Master Weaver Gilbert "Bobbo" Ahiagble
1944 - 2012
by Louise Meyer
Master Weaver Gilbert Ahiagble, best known as Bobbo passed away on July 10th. His weaving skills fascinated textile experts and children alike at the hundreds of demonstrations and workshops he gave all over the USA, in Ivory Coast, in Switzerland and most recently in New Zealand. In 1975, on his first US tour, he was invited as artist-in-residence by the Museum of African Art, then a private museum.
Thereafter he returned many times to teach teachers, curators and the general public at the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution. He had the unique gift of bringing the language of cloth to life, to tell the story associated with each warp, every motif, to show how the cloth is worn and explain on what occasions, e.g. funeral, baptism or wedding this or that wrapper would be chosen.
Bobbo was born into a family of Master Weavers of Ewe Kente cloth in the town of Agbozume, located in the Volta region near the border of Togo, still one of the most famous textile markets in Ghana. His legacy lives on through his sons, who are in their own right, Master Weavers. His son Bobbo Chapuchi lives in Washington DC and continues to give workshops and demonstrations in the Washington DC metropolitan area, often accompanied by his older brother, Solomon Grandy. Another son, Dennis Ahiagble authored the book Pride of Ewe Kente Weaving and is currently teaching in the UK.
I met Bobbo in 1975 while working at the Museum of African Art. We became good friends and he always addressed me as Big Sister. When I moved to the Ivory Coast, the year after we met, it was my goal to keep high quality African strip cloth weaving alive. I accomplished my goal by assisting weavers and spinners in the northern Sahel region to establish the Union of Craft Cooperatives of the North (UGAN).
The first cultural exchange between Bobbo and the UGAN weavers occurred when
Bobbo exhibited in Abidjan. Although one spoke French and the other English, they communicated through the language of cloth! Some years later (1998) UGAN's president, Amidou Coulibaly and Bobbo gave workshops under the trees at Agnes Scott College, part of the Handweaver's Guild of America (HGA) Convention in Atlanta, GA. Each had virtually recreated an African weaving village!
In the late nineties, Bobbo and I co-authored Master Weaver of Ghana
illustrated with photographs by the late Nestor Hernandez. In 1999, the book was named Best Book for Young Children by the Children's Africana Book Awards Committee. The award is sponsored by the Outreach Council of the African Studies Association.
'The American Village' (as Bobbo named his compound) will continue to offer weaving workshops taught by Bobbo's sons. It is easy to find, located on the main road from downtown Denu to Ho, Volta Region, near the border of Togo. To arrange a visit or a weaving workshop contact his son, Chapuchi Bobbo Ahiagble at 240 603 7324 or firstname.lastname@example.org