AARVEN's Ghanaian masks and mirrors are produced by a small group of crafters, lead by master carver Osmun (pictured above with our co-founder, Amy, in 2023). Osmun has been carving for close to 30 years and has become very respected within the carving community in Accra. His studio, in the bustling Accra Market, is alive with the sound of chopping wood and drums from the nearby drum makers.
Osmun has a few young apprentice carvers training with him and they work in rhythm to the sound of the drums.
We asked Osmun 'What is the process of producing a mask?'
Carving is a traditional occupation of many people in Ghana and the skill is passed down from generation to generation. Artisans need to learn the skill of the craft through apprenticeship, reaching a general level takes two to three years. Once the skill is acquired it takes at least one more year of regular practice to become a Master Carver. Master carvers normally specialise in one particular field e.g. masks, figures or statues, portraits, shadows or abstract works.
In Ghana, most of the wood used in the production of masks is off cuts or reclaimed wood from big sawmill factories. Some are also acquired from construction sites where trees are felled to make way for roads or building construction. This wood which would have been used as fuel is given a new life by the carvers. This means that each mask produced is low-waste, as well as being lovingly handcrafted.
Masks and carved figures are a means of connecting people with their ancestral background and belief. They represent the people culturally, economically, spiritually and socially. The early carvers drew inspiration from their encounters with spirits. The belief is that whoever wears the mask is possessed by the spirit the mask represents. These spirits could be good, bad, or evil.
Some masks could represent ethnic tribes located in certain areas at certain periods and occasions or ceremonies, which could be used to trace the identity of the people, for example the Dogon Tribe of Mali or the Bwa (Butterfly mask) of the Grunsi people from Burkina Faso.
Explore AARVEN's Ghanaian mask collection here.