Technical Problems and Solutions in the Indigenous Leather Industry: Implications for Art Education in Ghana

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Leatherwork is an art form that has a strong traditional foundation in Ghana; it is practiced in diverse forms in different areas of Ghana, particularly in the three regions in the northern part of Ghana where production is highly concentrated. The Ghana government’s desire to promote the indigenous vocations in schools has necessitated the improvement of the technologies used by indigenous leatherworkers. 21 Some pertinent problems affecting the industry were identified these are (a) Lack of simple but efficient tools and equipment for the execution of the tanning process, (b) Poor quality leather resulting in offensive odour and its susceptibility to grow moulds as a result of fungal attack, (c) Non-fast vegetable based dyes that easily fade in the presence of sunlight and also bleeds when washed, and (d) Limited colour range of red, black, white and brown. The research will lead to the following solutions to the identified problems: (a) The production of new tanning equipment comprising, tanning vessels, scudding, tumbling and cutting machines will improve the leatherwork industry. (b) That, leatherworkers will be able to produce some working tools locally. (c) That alternative local colourants can be applied on leather. (d) The offensive odour and the fungus attack on leather will be subdued. Solutions to these identified technical problems associated with traditional leatherwork techniques to make it attractive to leatherwork education in Ghana are the focus of this project. The results of the research were attained through the experimental research methods The research lead to the following solutions to the identified technical problems: (a) introduction of alternative tanning vessels that will be useful for academic and commercial purposes, and make it possible for tanning to be done indoors and outdoors; (b) Development of scudding equipment for dehairing and fleshing, the equipment makes it possible for the craftsman to do scudding in a more comfortable posture for increase in productivity; (c) Design and construction of 22 two types of leather dryers, open- dryer and electric-dryer; (d) Tumbling equipment for boarding oil into leathers and also softening leathers and fur, and (e) Thong cutter for cutting long strips of leather for thonging or weaving. The research also identified alternative colourants that are locally available for colouring leather; these are grouped into two, Dyes and Pigments. Dye; The dyes were vat dye and suede dye, these proved to be useful on leather. and the identified pigments were oil paint and acrylic which were successfully applied on leather. Starch was also mixed successfully with vat dye as pigment in colouring leather. The research also identified techniques for controlling the offensive odour associated with indigenous tanned leathers and fur, and prevents the development of moulds on them in order to promote the marketing of leather articles locally and awaken the export of leather articles which has not been very attractive due to these problems. The findings of the research will help in the promotion of leatherwork education and the indigenous leather industry in Ghana It is recommended that specially equipped studios be built in schools at all levels for the teaching of every aspect of leatherwork to sustain the manpower needs of the industry. Beside, a research Center must be established to support the industry in the areas of design, material and technological development to meet modern needs as well as boost up national development.
A Dissertation submitted to the School of Graduate Studies, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY IN ART EDUCATION Faculty of Fine Art, College of Art and Social Sciences October 2008