One of the very (many) special moments for me while working in development at The Baba Tree was working alongside Master Weaver Pepe Agadaam as she wove to bring her first Katayeli Tia basket to life. As Pepe’s first successful Katayeli Tia started to fully form.. all at once she understood the full scope of her creativity and her significant contribution as an important basket artist. It was a beautiful discovery to be able to witness.
Pepe’s baskets have since been shown at exhibitions and galleries the world over including the Musée des Arts décoratifs, Paris and are commissioned and purchased by basket aficionados and collectors globally! I got to chatting with my friend and work colleague Pepe in Bolgatanga, via Azure who interpreted our conversation, to gain more insight into her remarkable basket life and her introduction to weaving by way of her grandmother.
How long have you been weaving Pepe?
Up to date is 20 years.
Who taught you to weave?
It was my grandma Akanmaseh Adagamm who taught me to weave because my mother didn’t know how to weave so well, so my grandma taught us both. I am very grateful for this knowledge.
What do you enjoy about the Babatree community?
The impact Babatree gives us is different compared to other companies, I’m talking about the money because it’s important for my work.. I fetch very good money for my baskets, most of my big smiles is when I receive my commissions through my retail basket. Also, there is togetherness - the joy of oneness all together. Plus there is equal treatment for ladies as to men, this is very important for me.
The most joy comes from training sessions to introduce the Katayeli Tia to other artisans - it’s a good feeling to share my knowing.
Pepe shares her Katayeli Tia skills with other Artisan Weavers on the Baba Tree compound through training and mentoring sessions so they too can grow their earning potential and their careers.
Tell us about your signature basket - the Katayeli Tia.
This shape in my first experience was very difficult, I told myself.. “no way and again no way”, because it was something I could not break through. I remember Azure and Bettina on the first day when they said let’s try something different and they worked with me to push through. I have woven many different styles of baskets but this one has has me hooked because it was tough and rough in the beginning. It was difficult but in the end it was my inner voice that I heard saying.. “Pepe you can do it!” So I allowed myself and I did it, I made a piece of Art and it’s my favorite basket of all time.
Does anyone else in your family weave?
Yes, all my sisters and brothers and my mother and father. My home compound is full of basket artists.
How do you decide on the shape of your basket?
My work is full of counting and being creative. I think also how to handle the material and I just feel it with my hands and my mind too. Most important to me is how the basket will look for my customers.. so I weave, then I stand away to look at it.. to feel it again in my hands and then keep moving, keep weaving. I bring in my knowing and I always arrive at the shape I feel is most beautiful at that moment.