Traditional African baskets help economy, education in Ghana

This story is from a special collaboration between SCAD and Rough Draft Atlanta. To read more stories from SCAD students, visit our SCAD x Rough Draft hub.

The Alpharetta Farmers Market returned in the spring with a slew of new and familiar vendors, including Akayati Crafts Centre’s stall filled with a variety of colorful bags and baskets. 

While other stalls advertise their farm-to-table products, the Akayati stand is different. Their products travel thousands of miles to be sold at the family-run stall each Saturday, and for good reason. They are the only vendors at the market that sells authentic, handmade Ghanaian woven baskets.

The Akayati Crafts Centre is a Sugar Hill-based small business with roots in the historical Cape Coast of Ghana, making it the only stall representing an international small business.

The stall offers a variety of hand-dyed and woven baskets that have been imported from Ghana. Those not imported have been made using imported, traditional materials

“I ship straw from my village in Ghana and I hand weave the baskets myself at my home,” said Baba Akayati, co-owner of Akayati Crafts.

Their full selection of Bolga baskets are also available in Akayati’s online storefront ( and vary in shape, size, and color. Some of their basket selections range from traditional round and square shapes to more unique shapes like pet beds and shoulder bags. 

Bolga baskets are internationally known, not only for their unique and intricate patterns, but their durability. Their longevity can be attributed to the fact that they are handcrafted by native weavers from Bolgatanga, Africa. 

“My region and village are known for our basket weaving patterns, passed down for generations,” Akayati explained.

This weaving practice, from which the baskets get their name, has been built around a long-standing and well-respected culture of craftsmanship. Bolgatanga uses handicrafts to supplement their agriculture-based economy. 

“I learned how to basketweave as a child,” Sharece Jackson, co-owner of Akayati Crafts said. “Basket weaving is the main source of income for my village.”

The art of grass weaving is passed down to each generation from elder to child, primarily through family matriarchs. Village women utilize a sustainable practice of “kinkahe,” or elephant grass collection, which leaves the root of the grass intact. The grass returns from the roots left in the undisturbed soil to be collected again in the future, making the practice fully sustainable. Jackson spoke of her childhood experience learning the art of “tehei.

“As a child, we learn to chop and naturally dye the straw. When you get a little older, you are taught weaving patterns specific to our village.”

Due to the often unpredictable climate of Bolgatanga, handcrafting ensures that a valuable export can still be available during times of low harvest. These crafts range from leatherwork to pottery and are primarily done by native women. 

Akayati Crafts maintains the sentiment of supplemental economic support by donating proceeds from their basket sales to local schools in the Cape Coast, where brothers Baba and Joseph Akayati started the business in 2002.

“The money sent home helps with generational change by paying school fees for the next generation,” Jackson added. 

The funds generated through sales at venues like the Alpharetta Farmers Market are felt in the Cape Coast as donations through Akayati Crafts Centre were able to supply 80 school desks to Afrangua and Mpeseduaze Basic School in January. 

The Akayats went on to explain how supporting their business impacts their village in Ghana. 

“By supporting our business, customers are encouraging our family in Bolgatanga, Ghana to continue to preserve our cultural heritage of basket weaving that is hundreds of years old,” Jackson explained.

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