Founder of Ti-a Woven Goods Simbala Drammeh has been a fixture at farmers and crafts markets in Vail, Estes Park and across Denver for the last 20 years or so, where Ti-a’s handwoven African baskets are quite the eye-catchers. Durable and beautifully functional with a proud weaver behind every basket, the traditional African artisan craftworks are identified by their vibrant, striking colors and one-of-a-kind styles.
Ti-a’s designs originate from a rural town in the northern Ghana region of Bolgatanga, known as Bolga for short. The practice of weaving Bolga baskets is a traditional skill as old as the community itself, passed on through generations. Over time, the craft has evolved into a highly expressive contemporary artform coveted around the world. Lightweight with strong leather handles, the baskets are woven from a local elephant grass called Kinkanhe, which Ti-a harvests from land it owns in the region. Depending on the intricacy of the design, each piece can take anywhere from three hours to three weeks to create.
Drammeh founded Ti-a Woven Goods more than 25 years ago with just $100 and a dream: to empower women artisans in Africa by supporting and showcasing their beautiful crafts to the world while providing them a source of income.
Today, Drammeh likes to say that her company is “giving hand ups, not handouts” to the women of Bolga. Her social enterprise partners with more than 500 women to make Bolga baskets, home accessories and woven sculptures using traditional techniques, local materials and artisan skills. Ti-a employs weavers in 10 villages, paying fair trade wages and working mainly with women’s cooperatives. By some estimates, Drammeh says, Ti-a employs almost 4% of the local population. “By putting money in women’s hands, you change the whole dynamic of small villages,” Drammeh says.
She is careful to note that Ti-a is “not there to rescue anyone but rather planting the seeds that show them they can create stability in their own community by how they use their resources.”
She says her eyes were first opened to the benefits of empowering women while working with women’s cooperatives in the Peace Corps. During a visit to Ghana, she felt a connection to the women of the region. “Many African American ancestries are traced back to Ghana because it was a big slave export,” Drammeh says. “We don’t receive a lot of education on where we came from or how we got to America, so I had a real curiosity about how I fit into Africa.”
This holiday season, you can find Ti-a Woven Goods at holiday markets in RiNo, Cherry Creek, Belmar, Belleview Station, and Parker. The handwoven items make striking pieces of decor that infuse a global style into any home interior. “They are really centerpieces and conversation starters,” Drammeh says. “But what people love most about our products is our story. Each purchase lifts talent and dreams.”