Arts & crafts in Accra




West Africa is rich in arts & crafts, and you can see this art in Ghana, in Accra, the capital.
Art for real fullfilment and love does not traditionally exist in Africa : everything that was crafted had some purpose behind it.

In Ghana, you can find beautiful hand woven textiles, old and new beads, brass works, gold jewelry, ceramics, paintings, sculptures, and wood carvings.

ARTS CENTER  is not the only place to buy regional art, but where that sale takes place depends on what kind of story you want to tell about the purchase. ARTS CENTER, TETTEH QUARSHIE ART MARKET near Airport area., village Markets, Wild Gecko (a shop mostly dedicated to expats), Global Mamas (clothes shop in OSU) are the places to find it.


The Centre for National Arts and Culture, popularly known as Arts Centre, is located next to the Kwame Nkrumah Musoleum, off the High Street in Accra. The center became very popular in the 80’s for its leisure and entertainment.


Arts Centre is a wonderful maze of more than 100 stalls which have all a number on the top of their roof for te ones outside.

When my car’s door opened, handshakes and a hearty welcome to the Accra welcomed me in Arts Center.

However,  it does not look like very nice, big, orderly building…. Rather, it is a crowded collection of vendor stalls who will do anything to invite you to come and see their products: joke, sing, tug at sleeves… from your car parking.


Visiting the Arts center may be an exciting experience for tourists who are not used to the aggressive but thrilling negociation process … Hawkers attack from all sides as soon as you arrive, but if you’re not exhausted by the scrum you can find cheap and nice gift to buy!

A tips : if you say nothing, theses vendors will  take you to their stall unless you asked them nicely several times. So try to be hard when saying NO because after that you will have one then 2, and 3,4,5 vendors following you saying “Please, sister, have a look at my shop!” !!


Tourists equal big money and for market sellers, this competition for foreign dough can easily turn into shouting matches about somebody’s mama. Most of all, they sell the same products among craf staf, jewelry, fabrics…


Personnaly, I have been there several times there ewith friends and last time (for this article) I had Thomas, my driver. He came inside the Arts Center with me who was especially helpful in negotiating with me in their local language and also to take me pictures while looking to crafts product and negociating too:)



We walked along the “building,” which is really a cluster of stalls, towards the back, past old men leaning on scraggly wooden canes and bored children sitting in the dirt, glancing our way with feigned interest.

All kinds of handicrafts imaginable may be found in this market.

The items range from wood carvings, traditional musical instruments, cane and raffia products, leather ware, gold, silver and bronze jewelry, beads, clay products, antiques, paintings to ivory products, and many more.


These items are brought to the markets from various parts of the country and also from other countries within the West African sub-region including, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Cote d’Ivoire, Togo, Senegal and Nigeria.

The arts and craft market provides employment opportunities for many people. Skills have been developed in carving, painting, designing, metal works to service the market.

The buyers are made up of those purchasing a few items to customers who place orders for large quantities of various products. A lot of buyers are tourists and other foreigners visiting Ghana.


I already bought many craft things for my family, friends and ourselves.



For exemple, I bought a “Chief Chair” for less than  400 GHC (100€) in a beautiful wood.

You can negociate a lot because they have the same products in different stalls and also you will n ot find many other tourist in the market!


For a salad tongs you will pay 5€, for a small elephant (6 cm) 8 €, I also bought a table for 10€ and a big giraf cost 75 €.



These african comb or stick cost me 4 € each.

All this is very well made and is cheap I think.


Art center is in fact one of the most important tourist attraction sites in the City of Accra and in Ghana. For this reason, some international famous people visiting Ghana for  official assignments are taken to the market to see and perhaps buy some of the crafts on display. These customers spend hundreds of thousands of cedis including foreign exchange at the place.

Because the craft market is very old and there’s been no investment in infrastructure, the structures housing the exhibits are very dilapidated. It is expected the safety and comfort of visitors would be better guaranteed when the rehabilitation and expansion takes place. The multi million dollar project would include the construction of market stalls, workshops, storerooms, restaurants, communication centers, show rooms and modern places of convenience. The Greater Accra Handicraft Dealers Association was formed in 1994.

Visitors at the market told that the market is very popular in Europe and America because of the variety and quality of the handicrafts available. Some of them said the items that they purchase are sent home as gifts for their loved ones and relations while others explained that they buy and resell in America and Europe.




Ghanaian fantasy coffins

Ghana “where anyone can get out in style”


Which coffin do you fancy?
Who wants to visit death on vacation ?

Believe it or not, a visit to Ghana’s coffin makers is on most tourists’ itineraries here!!

imageI would have never find alone the Kane Kwei Coffins oldest shop in this road near Labadi Beach without Accra Accueil visit last year…
In European cultures, we cremate our dead or bury them in a simple pine box.

But coffins are a lot fancier in Ghana, where the Ga people believe that life continues in another world after death, and they want it to carry on in style.
And while a funeral lasts just a few hours, since eternity is, well, eternity, it’s important to spend it in style!!

In April 6th, 2016,  I had an interview with Eric whose grandcather created the first fantasy coffin. You can learn more on their Ghana coffin history website.


He explained me everything and i will share it now with you :


The reason why mostly all ghanaian use such coffins is their religious beliefs regarding the afterlife.
They believe that death is not the end and that life continues in the next world in the same way it did on earth.

The social status of the deceased depends primarily on the importance, success and usage of an exclusive coffin during a burial.


During the delivery to the customer, the coffin is enveloped of kraft paper or cloth because tradition wants work to be revealed only at the time of funeral.


They often symbolise the dead people’s professions. but also what they did for a living, their hopes, their vices…

Certain shapes, such as a sword or stool coffin, represent regal or priestly insignia with a magical and religious function. Only people with the appropriate status are allowed to be buried in these types of coffins.


Some animals, such as lions, cockerels and crabs can represent clan totems. Similarly, only the heads of the families concerned are permitted to be buried in coffins such as these.

A fisher will be buried in a coffin in the form of fish or in a fishing boat, a professor in a fountain pen balk, etc.

The one who used to ask for a “beer shape “coffin was first not well seen by ghanian…but these years now, it is no more seen as an hard drink person but a person enjoying festivity in life. The ghanaian who asked the bottle of coke or fruit juice were working in theses companies.

The aspirations of the missing person are reflected by the coffin which is intended for him: the plane for instance was never ordered to bury a pilot, but resides a symbol of distant trips testifying a social success. Same for luxury cars.


Fish are very popular designs–the fishing industry is big here–as are Bibles, the only fantasy coffins allowed in churches in this deeply religious country.


Making the coffins

Fantasy coffins are produced only to order. Carpenters have several apprentices who allow the them to make several coffins simultaneously or all work on a single one in urgent cases.
imageThe coffins are generally made from white light local wood and not very expensive as the wawa or Nyame Dua. It will take two to six weeks to produce the coffin.

The woodworking is done using the simplest tools, without the aid of electrical ones.
Building is more or less complex according to the form of the model, the desired level of details.

The coffins of cylindrical or approached form (fish, mammals, fountain pen) are accomplished as a model of subject without worries of the opening intended to accept the body. This one will be later cut up.


The painting of the figural coffins can take up to two days to finish and are painted by the head of the workshop, local sign writers…. who usually decide together the coffin’ s patterns and colours.

imageOne shop may produce 20 coffins by months. There are about 10 in Accra.

In a country where many people live on barely $2 a day, no expense is spared for the most important part of life: death. With prestige riding on the size and extravagance of the funeral, family members collect, borrow, and donate money to send their loved ones off to the afterlife in style. Funerals can cost up to a year’s salary.


Eric’s grandfather was the one who had the idea of such coffin, first for himself and then it spread in all the villages around …until Accra.

Now Eric is proud to open one more studio in Kumasi this year 2016.

In 2009, he was asked to participate in a moovie for coca cola ads for Spain to explain ghanaian coffins  can see on youtube the Coca cola coffin TV ad.
Since then, he travelled a lots and still makes exhibition all over the world : in Russia in 2010’s (he did a Vodka bottle ;), Korea …. he sells one for $5000 to $10000 dollars now but it takes him a month to create it himself alone in the host country !

Eric also wants to deliver “messages” to people thanks to its fantasy coffin :
For exemple, in the US, in 2011, he created a coffin in shape of a gun, and they cut it in 2 during the exhibition to show and ask people to stop violence.

Another one was to preserve environment : it was a “fish coffin” with plastics inside. Plastic kills fish when they eat that in the sea…and coffin means death of course..
A very symbolic art !


The coffins cost between $300 and $1000 for ghanaian defunt with trees from kumasi uch as “wawa”and galeries or museums buy coffins up for $10,000 with wood from mahogany or “emery” wood.


Last Eric ideas for a tourist gift:


Recently, ghanaian have recognized the quirkiness of their coffins design and have reacreated them in gift size for tourists.

There is now a roaring trade in the smaller version !

Hope that if you come one day in Ghana, you will take time to discover this art with fantasy ghanaian coffins and talk to  Eric in his coffins workshop !


In Accra, not far from the center, you can visit a manufacture of ghanaian beads which exist since 1989. It is called  TK BEADS INDUSTRY.

It is really interesting to see how they do it from the beggining with bottles in glass to the necklaces ! They manufacture glass beads of high quality using the rich African processes; everything is handmade from molding to painting !

I went there with Accra Accueil, it is 15 mn far from Accra, on the road to Madina.


Here are the steps in photos for getting beads :

First, all the  all manufacturing takes place outside, only a small shop  with beads and necklace, bracelets has a room.

They have divided the place according to the activity and steps :

First, the collection part where thousands of glass bottles are piled up. These bottles are collected or given by people.

verre pile

Here you can see that  glasses are  broken and crumbled.

Afterwards, they need to make it a ball and they bake it in an oven outside for many hours:

When it is done, and after the ball glass are cooled, they can put cooling agents :

couleur verre TK beads

The final step is to paint each bead with hands of course, it is a  work of precision and it takes a long long time!

painting beads

An at last, they can make nice necklaces homemade with good quality beads!

Many expat go there and buy some beads to make their own necklace in the shop next to the fabrication.

shop beads

It is a very good activity for mothers and children!


  • Beads in Africa have different  utilities, meanings and significations.

Ghanaian babies are born with soul name, which is the name of the day on which they are born. (for ex monday name = Adjoa for girl ; and Kojo for Boy).

ceremony name beads

But when they are 7 days, the naming ceremony takes place and a formal name is given.

Then , they are presented to “the sun and earth” and given water, alcohol and salt to taste.

The ceremony includes the grandmother bestowing blue Koli or plain white beads on the child, by tying them on a cotton thread on the joints (waist, neck, ankles).

beads children neck

There is language of beads : for example if the child is a member of a royal family, a gold nugget, yellow beads or coral may be added to the Koli beads. As babies grow, the tightness of the string of beads indicates whether they are growing at a healthy rate so that their mother are awared if their baby is under or overweight. And moreover, the string of beads is also used to attach nappied!!


African women  wear waist beads for different reasons.

The strands of small, glass beads are often bestowed upon young girls who start to wear in the run up to puberty.

As the girls grow, so the tightness of the waist beads indicates whether they are growing at a healthy rate. As well as weight control, they are also worn for spiritual reasons, chastity and to document pertinent stages of a woman’s life.

waist beads

Beads colours are symbolic as well :

Yellow means royalty, white purity…. :


Traditionally waist beads are a very private body ornament with only the wearer deciding what she wears, and are hidden under their clothes.

Nowadays, they are being appropriated by women all over the world, wearing beads in necklaces like a fashion accessories.

This is causing an offense among those with a traditionalist perspective.


Ghanaian fabrics : batik, wax and kente



Ghanaian women wear typical fabrics which are beautiful to see in streets.

They are wearing well cut dresses with lively colours and complex patterns.

It is an essential part of the landscape in Accra.

JOSEPHINE  wearing colorful dress with ghanaian fabric

Wildly patterned wax-printed batik clothes are extremely egalitarian in Accra since both street vendors and socialites wear it.

In streets, you can see gorgeous synthesis of traditional and modern fashion.

Let me show you the different fabrics which exist here in Ghana:


One of the homemade fabrics is called BATIK:


Esther is known to have the best batiks in Accra. She uses beautiful colours and patterns in her handmade batik prints.

She also propose to expat women to batik workshops with Esther at her home in Madina. Accra Accueil propose this activity with both mother and children. I did it and it takes about 3 hours to create your own batik to take it home !

As you can se below, you choose your  shapes of the different patterns you want to put on your fabric. After, the fabric is flooding to be dyed  into a barrel :

shapes for batiksbatik colourbatik homemade accra

At the end, you just have to wait that it is dried to take it home!

It is such a typical activity to discover !

  • WAX

In the late XIX , Wax was copied by english and dutch settlers in Indonesia from Java Island wax. They learned and reproduced  wax process and changed with vibrant colours. Then  it is said that ghanian soldiers working in Indonesia brought wax back to Ghana.

“African wax prints” are omnipresent and common materials for clothing in Africa and Ghana since 70’s. In Togo, this business done by women in the 70’s called “Nanas Benz” (because they had Mercedes Benz car), was very successful  .

They are industrially produced with  colorful cotton cloths with batik printing. Unfortunately, more and more chinese fabrics kills the original and local african market…

Normally, the fabrics are sold in 12 yards as “full piece” or 6 yards as “half piece”. The colors comply with the local preferences of the costumers. Mainly clothing for celebrations is made out of these.

Here is a shop selling wax, in a market such as Makola in Accra :



Kente is one of the most typical symbol . It is an Asante ceremonial cloth, representing numerous aspects of Ghanaian ethical, philosophical, social and religious heritage through variations in colour and pattern.

Although machine made kente is now widely available, it is still reserved for formal occasions. The dramatic colour and texture in kente is echoed in wax-printed fabric. Kente are sold in malls and in markets.

I also discovered the procesing steps with Accra Accueil activity :

First , they have to prepare the fabric thread :


Then, they have to woven the fabrics all handmade:


How Ghanaian women get dressed is essential for funerals, weddings and engagements which all require specific dresses.

Thomas whith its typical ghanaian costume (for “friday wear”)

Most women employ a seamstress and choose a style from a ‘calendar,’ a poster showing photographs of models in outfits. These designs are usually variations of the kaba (blouse) and slit (long skirt), a common ensemble.

Yvonne koné

There is no lake of design in Accra. More and more people design exciting wax print garments.

At the moment, western silhouettes in traditional fabrics are very much in vogue.

Europeans expat are more an more wearing also these beaytiful fabrics and they make different as a  pure, shoes, and even earings!

Sewing is a lucrative business so you’ll find a seamstress operating an old-fashioned foot-operated Singer sewing machine in any busy area.

Here is one I saw in Madina market :



Seamstresses tend to be very talented and they can interpret a western design or copy an existing dress. If the customer provides her own cloth, her dress usually costs between  8 GHC (2€) and 10GHC.

For expatriates, the prices are not the same but still very cheap .

First you have to buy the fabric (wax)  you love :

  • Woodin shop in Accra Mall is my best place because it guarantee a great value for money (100GHC -23 €-for 6 yards).
  • Vlisco is also another dutch company (created in 1846) but with higher prices (60 € for 6 yards).

Both patterns and prints  inherit from the African culture. Loincloth wax is also a means of communication to show political or social value.

Know that if you see one day the fabric you like, you should buy it right now because next time it will be finish ! Collections are renew very often!

Afterwards, ou have to find your seamstress to create for exemple 6 pillows for 10 GHC each (2,5€) , a dress for 40 GHC (10€), a short shirt sleeves for 30 GHC.

It was fantastic and well done !   Here is one of my skirt below :


Hope you will enjoy coming to Accra and buy some fabrics from GHANA MARKETS !