How did G-lish Foundation come to be?
G-lish Foundation was registered in 2010 as a non-governmental organisation in Ghana. The co-founders, Godwin Yidana from Bolgatanga, Ghana, and Gayle Pescud from Sydney, Australia, met in 2008 . Gayle was already working in fair trade in Ghana and Cambodia for a few years by then and Godwin had done non-profit projects while completing his undergraduate degree in Ghana. They met over a mutual interest in doing something to resolve the Bawku conflict and decided to hold “a day of peace” in Bawku on the UN’s Day of Peace and Ceasefire on September 21, 2008. They managed to pull it off against many challenges and a fair bit of danger—no one had ever brought the two warring sides together for a peaceful game of soccer.
They returned to live up north in Bolgatanga in 2009, wanting to ‘do something with baskets’, when Godwin discovered how to transform the drinking water plastic bags that clean drinking water is sold in, and which are littered everywhere, into twine in the same way that straw is twisted for baskets. We realised we were onto something special. Recycled plastic and cloth baskets had never been done before. With our backgrounds in community development and project management, fair trade, craft production and colour and design, we knew we could develop this into something more. We also had savings from Gayle's previous work to get us through the first year. We made tiny prototypes which gradually got bigger. Then we added cloth, based on family in Australia’s suggestions.
During a meeting, they persuaded a group of five women from Godwin’s village of Dulugu to try making baskets from recycled materials in 2009: Adandina, Julie, Laadi, Paulina and Atoore. They still work with us today and are among our best weavers and artisans, as you’ll see in the exhibition.
To date, over 313,000 plastic bags have been consumed in basket and art work production since 2009. Over 1,456 yards of scrap (recycled) cloth has been used.
Laadi with 350 cut pieces of plastic in 2010
G-lish now works with 70 women and 40 young people across three communities.
We buy all the plastic and cloth from small businesses in the region—restaurants, shops and seamstresses—they don’t give it to us for free. We pay all the producers who cut the plastic and cloth and those who twist it higher than fair trade prices for their time. Dozens of people derive income throughout the supply chain for our work, not just the weavers. But then there’s the weavers, without whom none of this is possible.
Each art piece in the exhibition uses around 3 yards of recycled cloth and 100-300 pieces of recycled plastic, depending on its size.
Our weavers experimented with cloth-only pieces and mixed cloth and plastic pieces. The mixture of plastic and cloth has a pointillist effect when it blends together so that the plastic almost disappears into the piece, but it also provides contrast to the colour and helps define line and pattern.
This project was funded by the Australian High Commission in Ghana through their direct aid programme. We also undertook fair trade research for straw baskets as part of this project and the outcome of the interviews with six straw basket producing communities across the region, as well as basket buyers globally, will be released in the month following the exhibition.
Weavers working on pieces during the workshop in 2013