Kente Sashes Project
Kente sashes being worn at the Commission for the Status of Women in New York 2017
Kente sashes being worn at Conference in Malta 2016
Kente Sashes – how it all began
A chance remark at the Bournemouth Conference in 2003 led to us developing a project which contributes to several of the objectives for UK Programme Action; international goodwill and understanding; education; health; economic and social development and forges a link between clubs in SI Europe and SIGBI.
The story begins about 5000 years ago – hand weaving techniques were developed in West Africa. Kente is a form of weaving that evolved from the early traditions and in particular those of the ancient West African Kingdoms that flourished between 300 AD and 1600 AD. Kente is still carried out by traditional weavers in Ghana today.
SI Maidstone has a friendship link with Accra in Ghana. In 2003, some Ghanaian Soroptimists had had the idea of taking Kente sashes to sell at SI Europe Federation Conference. Unfortunately, there was little interest in them, so the samples ended up in a suitcase in someone’s house in London, waiting to be taken back to Ghana.
Through one of her contacts, SI Maidstone and SI Accra member, Nellie Adjaye, had one of the sashes and wore it to the 2004 conference. It caught the eye of a fellow SI Maidstone member, Sue Hunt, who suggested that they would be ideal for members to wear to publicise the SIGBI clubs. Nellie made some phone calls to her friends in Accra.
Photo – Nellie Adjaye on the right with a member from SI Accra.
What happened next …….
In 2005, one of the then Maidstone members, Christine Fulton was Chief Steward for the Nottingham Conference and she used the eye-catching sashes to identify the stewards – it further promoted and publicised the sashes.
How the scheme works and who benefits
With Nellie acting as our intermediary, SI Maidstone set up a friendship project with SI Accra. The Ghanaian club has access to the Kente weavers and the UK club has access to potential customers.
SI Accra was looking for ways to fund a Programme Action project which was the refurbishment of some of the equipment in the School for the Blind in the University of Ghana, Legon, Accra. When that was completed, the second project was to raise funds to support building a library for a cluster of schools in a deprived area in Accra. Funds are now being used to keep the library up-to-date. It was an ideal way for both clubs to contribute to Programme Action by supporting their charity projects and also provides additional work for the Kente weavers.
Kente weaving was originally reserved for royalty. Today, in spite of the proliferation of both hand woven and machine printing, Kente weaving, a handmade craft is still being carried out by local craftsmen. The authentic forms of the cloth are still regarded as a symbol of social prestige, nobility and a sense of cultural sophistication. Our sashes are the genuine article, not a mass produced printed version.
The colours used in the weaving have specific meaning and so, for those used in our Soroptimist sashes:-
BLUE is associated with the blue sky, the abode of the Supreme Creator. It therefore symbolizes spiritually, good fortune, peace, harmony and love.
YELLOW is associated with the yolk of an egg, ripe and edible fruits and vegetables and also with the mineral gold. It symbolizes sanctity, royalty, wealth, spirituality, vitality and fertility;
The Maidstone Club
SI Maidstone sell the sashes. The Ghanaian weavers are paid for the materials and a small project is shared between SI Accra and SI Maidstone which is used to support each club’s Programme action projects.
Soroptimist International of Maidstone was chartered as a club in 1959. The club was instrumental in starting Maidstone Volunteer Bureau, played a part in establishing the Abbeyfield home in Maidstone and ran a playgroup in the summer holidays for children with physical difficulties. The club has supported a number of local and international projects including; Demelza House, Crossroads, caring for Carers, Kenward Trust, Hi Kent, the Dandelion Trust and Kent Cancer Trust. We have also supported; Water Aid, Itarsi (the project for homeless children living by the railway), the Aurora Tsunami Orphanage Appeal, a local Women’s refuge and are working with Amnesty International supporting women via the Write for Rights campaign.
Photo: Jennifer Gaylard, Grant of Friendship guest from SI Cobram Barooga, Australia and Nellie Adjaye September 2017.
For more information or to order a Kente sash – Contact Nellie Adjaye on O7767441188 or email her on firstname.lastname@example.org