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Where Modern Meets Traditional

We are so excited to announce our brand-new Made-in-Ghana Series—a monthly blog and newsletter introducing you to the handmade processes, cultural histories, and, of course, talented artisans behind our Ghana collections!First up? The hand-carved wooden pieces of our new Modern Traditions collection. Inspired by traditional African ritual dolls, warrior masks, and Bamileke stools, the Modern Traditions collection celebrates the time-honored techniques and stories behind hand-carved wooden crafts in Ghana, while adding modern design elements and details.

 

Wood-carving has a rich cultural history in Ghana. Legend has it that in olden times a man named Akwasi Yoyo traveled to the Ashanti kingdom of Denkyira, where he learned the craft of wood-carving. After mastering these skills, he brought his finished carvings back to his hometown (which today is called “Ahwiaa”) and showed them to the King. The King was so impressed that he instructed the entire village to learn and practice the art form. Since then, this beautiful craft has been passed down from family to family, generation to generation.  

In the past, wood carving was used to create a wide range of items including: household utensils, combs, baby raddles, and furniture; drums for festivals; masks for ritual dances; figurines for religious practices; and, perhaps most significantly, the Ashanti Kings’ and Chiefs’ sacred stools. 

Indego Africa’s partner artisan group, the Ahwiaa Wood Carvers Association, carries on his legacy by continuing the practice of traditional wood-carving today. Comprised of 65 artisans, the Association is located 30 minutes north of Kumasi, which is the capital of the Ashanti region and the heart of its artisan sector (as well as the bustling home-base of Indego Africa’s Ghana operations!)

The Ahwiaa Wood Carvers are known for their incredible craftsmanship, as well as the striking intricacy of their products and designs. However, despite these remarkable skills, the Carvers are struggling to sustain their business. Given the increasing accessibility of commercial goods in Ghana, fewer and fewer Ghanaians are seeking out hand-carved wooden products for their day-to-day purchases, favoring instead more readily-available, mass-produced goods. In this shifting landscape, the art and practice of traditional Ghanaian wood-carving is at risk of dying out.

We at Indego Africa are enamored by the beauty and history of Ghana’s wood-carving tradition and are dedicated to supporting the artisans that continue to practice and preserve this craft. By partnering with the Ahwiaa Wood Carvers Association, we hope both to improve the livelihoods of Ghana’s wood carvers, as well as to create value and appreciation for their handmade craftsmanship around the world. 

Our new Modern Traditions collection features traditional African crafts and objects accented with elegant design details to create unique, storied objects that reflect the cultural history of Ghana while appealing to the design aesthetics and sensibilities of today’s modern global consumer. 

Our new Fertility, Namji, Nyamwezi, and Fali Dolls are inspired by  traditional Ashanti, Cameroonian, and Tanzanian ritual dolls that were thought to bring good luck to women trying to  conceive, as well as health and happiness to expecting mamas-to-be. Historically, women would wrap and carry these dolls on their backs as if they were children, a practice believed to induce pregnancy and ensure a safe delivery.

Our traditional Ashanti Fertility Doll is a pregnant woman carrying a baby on her back, which symbolizes a caring mother, both during pregnancy and after childbirth. These dolls have significance in each element of their design: they have a small mouth for a quiet baby, a large forehead for great intelligence, and a pregnant belly for good nutrition. We chose white beads to symbolize the innocence of the baby and love the delicate and elegant look they bring to the piece.

Our Warrior Masks are inspired by the traditional ceremonial pieces worn by Ashanti men during social and religious dance rituals. At one time, these masks were believed to bridge the gap between the spiritual and physical world, bringing the spirits of ancestors and forbearers to life. Warrior Masks were particularly significant in some of these rites, as they were meant to bring good luck to soldiers before battle. 

Our custom collection of Warrior Masks features sleek brass inlays, intricate beadwork, and beautiful cowrie shells (an ancient form of currency) to create striking, yet refined décor pieces. Designed to be hung on walls, either alone or together, our Warrior Masks will add a touch of majestic elegance to any home.

Last but not least, our Cameroonian-inspired Bamileke stools feature carved wooden animal figures, lined with white and black beading, as well as cowrie shell accents. They are truly one-of-a-kind pieces that also celebrate the long-standing Ashanti tradition of carving sacred wooden stools for the King, Queen, and Ashanti chiefs. 

We hope you love our Modern Traditions collection and the special stories, traditions, and practices it honors. To shop the products, click here