Positive News subscriber member Jessica Smulders Cohen explains how her passion for weaving chimes with changing the news for good
Spending time in Ghana among the skilled makers of Ewe Kente cloth – made from strip-woven cotton – confirmed Jessica Smulders Cohen’s fascination with the art of weaving.
“I love the fact that humans taught themselves how to weave, completely independently, on all continents of the world,” says Jessica, a designer, researcher, weaver and writer who lives in London.
“The point at which people learned to weave rather than wear animal skins seems to me a pivotal time in history, along with when we started to grow rather than forage for food. It has even become part of our language, the likes of ‘close-knit communities’. It’s a magical process.”
We can make a choice in the media we choose to read, watch and listen to
Clothes are important to many of us, she notes, but most in the west are far removed from the production process. In Ghana, where Jessica spent time researching and weaving with Ghanaian craftsmen, it still happens in the community and is something of a sacred act.
Cloth is custom-made for occasions and celebrations rather than being mass-produced. Colour, design and pattern are deeply imbued with meaning.
“The symbol of a fishing net stands for community, for example,” says Jessica. “So it is used for cloth that celebrates togetherness.”
Jessica first chanced upon Positive News – at that time in a newspaper format – in a cafe in Soho several years ago. “I was quite anti-news at the time,” she says. “Even though I’m naturally a very curious person, I found the mainstream news upsetting. That kind of scaremongering didn’t interest me at all.”
So she says it came as a relief to discover that journalism can be positive too. “It feels great to know there are like-minded people all over the world who feel similarly. In the same way that we can choose what we wear to reflect what’s important to us, we can make a choice about the media we choose to read, watch and listen to.”
Photo: Piotr Karter
This feature is from issue 88 of Positive News magazine
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