INVENTOR OF KENTE-OKE (NANA HEMAA ASAA SAFOA)
Many may not know but Nana Hemaa Asaa Safoa has been around for a long time and she is credited as the inventor of the fabric Kente-oke.
Kente-oke is a blend of the Ghanaian Kente and the Nigerian Aso-oke. Kente-oke has given a modern look and feel to the West African Narrow Loom Hand woven fabrics, making them more sophisticated, luxurious and softer.
Explaining how she invented Kente-oke, Nana Hemaa Asaa Safoa said she moved to Nigeria in the early 80s and opened a Nigerian branch of her company, Dachel & Company Nigeria Limited.
This company produced pasta and spaghetti and also traded in spices and other imported products. However, her love for the Kente cloth made her start importing Kente into Nigeria.
As the demand for the Kente cloth grew, the company decided to produce the cloth in Nigeria. Nana Hemaa Asaa Safoa, therefore, started researching and developing other methods of weaving.
She produced a new loom on which to weave the fabrics, using different types of yarns and metallic fibres to give her new product – Kente-Oke— the much needed variety and versatility.
The Kente-Oke caught on so well with the people of Nigeria that its popularity was overwhelming and to keep up with the demand, Nana Hemaa devised a way to achieve high quality work for the mass market as well as putting money into the pockets of the local community.
With the help of a United Nations Development Programme Grant, Nana Hemaa was able to house, train and employ less-privileged women in the art of Kente-oke weaving.
After the training, the women were able to earn regular incomes working on their own and supplying Nana’s Company.
Later in 1999, Nana Hemaa went back to live in England and while there, she established Dachel UK and opened a shop named African Majesty in the heart of London’s Kensington Olympia where she again introduced and sold her Kente-oke products.
Nana Hemaa participated in numerous international exhibitions, working with international designers at which she promoted Ghana/Nigeria and Africa with her Kente-oke fabrics.
During this period, she became the voice of the African textile industry, reporting on ethnic styles and trends as seen on the catwalk at the London Fashion week on BBC World African News and Focus on Africa.
Nana Hemaa said she was eager to re-start the training programme for Kente-oke for the young men and women in Akwamufie to learn a trade.
Currently, she produces Kente-oke for specific orders for fashion items and special events, as well as interiors such as curtains and soft furnishings.
Born on December 21, 1950, Nana Hemaa left Ghana in 1954 to join her parents who were studying in England.
She had all her education in England and obtained a Diploma in Private Secretarial Studies. She worked with Rank Xerox, Sun Life Assurance Canada and DAK Simpson in England. At DAK Simpson, she was the Personal Assistant to the Marketing Director.
Back to motherland
Nana Hemaa returned to Ghana in 1972 and was employed by the Aryton Drug Manufacturing Company (APC Factory, Abeka) as a Personal Assistant to the managing director.
She later left to join Brain Munro Ghana Limited and while there, she undertook a marketing course at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration where she obtained a Diploma in Marketing in 1976.
At a very young age of 25, she became the Executive Director of Brian Munro Ghana Limited, and obtained the first one-million-dollar import license for Brian Munro to import rice into Ghana. She worked in conjunction with the Ghana Food Distribution Corporation and Riviana Rice Company in Houston, Texas, to produce special bags and labels for the consignment, which was imported into and distributed throughout Ghana.
Dachel & Company is born
By 1977, Nana Hemaa had formed her own company, Dachel & Company Limited.
The company acted as manufacturers’ representatives for popular international food and drinks companies in Ghana such as Friesland Land Foods BV, the manufacturers of Peak milk, Lesaf Baking Yeast, Long John Whisky, Hine Cognac, Baron Wines, Lurpack Butter, Noel Spices and CFAO to name but a few.
Nana Hemaa has four children – Damian, Michel, Omotoke and Eyimofe. She has two daughters-in-law and two grandchildren.
She loves to listen to music, dance, write, go out with friends, read and bake when she is less busy.
“I thank God for having given me the opportunity to serve my people and country. I want to be remembered as having made a difference in the Akwamu Traditional area, especially in Akwamufie,” she said.