COVID-19: No business at Arts Centre

BY: Richmond Nyarko
COVID-19 hits Accra Arts Centre hard as dealers close shops
A section of the shops that are closed

THE coronavirus pandemic is ravaging economies across the world with no end in sight and for the Ghanaian creative arts sector, the damage has been immense.

While the financial cost may take a while to be known, the human cost is clear to see especially at the Accra Centre for National Culture popularly known as Arts Centre, where artisans have been left struggling to survive as their business is on the brink of collapse.

The Arts Centre is the go to place for artefacts and local textiles and is heavily patronised by tourists but since the COVID-19 outbreak and the subsequent border closures across the globe, the artisans have made huge losses.

When Graphic Showbiz visited the centre, it was nearly empty with 70 per cent of the stores closed. Artisans, who used to make between GH¢500 and GH¢1000 a day were now making next to nothing.

Garba Abu Kassiam
The Vice Chairman of the Greater Accra Arts and Craft Dealers Association, Garba Abu Kassiam, told Graphic Showbiz that about 98 per cent of their sales came from foreigners but all that was gone.

“COVID-19 has affected us so much and our people just don’t know what to do or where to turn to. Ninety-eight per cent of our works are patronised by foreigners but because our borders are closed, these foreigners are not coming in. I can say for now, we virtually get less than one per cent sales which is from locals.”

“Since the lockdown, most of us here haven’t made any sales even though we come here seven days a week and spend 10 hours each day. I am telling you on record that some of us haven’t even sold GH¢10 worth of items since COVID-19 came into this country,” he said.

According to Garba, the Arts and Craft Dealers Association has 1,050 members who run 335 shops but just about 15 of the shops open these days.

“In this compound, we have five associations. In our unit, we have 335 shops with each shop having one owner and two shop assistants or two owners with an assistant. So we are made up of 1,050 members.”

“You can count the number of shops open now. It differs every day but averagely 15 of the shops open each day. Sometimes we have 20 to 25 shops opening,” he explained.

Apostle Alexander Mac-Bruce

Another crafts dealer, Apostle Alexander Mac-Bruce, who has been in the business for 21 years, says he has sold only one item but opens his shop because he has nothing to do at home.

“I can see that the local people don’t know the use of these artworks here. Though it’s our culture, we don’t know their use.

"After the lockdown, I only sold one item which cost GH¢180. I am still believing God and that is my reason for being here. I have nothing doing at home if I don’t come here. I still hope something good will come my way. Most of my friends haven’t made any sales since the lockdown,” he said.

Kwame Amakye

The Vice Chairman of the Textile Traders Unit, Kwame Amakye, said the story was no different and they were recording low patronage. According to him, he used to make over GH¢500 a day but he has had to close his shop because of COVID-19.

“This market has been in existence for more than 35 years and we have never experienced anything like this.” Things were better before even though they had their own challenges but now they are worse.

“As I am talking to you now, this textile section has more than 300 shops but less than 40 are currently operating. I own three shops here and I used to make between GH¢500 to GH¢1000 sales daily. Now it’s all zero for me because I am not operating. How can I pay my workers?

“Most of our members come from Kasoa, Adenta, Amasaman, Ofankor and other places to sell here. They are complaining because we are not making any good sales so they have decided to stay home. I think it is more logical than wasting money on transportation when they don’t make any sales here,” he said.