Kente Cloth with Two Akua'ba Dolls: Mosaic by Betsy Gallery in Santa Barbara, CA.

Ghana is home to the ncient Ashanti tribe, famous for exquisite handwoven Kente cloth and iconic fertility dolls with large round heads and cross-like bodies.  My travels there in the 1970s took me the length of that West African country from Accra overland to Kumasi, then hitchiking into The Ivory Coast.  From Abidjan I took the train north to Ouagadougou, Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso), then back down the entire length of Ghana by car.

 We got to the border between Upper Volta and Ghana after the crossing was closed. That is, one lonely length of wood blocked the road, but the guards were unmovable.  So we slept on the ground under the stars.  At some time during the night a small herd of goats passed around and over us. We survived, continuing in a packed taxi back down to Kumasi, a market town not far from the coast, where I bought several lengths of gorgeous Kente cloth. Forty years later, inspired by my experiences and the beauty of that culture's art, I made a mosaic based on that fortuitous purchase in a distant land in my distant past.


 The two fertility dolls (Akua'ba), symbolizing my own two children, whose father was born in Equitorial Guinea, West Africa, are hidden in the black glass background of the mosaic and are only visible when viewed in person.

The Kente cloth mosaic was created using hand-made Italian glass smalti from the Orsoni foundry in Venice, Italy.  I cut  the mosaic glass in the traditional manner with a ammer and hardie. The mosaic tesserae (pieces) are cast into thinset mortar using the double-reverse technique I learned at Luciana Notturni's Ravenna School of Mosaic Art in Italy. Yet my mosaics are light-weight enough to hang on a wall, and come prepared with secure wires. 



 I teach the use of smalti at the Santa Barbara School of Mosaic Art where many other workshops are available.


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