Messages from Ghana: Truth Gallery features handmade carvings from AfricaWritten by Staff Reports | | email@example.com
A unique market of African art — handmade carvings from Ghana — is showcased at the Truth Gallery, located on Adams Street. The gallery hosts the finds of Odes Roberts, CEO of arts and crafts distributor Orobs.
“Anytime you start your own business it’s going to be tough for the first time. After that, once people know of it, they’ve been coming back and buying. So we’ve been doing pretty decent,” Roberts said.
Since its opening in October, Roberts said demand for the work has grown through word of mouth and networking with customers.
“This is a niche market. Nobody has what we have at this magnitude,” he said. “They [customers] are letting us know that it’s about time we have it here and we can easily get to it instead of waiting for festivals in the summer.”
Joseph Harper, head of operations of Orobs, said most buyers for this type of art have to wait for summer festivals or travel to major cities and pay a higher price.
“Instead of going to Chicago or New York, people can come here to get it and we have the cheapest price and we have good quality,” Harper said. “All of our carvings are handmade and shipped from Ghana and we get some decent stuff and give the city something new.”
Roberts said what is on display in the open-space, naturally lit gallery is only a small portion of the approximate 3,000 pieces of African art he has in stock.
A majority of the hundreds of pieces on display reflect major themes of tribal African culture such as family and unity.
“It’s a typical village; people working, going about their daily lives, preparing food. It’s just an everyday life, but it’s more of village life,” Roberts said while pointing out a specific piece depicting the variety of jobs in village life. “It’s always about a celebration with them and in their community and this is what their artwork represents.”
Statues of drummers, horn and saxophone players indicate music is another prominent theme. The musical pieces, Roberts said, are similar to the unity and celebration themes.
“Music is still a very prevalent part of their country,” he said. “With art and music, it’s all in one to them; that’s why you see so much of it.”
Aside from statues, the cream walls are lined with more than 30 different tribal masks, each with its own ritualistic purpose. One example of this is the Dan mask, characterized by a high forehead and pointed chin.
Harper said Dan masks are used for protection and as a channel to communicate with ancestors in the spirit world.
“When a dancer wears a Dan mask, he becomes the spirit of that mask. A masked dancer will speak in the language of the spirits and his words are interpreted by a wise man,” he said.
Birds are omnipresent in the continent and as such, bird masks are common and have an important role in the culture. The Sonu bird mask depicts a bird above the forehead of the mask, which signifies a range of themes from courage to intelligence.
Roberts said the showing at the Truth Gallery was launched after a friend living in Ghana pitched the idea of getting back into business and sent the first shipment of art to Toledo.
“Once we figured out where it was at, it was then just a matter of paying for the storage fees, getting a broker to bring it down here on the semi and unloading. It’s more of a relationship,” he said. “I hadn’t seen any of this, but when it came, we were literally blown away.”
For more information, visit the website www.thetruthtoledo.com
By Vincent D. Scebbi
Toledo Free Press Star Staff Writer