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Mbora’s Bolga Baskets

A legacy passed down through generations.

400 km from the capital city of Accra, Ghana, on the Great North Road is the municipality of Bolgatanga, where UKTE’s newest partner Mbora Azongo, is from. He is a proud second-generation “Bolga basket” weaver and small business owner. With the rapid expansion of tourism in Ghana, the demand for authentic Ghanaian arts and crafts also increased.

Mbora’s family represents the tradition of Bolga basket weaving passed down through generations. Both his mother and father were weavers. It is this authenticity and cultural richness that now drives the economy of Bolgatanga, becoming a key part of Ghana’s arts culture. The story behind the name “Bolgatanga” is as beautiful as the intricately handwoven elephant grass baskets that originate there. In the middle of the regional capital Bolgatanga’s market lies a large flat rock where it is said that the first settlers dug clay for building and polishing their painted traditional “mud houses”.

Clay in the Frafra or Gurenɛ the local language, is “bolga” and rock is “tanga”, therefore the place was named Bolgatanga.

Bolgatanga, Ghana – Mbora Azongo artisan and small business owner, sits in his basket shop, a family business that was started by his father, Mr. Mbora Adoya.

Frafra people are farmers and cattle herders but the area’s dry Frafra people are farmers and cattle herders but the area’s dry soil paired with torrential rainfall and harsh weather conditions make farming challenging. 

Basket weaving became a means to supplement the income of many families in the community. Mbora’s father, Mr. Mbora Adoya, taught him to weave from the age of nine and later opened the family’s shop in the main marketplace. (His father) is no more but the legacy continues through his son. “We weave our own baskets but we also create employment for others. We contract other artisans to weave for us. It is important for the community”, he says.

UKTE | 1

Mr. Mbora Adoya, first established the family business.

This year has been a challenging one for the artisan community of Bolgatanga. “Business was almost destroyed when the pandemic hit. No customers. We couldn’t sell our goods”. The lockdown imposed by the government to quell the spread of COVID-19 also brought tourism to a halt. To make matters worse, in mid- August heavy rains combined with water released from the Bagre Dam in Burkina Faso had caused the White Volta river to overflow, inundating much of northern Ghana.

Mbora was mostly spared from the floods, as his house and shop were built on the hilly side of town. When the main roads leading to the greater Accra Region became inaccessible, basket orders meant to be shipped overseas or for the capital were delayed and even cancelled, but Mbora’s business is still standing. He considers himself one of the lucky few. “We are an extended family here. I know so many who lost their loved ones, homes and businesses. We received aid, the floods have gone down but it is still raining and there is a lot to recover from”.

Now that the lock down has been lifted in Ghana, business is trickling back into Bolgatanga. There is renewed hope. Becoming an UKTE partner has opened new opportunities for Mbora. He can create employment for more people in his community and continue his family’s legacy. Welcome to UKTE Mbora.

We are happy to grow together.

Bolgatanga, Ghana – Mbora Azongo standing in his basket shop.

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Mbora’s Bolga Baskets

A legacy passed down through generations.

400 km from the capital city of Accra, Ghana, on the Great North Road is the municipality of Bolgatanga, where UKTE’s newest partner Mbora Azongo, is from. He is a proud second-

generation “Bolga basket” weaver and small business owner. With the rapid expansion of tourism in Ghana, the demand for authentic Ghanaian arts and crafts also increased.

Mbora’s family represents the tradition of Bolga basket weaving passed down through generations. Both his mother and father were weavers. It is this authenticity and cultural richness that now drives the economy of Bolgatanga, becoming a key part of Ghana’s arts culture. The story behind the name “Bolgatanga” is as beautiful as the intricately handwoven elephant grass baskets that originate there. In the middle of the regional capital Bolgatanga’s market lies a large flat rock where it is said that the first settlers dug clay for building and polishing their painted traditional “mud houses”.

Clay in the Frafra or Gurenɛ the local language, is “bolga” and rock is “tanga”, therefore the place was named Bolgatanga.

Bolgatanga, Ghana – Mbora Azongo artisan and small business owner, sits in his basket shop, a family business that was started by his father, Mr. Mbora Adoya.

Frafra people are farmers and cattle herders but the area’s dry soil paired with torrential rainfall and harsh weather conditions make farming challenging.

Basket weaving became a means to supplement the income of many families in the community. Mbora’s father, Mr. Mbora Adoya, taught him to weave from the age of nine and later opened the family’s shop in the main market place. (His father) is no more but the legacy continues through his son. ” We weave our own baskets but we also create employment for others. We contract other artisans to weave for us. It is important for the community”, he says.

Mr. Mbora Adoya, first established the family business.

This year has been a challenging one for the artisan community of Bolgatanga. “Business was almost destroyed when the pandemic hit. No customers. We couldn’t sell our goods”. The lockdown imposed by the government to quell the spread of COVID-19 also brought tourism to a halt. To make matters worse, in mid- August heavy rains combined with water released from the Bagre Dam in Burkina Faso had caused the White Volta river to overflow, inundating much of northern Ghana.

Mbora was mostly spared from the floods, as his house and shop were built on the hilly side of town. When the main roads leading to the greater Accra Region became inaccessible, basket orders meant to be shipped overseas or for 

 the capital were delayed and even cancelled, but Mbora’s business is still standing. He considers himself one of the lucky few. “We are an extended family here. I know so many who lost their loved ones, homes and businesses. We received aid, the floods have gone down but it is still raining and there is a lot to recover from”.

Now that the lock down has been lifted in Ghana, business is trickling back into Bolgatanga. There is renewed hope. Becoming an UKTE partner has opened new opportunities for Mbora. He can create employment for more people in his community and continue his family’s legacy. Welcome to UKTE Mbora.

We are happy to grow together.

Bolgatanga, Ghana – Mbora Azongo standing in his basket shop.

Like this article?

Share on facebook
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Share on Twitter
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