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The Spirited Mosaics of Ghana

Broken tile work is a utilitarian and cost-efficient way to finish walls, floors and stairs in Ghana. The setting style is loose and random coupled with the ample use of cement, as you will see in the examples below. Using broken tile for architectural applications is commonplace, but using the tile for artistic expression is something rather new for the Ghanaians.

My experience with mosaics in Ghana has been heavily influenced by a trip in July 2004. By clicking through the thumbnail photos you can take a step-by-step journey of the mural making process for “Spirits and Folklore of Ghana” which is the artwork resulting from a workshop facilitated by Laurel True. We were based out of Aba House Cultural Center located in the seaside town of Nungua, just east of the capital city of Accra, Ghana, West Africa. We brought around 70 pounds of brightly glazed tile from the States as well as glass beads and nipper tools. Once in Ghana, we sourced additional local materials: more tile, handmade glass beads, thin set, and grout (filler) in the markets. The neighborhood kids gathered many “head pans” (a local unit of measurement) of shells and pebbles from the beach. Talented local cement artist, James Ahiave, added three-dimensional relief sculpture to the concrete block wall that was used as a base for the mural.

The mural now serves not only as a decorative piece and symbol of cultural identity, but also as an educational tool for local youth. The mural workshops have also provided some local participants with valuable tile-setting skills leading to much-needed employment.

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