fine dusts carried by the wind from afar.

I quickly walked away from the bus station in search of a hotel, but the place I was looking for was not advertised in any way. However, the signboard of a food joint by the same name pointed to a building a bit off the street. Some passers-by confirmed that was my place, and in fact the hotel name on the building could be made out under a coat of whitewash. If they were trying to keep a low profile their efforts were successful.

I felt like an unexpected visitor rather than a welcome client when a surprised receptionist kindly enquired how I’d been able to find them. I asked why all the secrecy, and I was told they were well known enough for taking the trouble to put any signs or ads! Baffled as I was, I didn’t let this strange attitude spoil my enjoyment of the place. A delighful tropical garden was enclosed within the yard starting right in front of my room, and that was enough of a reward to the fatigues of the day.

On my way back from a night stroll I heard beautiful choir singing from the open doors of a church. The music was so catchy that I popped in and sat on a pew determined to enjoy the rehearsals. It didn’t take long for my presence to attract attention. A lady came to welcome me and invited me to move forward and introduce myself to all. I smiled to myself as I walked down the aisle, then made a short speech of introduction and appreciation and earned an applause.

The following day I got up early and headed to the bus station. It looked a better place than I had seen it yesterday. It was an orderly paved area with twice as many hawkers as there were passengers and drivers put together.

I was heading to Petweh, the weavers’ village, where I stopped at a big airy shed with wooden trellises for windows on all sides, crossed by a refreshing breeze. The shade sheltered a dozen handlooms, each with strands of colourful threads stretched across the space. They constituted the weft and slowly fed into the looms as the weavers progressed in their work.

One of the weavers got really excited explaining his work to me, but it all sounded rather technical and I didn’t take much heed, thinking I’d never really need to learn the craft. I was more interested in the story of his life and the working conditions in the co-op. Orphans since an early age, he and his brother had both taken up that trade, but his sibling was aiming at achieving a qualification to become a teacher and thus enjoy a more stable income.

I was going to ask more questions, but the boy had a bee in the bonnet. He wanted to test how I’d learned my lesson and see how I coped with weaving. I warned him I’d spoil his work beyond hope, but he was adamant. He sat me down into the loom, explained the action of the four pedals on the threads of the weft and handed me the shuttle.

I was sweating before I started, only thinking at the complicated mechanisms and the coordination required to achieve the wanted pattern. He looked on behind my back and guided my work for a few lines, then left me to manage by myself. When I’d just started to master the trick, I was told to change the pattern and my little certainties were overturned. I expect that piece of cloth will never make sellable stuff.