Ghanaian entrepreneur Eyetsa Lorraine Ocloo is giving instructions to her staff at her newly built African artworks shop called ‘The Shop Accra’.
The shop serves as a creative hub for over 200 brands of handmade artworks produced by Africans.
At this trading outlet, the artistes can display their works and get them sold to customers.
Ocloo started this as a small project back in 2015, just five years after returning to Ghana from Germany where she had migrated to with her family at the age of nine.
She revealed that “The first thing I did when I came to Ghana which is 2010, I travelled the entire country, interesting enough I was collecting things, I was amazed with how much creativity that was spread across the country.
And I felt that it was a shame back then that you couldn’t actually see everything in Accra, because a lot of people were restricted in coming to Ghana and just coming to Accra and going back.”
Ocloo adds that “For me it was very important that I collect all these things, amazing pieces and I did that and I would have tea in my house where a lot of people would come and they would want to take everything with them. So I decided to open a little small café that can showcase these things that I collect.”
The Shop Accra located in a busy community of Osu, a suburb of Accra also serves as a place for families to hang out while shopping.
Helping the arts industry
In most parts of Africa, distribution of artworks is a challenge. Producers hardly make much sales and lovers of such works have to roam cities to buy. That is the problem The Shop Accra tries to solve.
But putting this together hasn’t been easy Ocloo said. Her experiences living and working in Germany for decades however help her to withstand those challenges.
“Germany is a very orderly country, it is very organized, very efficient and very effective. Living in Germany I think it was more about getting the basic foundation of schooling which is teaching you things like being efficient, knowing how to organize, knowing how to be orderly, knowing how to put structures into your own schedule, your time and other people’s time as well.”
What makes The Shop Accra unique is not just the variety of collections of works available for customers but the bond it also creates between creatives, distributors and customers.
Aysha Abdulahi is a Nigerian publisher whose works including books get displayed here. She speaks of the importance of such a physical platform and space.
She said “distribution is a very difficult process in Africa, border restriction, trade restriction, fluctuating currency, language barriers and so spaces like this enable us to regroup, we are able to come together and sort of try and iron out these obstacles.”
More than just a shop
For many who visit here, it is a delight to come to one place for a drink, spend time with families and get the chance to leave after shopping for a few artworks.
Bonita Dzifa Boni, a customer who is a digital marketer and also a migrant returnee said she “just wanted to check out the shop, basically to see the different natural products that are available and what artists in Ghana are doing.
I think it is great for people to have one place that they can come, and see everything and get more exposure for those artists. So basically it is nice to come to a place where everything is together because a lot of the products that are here, I wouldn’t have known about it.”
There is already The Shop Accra-Lagos and The Shop Accra-Abidjan, signalling the pan-African vision of the business and its growth, providing opportunities for African artistes to market their works.
Ocloo has now set her sights even higher for the future.
“What I have noticed here is that people are willing to do something if they have the opportunity to. So what I am hoping that in five years that would happen is that the shop Accra will really venture into the social responsibility side that I envisioned for it, and to make sure that a lot of people are given the platform whether it is tangible creativity or intangible creativity, that we are able to showcase all of that.”
Hopefully this unique style of bringing craftsmen and women as well as lovers of African artworks together should boost the industry and get artistes struggling to distribute their works to have a resting place moving forward.