THEY project African beliefs and traditions and attract huge patronage from tourists but it seems local artefacts are not popular among Ghanaians.
According to artisans at the Arts Centre in Accra, which is a popular hot spot for arts and crafts, local textiles among others, many Ghanaians believe that these artefacts, whether made of clay or wood, are inhabited by evil spirits which haunt those who buy them, hence the low patronage of their wares.
According to the Chairman of the Disciplinary Committee for the Art and Craft Dealers Association at the Arts Centre, Osman Amadu Bela, “I can tell you on authority that less than 10 per cent of our customers are locals. I have been in this business for more than 25 years and most of our stuff are purchased by foreigners.
“Our people believe that these artefacts harbour evil spirits and will haunt them and their families when they take them home. Some even hold the laughable opinion that they are symbols of bad luck.
“Truthfully, I don’t know when and how it started but I’m sure it’s from the movies where these artefacts are shown in the shrines as gods and other evil creations,” he told the Graphic Showbiz.
However, it is not only this negative perception that has turned Ghanaians off, but their high prices have also been a major factor.
A craft dealer at the Arts Centre, Baba Sully, said the artefacts were often too expensive for locals.
“For the few who still love the artefacts, they complain about the prices which range between GH¢2,000 and GH¢5,000. It appears they are too expensive for them but the foreigners easily afford them.
“Sincerely, most of my customers are foreigners and I can count the number of local customers who mostly complain about economic hardship. They tell me that they will not spend GH¢2,000 on one artefact when they don’t have food on their table. It doesn’t make sense to them,” he disclosed.
Sharing the concerns of the traders, the Public Relations Officer of the Centre for National Culture, Nii Arday Ankrah, said Ghanaians didn’t patronise the artefacts because they didn’t value them.
“Ghanaians grow up with all these artefacts around them so they don’t see anything special about buying them at GH¢2,000 and more. These artefacts are not cheap. They are beautifully crafted and a lot of work goes into making them.
“Besides, the media has not helped in promoting the arts and culture agenda. They need to educate people to appreciate the arts and erase the negative stereotypes.
“If we focus on the promotion of the arts and culture in which the Arts Centre and the Centre for National Culture have been very instrumental all these years, we will have a good story to tell about the arts,” he stated.
For those who trade in the local textiles at the Arts Centre, however, it’s a different story as they get high local patronage.
The chairman of the Textile Traders Unit, Charles Kofi Appiah, who has been in the business for over 30 years, said: “Our products are not expensive because, with GH¢70, you can get a smock.
“Interestingly, unlike the other units, we don’t have many foreign customers because our goods are affordable and can be patronised by local customers,” he stated.