In 2017 Jonathan Hall was volunteering in the far north of Ghana for a small UK based charity. Jonathan is an artist and a graduate of the Slade School of Art, London and he was tasked by the charity with setting up arts clubs for Special Needs children in the district of Lawra, a remote community and home of the Dagaaba people.
The weavers told Jonathan that they were finding it harder and harder to sell their fabrics, primarily due to climate change: the vast majority of the Dagaaba people are involved in subsistence farming and unreliable weather patterns have increased the precariousness of their situation so that now families have no money left over to buy items such as the traditional cloth. Jonathan took some samples and approached a number of London retailers to gain some feedback.
The reaction was extremely positive; the retailers loved the patterns and designs and were very impressed by the quality of the weaving. But there were some drawbacks. The width of the traditional looms only allowed for fabrics of 35cm width. Secondly the weavers were using Chinese polyester thread to create their fabrics, and finally the colours were a little too energetic and vivid for the UK market.
Jonathan was assisted in his endeavours by Lawra local Ernest Tangpuori and during their travels around the district Jonathan noticed many women using rudimentary looms to weave beautiful fabrics that were being sold to create traditional tunics and smocks.
Jonathan and Ernest spent a year addressing these issues. After much trial and error some straightforward technology was added to the traditional looms so that now a flying shuttle system allows the weavers to create fabric that is up to 120cm wide. Jonathan replaced the polyester yarn with sustainable cotton grown by smallholder African farmers under the ‘Cotton made in Africa’ initiative, and lastly he selected a variety of colours that the Dagaaba use to paint their houses and incorporated them in the weavers’ traditional patterns to create a collection of gorgeous and unique fabrics.
Boon & Up now offer a range of homeware products together with a collection of fabrics sold by the metre. The aim of the project is to provide badly needed employment for the women of the area, and 20% of profits will be returned to the community to fund projects that create further employment opportunities.
Apart from a range of homeware products and fabrics Boon & Up will also offer a bespoke service so customers will able to create an individual fabric from a large range of patterns and a variety of different colours.