"My birthplace is traceable to a humble township in the Ashanti region of Ghana. I was born there on November 11, 1968 and named Kwame Frimpong. My alias is Joe Plan, a tribute to my high sense of creativity. I undertook very limited formal education that culminated...
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"My birthplace is traceable to a humble township in the Ashanti region of Ghana. I was born there on November 11, 1968 and named Kwame Frimpong. My alias is Joe Plan, a tribute to my high sense of creativity. I undertook very limited formal education that culminated in the then reckonable 10th year, or Form Four of middle school.
"At the end of my schooling I took up cabby-driving for a living, but before long I had to discard that source of livelihood. I told myself that with one partially lame lower limb, I could possibly be disqualified to drive, thus wasting precious time in which I could undertake the learning of a lucrative trade. Alternatively, I undertook carving as a professional trade, quickly but intelligently developing and honing my natural skills and flair for it. Before long I became adept in realizing different objects from the blocks of wood that I acquired for work.
"Although I mainly carve, I undertake wood designing and pattern realization as well. What I mean is, I not only do I carve stools, masks and other objects. I also originate intricate but interesting patterns for fusing into the totality of the design of other wood products like chairs, tables, you name it. In extension, pattern creation and realization is one thing, carving is another thing altogether. I work principally in cedar wood. This resource is not only reasonably tough and therefore good for carving, but it is naturally bitter to taste, so termites and other insect pests are deterred from antagonizing it. Another of its qualities is its ability to age without cracking. Taken in summation, it is a kind of wood that's well preserved naturally. The process of accomplishing a work begins with the acquisition of choice wood. A good search precedes spotting the preferred one and preparing them for work.
"The chosen wood is chopped up into pre-measured chunks or blocks using both modern and traditional tools as applicable. The sizes of these blocks are predetermined by the form and kind of carving intended to be realized from them. This is a step that invokes foresightedness. Any piece of wood, which lacks the required quality on any point for selection, is immediately rejected. Carvings that emerge from these pieces of wood are initially taken through a drying period after pattern lines have been etched onto them. When drying is complete, pattern lines are painted in for the attainment of an antique look, using a fine grain moistened powder-like substance. Polishing follows when the painting has dried, finishing off the creation of an object of art. Whether it's a stool, drum, mask, oware,
human or animal form that is created, no less dedication and the best skills are involved for detailed execution and finishes.
"It remains to observe that the carving industry faces some problems of its own, although strides have been made, and are still being made to smooth the path toward the total liberation of the carver from existing inconveniences. The trend of modern arguments for the environment and ecology, the global consensus on the need for the protection of Mother Nature from present and future abuse, and legislative intervention from government means that it's not that easy to procure a natural resource for processing, let alone wood! Moreover, carvers in my area, at least, have to contend with slow markets and delayed payments for orders made for creative works.
"In the final analysis I have to compete with other craftsmen in the trade to make ends meet for my suppliers, my helpers and apprentices, as well as my family and myself. In the time after my apprenticeship under my trainer and instructor Ernest Obeng ended, and I started my private entrepreneurship, I have hired a series of apprentices training under me and gaining skills requisite for making and maintaining a livelihood. These trainees form a part of some 15 young men and women who currently train and work under me as carvers, pattern creators, painters, and polishers.
"These men and women have made possible my ability to feature in four useful exhibitions mounted by Aid to Artisans, Ghana (ATAG), an NGO for the promotion of artisans' welfare. My first such featuring was in 1998, the second and third in 1999, and the fourth in 2000. I've plans to feature in future exhibitions as well, to show off my quality wares and make good economically sound sales."