My name is Kwesi Asilevi, and I am a loom weaving trainer for Global Mamas at the Fair Trade Zone.
When I was a kid, I grew up in the Volta Region of Ghana. I was raised by my mother and my grandmother. My father and mother had met in Nigeria around 1982. My father received a work opportunity in Australia, so my mother went back to Ghana to live with my grandmother. From my mother’s side we are four kids, from my father’s side we are three. Some of us are in Australia, otherwise we’re here in Ghana. One of my sisters just completed senior high school.
After school I would help my grandmother. I am the third male. One time my father came back from Australia and wanted to take me with him, but she didn’t allow it because I’m her favorite. She even had a hard time letting me go when I wanted to work.
One day, I was told about an internship for a kente weaver. So, I went to meet my future boss and began an apprenticeship. I was an apprentice for 2.5 years, and it was very competitive, but I’m a hard worker. I enjoyed the challenge and loved learning a new skill. I continued to work for him for another three years until I decided I wanted to go out on my own. My boss told me that he would be angry with me if I ever stopped weaving because I was so good at it.
I began working for myself soon after. I appreciated the liberty to start and stop when I needed to, as working for someone else meant that I had to work all day until the order was completed. Most people take 3 weeks to weave an entire set of kente, but my goal would always be 2 weeks. So in one month, I can make two sets. I would always have an order from someone. As soon as people in my area see a new print, they will come to me and want it. Especially some of the ones the president or the president’s wife will wear. Those ones can be expensive. I still take orders from customers on the weekends now that I work for Global Mamas.
I remember when I was approached by Global Mamas to be a consultant for their weavers. I asked if they could pay me well. Global Mamas needed a consultant who could teach weaving with water hyacinth, which is a material I haven’t worked with before. I went to consult my younger brother, and he told me not to take the job because he didn’t think I could do it. So naturally, I took the job. The challenge was good, and I wanted to see if I could do it. I learned that I really enjoyed the work. Now I am full time with Global Mamas, and I have learned other skills as well, like basket weaving and braiding dog leashes. I want to learn more; I love working with my hands.
I am very inspired to teach others. I put myself in a position to learn weaving, and now I want to help others learn it as well. I go to sleep, and I dream of weaving, so I want to do the work and do it well. There have been a few people that I’ve taught, and my favorite students are two women from Global Mamas. They are fast learners and pay attention to detail. If they make a mistake, I can correct them and they take it well.
I recently received an Award of Excellence by Global Mamas for ‘Good Character’. I believe I got the award for my hard work ethic and my respect for others in this community. Global Mamas is like a family, we relate to each other well. I am happy here. My dream is to do my weaving outside of Ghana, and right now, my products are being sold outside of Ghana. It makes me happy to know my products are everywhere.