THE DESIGN INSPIRATION for Little Treehouse World comes from the brilliantly colored applique patchwork and embroidered cloth flags of the Fante people of Ghana, West Africa.
Our founder and CEO, Rachael Williams, first came across this tribal art form on a postcard sent by a friend. The card featured monkeys, each wearing a red hat, leaping through blue and green trees. It was like nothing else she had ever seen.
Enthralled, Rachael resolved to learn more about these extraordinary images.
Towards the end of the 15th century, European sailors arrived on the coast of Ghana inhabited by the Fante people. The Fante were inspired by the heraldic flags they saw flying on the Europeans’ ships, and transformed this tradition into their own unique and exuberant artistic form. Their warrior groups — the “Asafo Companies” — carried the flags into battle.
Today, the Fante continue to make these wonderfully expressive flags, which they display during festivals, funerals, and other ceremonial events.
The flags actually represent a complete pictorial language. Each one conveys a proverb, story, or other message through its imagery.
In 2009, Rachael opened The Little Treehouse Play Café a playspace for young children and their caregivers. Its exuberant design — from colorful wall murals to the menus — was based on the Fante Asafo flag motifs. The Treehouse Play Café quickly became a favorite destination in the Philadelphia area and beyond. For her next venture, Rachael knew she wanted to expose this wonderful tradition and imagery to more people.
Now Little Treehouse will take the inspiration behind the flags back to their origin: storytelling on cloth. Each of the appliqued images on Little Treehouse clothing, specially created for us, will feature characters from an African folk tale. When children wear these clothes, they will become part of a very special storytelling tradition.