Improving the Quality of Ghanaian Indigenous LeatherWork; Aternative strategies

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The timeless appeal of leather lies in its properties such as the luxurious texture, warm colour, wholesome aroma, and exceptional durability. The world's love affair with fine leather continues to be influenced as much by its appeal as a status symbol by the aesthetic, utilitarian and economic value inherent the material. These collectively have been the ubiquitous icon of leather as a material serving the socio-economic needs of humanity of diverse backgrounds in an unprecedented manner. Besides its domestic uses, leather is also employed in the seating and interior decoration of automobiles, aircrafts, trains, trams, ships and submarines to demonstrate the enormity of its industrial efficacy. In Ghana, however, the flair is contrary; leathers made locally face hostility in industrial utility and applications, especially in the footwear, upholstery (furniture), bag making, garment and clothing accessory sectors of artefact production. Cobblers, upholsterers, bag makers and other major consumers of leather in the country highly depend on imported leathers and leatherettes at high cost. Although the local artisans in an attempt to salvage the indigenous leather industry employ the material in making conventional artefacts such as native sandals, footrest, hats, wallets, talisman and amulet to portray and project the cultural values of the nation, the artefacts lack competitive ability and penetration capacity on the market. The local leather is said to be the underscore factor. The poor utility of the local leather has rendered the economic significance of the Ghanaian indigenous leather industry inconsequential, particularly in contributing to national development. The situation is deleterious and does not conform to the nation’s agenda of job and wealth creation towards poverty reduction. The study was conducted with focus on finding the reason(s) underlying the poor dependability of the local leather and subsequently, finding alternative strategies to improve on the quality of indigenous Leatherwork iv practised in the country. In the study, the physical properties of the local leather was assessed to establish its quality status, competence and aptness for industrial utility and production of artefacts that bear the aura of quality and solutions to modern leather needs. Since the material exhibits numerous deficiencies against the set quality standards, the cause-and-effect relationship theory was employed to unearth the causal reasons behind the material’s underperformance in properties. This was done by subjecting the obligatory generic sectors of the leather industry to a cross-sectional survey which unveiled manifold causes and causations of the defects to justify the backdrop of the hostility the leather faces in utility in the industrial domains. The study revealed four sets of findings: (1) the quality status of leathers tanned locally was found as crusty and substandard, (2) there are natural ante-mortem causes; (3) man-made ante-mortem causes; and (4) man-made post-mortem causes which render the leather poor quality and less useful. With the findings as bases, practical alternative strategies have been proposed to curtail the causes and causations of the defects. It is hoped that when the strategies and ideas recommended are implemented there would be improved delivery of quality local leathers to foster the economic significance of Leatherwork in Ghana. The logical sequence of this dissertation is chronologically presented in six chapters.
A dissertation submitted to the School of Graduate Studies, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY IN ART EDUCATION, December.