There are some topics I can never stop talking about. Souvenirs, artefacts, relics or the common term, handicrafts.
They are so common, so simple, so practical and so affordable. Yet few things carry the spirit of the destination visited as these items.
Indeed, long after the trip is done and long after the stories have been re-narrated over and over, the souvenir is what to carry on with the memory of the visit.
Ok, so my problem? Hmm. We are not exploring that angle enough. The Ghanaian society is so diverse that it yields a wide range of traditional art and craft paraphernalia.
Handicrafts are an integral part of the tourism experience. A piece of artefact taken from our destination by an international tourist has the potential to arouse the interest of others who see it and to encourage them to visit our country. Does the item have domestic or office utility value? Better!
Unfortunately, in Ghana, the linkage between tourism and handicrafts is quite weak. How many times haven’t you gone to a tourist attraction only to realise that there is nothing related to local craft to buy as a souvenir?
Meanwhile, the Ghanaians living there include the poor and the unemployed who struggle to make ends meet. The younger ones are scheming on how to vanish and appear in the paradise called Accra, Kumasi or Takoradi.
The promotion of the artefact trade would boost Ghana’s cultural status and the recognition of added value of crafts in tourism development. Trade in cultural goods and services worldwide were valued at $4.5 trillion in 2019 and growing at six per cent annually, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
Handicrafts can create viable job opportunities. And the foreign market is ever ready to pay millions of dollars for such items. Indeed, many out there are ready to buy online even without having to come down.
Which part of Ghana doesn’t have basketry, pottery, metalwork, leather making, shell craft, bead making, traditional textile and the like? The solution includes value placement.
Some of our people still look down on their own heritage. Traditional art and craft items are thus seen as satanic or at best ‘’village nonsense’’
There is the need for a direct production and marketing of these rather common but vital items in relation to specific attractions. Consider the use of baked clay to design and produce cute miniatures of the Cape Coast Castle or specially designed fugu textiles with crocodile motifs sold at Paga.
Tourism is the 21st century’s number one industry, and this is one of the fastest-growing subsectors (not in Ghana, though).
sale of handicrafts to tourists can foster the continuity of local traditions and contribute significantly to poverty alleviation, through its ability to create jobs, socio-economic opportunities, and an enhanced quality of life in local communities. The handicraft industry has the capacity to create high added value.
Tourism and handicrafts make a logical and powerful combination. Together, they help preserve the heritage of our various ethnic groups.
As a people, there is no doubt that our ancestors bequeathed a high sense of aesthetics.
Many symbols and designs have shown that our people are creative and artistic. The Kentes and adinkras are there for all to see.
Again, the designs of our working and domestic implements go beyond functionality towards what is eye-pleasing.
While at it, let’s remember that many foreign tourists complain that most of our craft items can improve with finishing and packaging.
If well developed, this segment has the ability, other than other economic areas, to re-distribute wealth considerably.
Why? Because the small-scale craftsman or woman is usually the frontman for his own business. Money spent on crafts spreads instantly and undiluted into the local community.