Since arriving in Accra I was awaiting an opportunity to visit the National Arts Center, meet up with a friend of a friend, and pick up some good souveniers for my men back home. Today was the perfect day.
Hailing a taxi in Accra is easy. Stand by the road. They all toot to Obruni to see if you want a ride. If you want to pick up a dedicated taxi, point to the ground, they will come over to talk to you. If you do not want a taxi, just shake your head no. On any given day when you might be walking along the road this means that you will undoubtedly do lots of head shaking!
“Me ko Arts Center.” It is the first time I spoke Twi and the person actually knew what I said and did not laugh at me….of course it is easy…Me ko Arts Center….and my grammar was off, I should have said, we not I…alas, I digress…he understood, or perhaps he just understood “arts center” , either way, we were good to go!
We negotiated a fare and off we went. It was nice to drive through some of the different neighborhoods of Accra since for the most part I have travelled the same roads every day. There are rich and poor parts of Accra, or so it seems. The public schools and the private schools are significantly different – it appears the private schools are perhaps doing some strategic messaging with the schools they are building, not sure.
As we approached the center, we passed the Embassy for the Czech Republic which made me think of our internation student who today is arriving home after spending 10 months with us in Canada. All of her family and friends are having a party for her and I am sure they will have great fun! If you have never hosted an international student in your home, perhaps consider it. It can be a great experience and an opportunity to learn about another culture.
The Arts Center reminds me of a straw market you might find in the Carribean. Local handicrafts, such as Kente cloth, woodwork, etc, as well as the standard souvenier items. Inside the center it is shaded which is a nice break from the sun. My friend Stephen helped me find some gifts for my family…it was like having my own personal shopper…medasse Stephen! 🙂
After purchasing some items, our friend took us to see some drums – not to purchase, just to see. This meant travelling back outside and the sun was almost blinding after being inside for a bit. Again, it was hot…surprise, surprise.
Stephen’s friend Will welcomed us to his shop where completed drums may be purchased. As we had walked to the shop a whole throng of men were following us and at first I did not know why, until they all sat down and offered us a drumming welcome…here is a bit of the welcome….
The drums are truly exquisite! They are all made right there…I mean literally, right there. Men were working in the surrounding shops – cutting the standard base from a chunk of wood, planing the wood by hand, painting the base, carving the base (either before or after painting), sanding a carved base by hand, stringing the band for the skin and handle, cutting the skins, scraping the fur off of the dried skins by hand, custom carving for the finish, varnishing, everything….everything done by hand with manual tools or the tools God provided upon birth. It was truly a sight to see and one that every visitor to Accra should explore. This group of guys were so very friendly, even though I told them I was not buying a drum they were happy to show me around and take pictures and invited me to take some lessons.
If you travel to the Arts Center ask to take pictures, and be sure to show everyone how handsome they are in the pictures…they like to see them!