Want to buy a traditional Ghanaian gift? Or treat yourself to something more special? Or maybe you are simply looking for a traditional interior decoration piece? If you identify with any of these, the Accra Arts Center is the place to visit.
Even if there is a day you don’t know what to do, or it’s the weekend and you don’t have any plans, this place is a great way to discover local Ghanaian talents and learn more about the ancestral techniques, materials & traditions.
Please note that opening days for this market are Monday-Saturday. On a Sunday all artists and craftsmen tend to rest. You will still find some open stalls, but we do recommend you come any other day than Sunday.
How to find your way in Accra Arts Center
Visit Ghana website refers to the Arts Center as “tourist heaven of Ghana”. Also known as the National Center for Culture in Accra, it is located right next to the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park, where the Kwame Nkrumah Museum is (another place you can include in your day trip 😉
For a better experience, you need to know how to move around the Accra Arts Center, and a few other tips which are exclusive to our Green Views readers.
It has two entrances. One which is opposite NIB Bank (next to the National Ambulance Service) and a second entrance opposite the National Lottery Authority. It is good to differentiate these two entrances because the second entrance will lead you directly into the “tourist heaven” whereas the first one will lead you onto the more “real” and less touristy side of the market.
Having said this, let’s talk about these two sections of the Arts Center separately, the secret to having a more local experience at the Arts Center
The “touristy” side of Accra Arts Center
If you get there by Uber/taxi, you will probably get dropped inside the second entrance because that is where they have a car park area with other taxis parked there. You may find yourself hardly getting off the taxi and already being surrounded by local sellers trying to drag you to take a look at their shop.
That section of the market is like a labyrinth, once you enter you may not find your way out! Your eye will definitely be distracted by all the different and locally produced unique traditional handicrafts such as wooden sculptures, paintings, leather bags, jewelry, woven goods, beads, kente clothes, and much more.
Perfect your bargaining skills
It’s a good idea for you to practice your bargaining skills here because no items have a defined price. We advise that before going, have a fair idea of prices or if you have a local person who can come with you that could be even better.
Inside this section, you can also find a local food joint (or chop bar as they call it in Ghana). You will get served whatever local dish they have available that day. It’s a good option if you are really hungry and don’t want to move far, with locally priced food options.
The more “real” side of Accra Arts Center
Now, if you are looking for a more real and local experience, one which will allow you to talk with local artisans and watch how they work, stick to the other side of the center (entering through the first entrance). If you’re confident enough, maybe you can say hello in Akan and practice a few expressions. This section is like a live, open air working studio with many different crafts going on at the same time.
On one side you may find someone weaving a traditional bolga basket, next to him an artist sand papering a local traditional African drum and on the other side, a pile of calabashes being emptied and getting ready to be transformed into a unique piece.
If you are respectful in your approach, they will be more than happy to converse with you and even tell you a little bit more about their personal stories. It is also a great way to really delve into the Ghanaian culture, and learn about many different natural materials and ancestral techniques.
All the objects you see here are produced by hand. These include, for example, furniture, anything from tables and chairs, musical instruments such as drums and maracas, sculptures, baskets, and various other things. You may even be able to customize something for yourself or for a gift (of course at a higher price).
If you are confident and adventurous enough to look a little behind the facades of the stalls or even enter directly into one of their working spaces, a whole new world of the Accra Arts Center will open up to you.
- Try to go with someone local.
- Make your way directly to the less touristy part.
- Have a confident demeanor and clear focus of what you want.
- Be ok with saying “no”.
How to get to the Accra Arts Center
Traveling from Green Views to the Arts Center is fairly easy and close. You can simply order an Uber which can cost you approximately 15ghs, or if you are feeling more adventurous you can take a tro-tro.
We suggest you walk to the main road called Liberation Rd and take a first tro- tro towards 37. Once there, you take another tro- tro direction to Accra and ask the mate to stop you at the Arts Center. As opposed to Uber, the tro-tro trip could cost you approximately 5ghs.
(All pictures by Sascha Laessig)