Last week we visited the beautiful home of Evelyn Bertrand, filled with paintings, collages and sculptures from her travels and places shes lived. We chatted with her and her daughter who was taking a break from studying and working in Stockholm. Whilst admiring the vintage Kente cloths, we captured some of the Dehye Collective's handwoven baskets and jewellery in Evelyn's garden. Pots of succulents and indigenous South African plants, next to tomatoes and herbs, nestled under the majestic Lions Head /Xammi Mũ!'ab mountain.The Dehye Collective is inspired by Evelyn's culture and her love of fabrics. Her aim is to share these incredible Ghanaian crafted pieces with the world.
Evelyn was inspired after she stopped working in the corporate sector, "I personally searched for a new purpose for my life and I wanted to follow my passion. The Dehye Collectives’ purpose is to showcase Ghanaian culture, particularly the Kente fabrics and other artefacts. I want to show that my culture and the fabrics can be modern and have a contemporary flair to them.
We love bringing in unique pieces, we have personally curated the collection of Kente, some of the fabrics are older and have an antique value. These fabrics have a huge significance in our culture. We hope to display the rich history of culture and its’ origins and showcase the stories of each fabric as an amazing cloth that Ghana can share with the rest of the world."
I have always personally had a love for art. When I was younger, I looked up to my mother and father as they both have always had a sense of style and fashion. I was specifically intrigued by my mother as she could always style colours together so beautifully. Although art is not my background, I have always collected art in my home. I was diagnosed with a form of Macular dystrophy (Stargardt’s disease) a few years ago which causes the deterioration of the central retina. This meant that my eyesight started to worsen, as a result of that I respond highly to colour and contrast! As I am so sensitive to contrast, I come alive when I see colour and this has become an important part of my journey going forward.
Africa is abundant with vibrant colourful cloths, which tell the stories of different cultures. One of the most well-known of these cloths is Kente: the Ghanaian cloth par excellence, which is closely related to royalty. Developed in the twelfth century by the Asante people, it is still present in Ghana, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Togo. Woven by hand from cotton and silk threads forming complex patterns with various meanings, Kente is a sacred loincloth, worn for ceremonies and important events. Although the exact origins of Kente are unknown, one legend recounts the story of two brothers. About 375 years ago, from Bronwire, a village in the Ashanti region who one-day hunting came across a spider spinning a web and were inspired to create something similar to it. They returned home and weaved the first cloth out of black and white raffia cloth. Today, Kente is symbolic and representative of the history of the Akan and Ewe people, and Ghana in general.
I have always been personally fascinated by beads, which have been a part of our tradition for many years. The rich history of Ghanaian beads dates back to ancient times when they were first used as the King’s currency for the exchange of textiles and other valuable goods. Beads are a fundamental part of Ghanaian heritage. Not only are they a testament to the vibrance of Ghanaian creativity, but they also play a significant role in the country’s history, rituals and culture.
My average day is chaotic! I have a lot going on and I like to keep busy. I enjoy looking/sourcing for new Kente fabrics, especially antique pieces. I am always keeping an eye out for opportunities to collaborate, expand the business as well as market the fabrics and baskets. We currently have an initiative going with our handheld shopping and market baskets where we are supporting a local NGO, by donating a portion of the sales to their organization. I am passionate about plants, food and sustainability so this collaboration made a lot of sense to me, personally. By supporting small scale farmers as well as small businesses, we can help both parties grow. I know what it’s like to start a business and it’s not always easy to get your business out there. I hope to raise the profile of other businesses in the process of supporting my own.
An artist from Ghana that inspires me is Dr Attukwei Clottey (Afrogallonism). He portrays his art which has a thread of bringing in cultural context, often showcasing Kente fabrics. I appreciate the work he does. Fellow female entrepreneur and Cape Townian, Chloe Townsend. She is the owner of Missibaba. Another artist I love is Gary Stephens, I have some of his pieces in my home.
one of the Adinkra symbols, in unity lies strength
My advice to other creative business owners and entrepreneurs is to never give up. Look at ways of collaborating, it brings out the best of your business. Nurturing and helping each other is the only way to grow! In my culture we have Ghanaian symbols known as Adinkra symbols, they are proverbs which tell a story and show the way we see things. The symbols talk about life, and are sometimes featured on Kente fabrics. One symbol I love is a reminder to contribute to the community, that in unity lies strength.
The future plan for The Dehye Collective is to continue to grow and look at opportunities to showcase our pieces, potentially at galleries. We are very excited about our future and are looking forward to the coming possibilities! If you would like to learn more about the beautiful Dehye Collective you can find their website here www.the-dehye-collective.com.