"Sewing class in Abetifi with Mrs. Ramseyer."
Ramseyer, Friedrich August Louis (Mr)
date early : 1888-01-01.0., date late : 1893-12-31.0.

Ramseyer, Friedrich August Louis (Mr)
date early : 1888-01-01.0., date late : 1895-12-31.0.

"Christians in Abetifi preparing shingles."
Ramseyer, Friedrich August Louis (Mr)
date early : 1888-01-01.0., date late : 1896-12-31.0.

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Traditional Arts and Crafts and the Acquisition of New Skills

Traditional arts and crafts were well developed in the parts of southern Ghana where the Basel missionaries worked. Likewise, sculpture, smithery and pottery were refined arts in the kingdom of Bamum and in the Cameroon Grasslands generally. Chieftaincy and the emergence of states were important in the development and support of arts and crafts. Royal courts provided patronage for carvers of court paraphernalia, gold- and ironsmiths, weavers and producers of cloth or textile, leather workers and other artisans. Indeed, the pre-colonial state successively removed skilled artisans from defeated states and resettled them closer to the Asante capital of Kumasi. In Asante, Ahwia emerged as a center of woodwork, Bonwire as a Kente weaving town, and Tafo was noted for pottery. The expansion of trade in the nineteenth century increased the ranks of the wealthy and traders also became patrons of arts and crafts. The missionaries enhanced these skills when they introduced carpentry, masonry, needlework and other skills to the pupils and African teachers in mission schools in Ghana and Cameroon. In D-30.14.042, Mrs. Ramseyer, wife to perhaps the most influential Basel missionary who worked among the interior Akan of Ghana (F. A. Ramseyer), is seen in a sewing class in Abetifi with a group of girls. The Hausa influence in Bamum’s history from the late nineteenth-century also strengthened a tradition of cloth making. In E-30.33.054, a Bamum woman spins on a European spinning wheel, underscoring a new layer of skills gained through missionary presence. Weaving was traditionally a male art among the Akan with women being limited to the picking and spinning of cotton. In D-30.22.007, two men are weaving on traditional looms in the Abetifi district. Weaving has a long history in the Gold Coast with influences from the Mande world to the north (the Niger Bend). The introduction of knitting and sewing classes by female missionaries created the foundation of the trade of seamstresses in Ghana. Perhaps, reflecting this original external influence, "overseas-trained" seamstresses have remained an elite in the profession, and advertisement boards today clearly indicate if a seamstress was trained in Europe." Smithery remained a male preserve in West Africa with no notable missionary influence.
In D-30.14.25, Christians in Abetifi are preparing shingles. This predated the introduction of corrugated iron roofs, and the abundant presence of forests around Abetifi provided the necessary material. Wooden shingles represented an important advance on the traditional grass or thatch roofs, as they lasted longer and cooled the temperature of the rooms. In D-30.03.056, African teachers in white shirts and ties engaged in woodwork in a Basel Mission school in Christiansborg (Accra). Craftwork was thus not limited to students. In D-30.03.057, students apply their newly acquired carpentry and masonry skills in the repair of a teacher’s house.