By Alex Osei-Boateng
ACCRA, Jan. 31 (Xinhua) -- A renowned Ghanaian bead maker Thursday stressed the need for Ghana to build a multi-purpose museum to showcase its rich traditional beads and handicraft.
Nomoda Ebenezer Djaba, who owns a bead making factory in Odumase Krobo in the Eastern Region, some 65 km of the national capital, Accra, said Ghana could boast of the finest traditional beads in Africa, but regretted there was no room to display them to attract international interest.
He however said the museum, if constructed, could serve manifold purposes such as attracting the needed foreign exchange and helping to alleviate poverty in the producing areas.
"Setting up a beads museum will help attract foreigners to the area, create jobs for our teeming unemployed youth, and serve as a learning center for students and the populace," he told Xinhua in an interview.
The Odumase-Krobo locality basks in traditional cultures, several historic relics as well as landscapes that are both beautiful and dramatic.
Bead culture is a central part of Ghanaian history and belief. They come in several shapes and sizes and could be used to signify royalty. They were believed to have magical and medicinal powers, as they are used by priests in voodoo rituals.
As early as the 15th Century, glass beads were imported from Italy to adorn Chiefs and Queens or used in ceremonies to mark a rite of passage.
Djaba, who owns the Cedi Beads Industry in Odumase-Krobo, the cradle of Ghana's beads, whose manufacture and use dates as far back as 4000 BC, called on the Ghanaian government to support the industry with modern facilities and funds.
Ghana began to export locally made beads to Italy and other parts of the world not too long ago as a means of boosting the local economy.
Even though Western fashion has influenced many people, beads have not lost their appeal, as many young Ghanaians these days prefer to wear them on ceremonial occasions or as part of their daily dressing.
The use of beads in courtship, particularly by girls and women, especially around the waist, to attract the opposite sex, dates back to centuries ago and still persists in many societies in Ghana.
Djaba said bead making was no more a pastime but a lucrative business that could fetch the country more money while projecting its image and culture abroad.
"We need government support to acquire up-to-the-minute equipment to help us expand our trade.
"Expanding our businesses with the necessary sophisticated working equipment, chiefly modern blowing machines, will also lure the youth to venture into bead making as a full-time job," said Djaba, who is also a member of the International Society of Glass Bead Makers.
"It is better to keep beads than to save in the bank. Beads are good. You can use them for many years and still get a good price after selling them," he said.
Djaba, affectionately called Cedi, like many Ghanaian rural dwellers, learnt the art of bead making from his grandparents at age seven, and has been able to expand the art from a family pastime to a cash-fetching trade.
He has a large serene compound at Odumase-Krobo where he has relocated his business and has employed about 24 people and built a six-room apartment where he houses tourists and anyone who visits the area for sight-seeing or study tours.
He told Xinhua his factory serves as a learning center for students of art in the universities, polytechnics as well as foreign travelers to acquire practical bead making knowledge to give support to their education.
"So many students from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi, and other polytechnics in the country do come here for practical lessons or internships. This has helped them to broaden their horizon on the subject," he said.
Djaba, who has travelled far and near, teaching people about the art of bead making from the African angle and participating in international trade shows, predicted a booming bead making industry in Ghana in the near future.
Beads can be bought for as low as two cedis (about one U.S. dollar) or as high as 1,500 cedis (about 773 dollars) or even more.
"The type of beads one puts on determines how wealthy or important one is in the Ghanaian society," Djaba noted.