Tooled leather decor accents in West Africa
"I belong to a zongo youth group in my community where we help educate the youth so they don't fall into bad habits and also stay away from drugs.""Mohammed Kamal is my name. I'm a leather artisan, born in 1980 in Accra. My friends say I am hardworking, friendly and very religious.
"When I traveled to Mali, I attended an exhibition in Bamako where the leather works that I saw were beautiful and perfectly done. I decided to learn. I was taught by a master artisan with whom I worked with most of the time during my apprenticeship. Today he works with me in my shop. I had to learn from three different masters, some from Burkina-Faso and Mali.
"I needed a blacksmith to design my working tools and getting money for it wasn't easy. I worked for a year to be able to get the tools.
"Because of financial problems in Mali, I returned to my parents after completing junior high school. Back in Ghana, I started working from home. Later, I had to find a workshop because the tools I used made too much noise for those living in the house.
"I'm fascinated by the design process and by tools and their arrangement when I'm working. I use plywood, leather, white glue and straw board. It can be challenging when the wood turns out to be low quality and breaks when you are working with it.
"Once during the rainy season, I received my first order for mirror frames and chess sets. I had only a limited amount of time to deliver them, but my family stepped in to help me, as did some of the friends I had taught.
"I am the fourth child in a family of seven. I am now a married man with three children. I belong to a zongo youth group in my community where we help educate the youth so they don't fall into bad habits and also stay away from drugs.
"I get my inspiration from traveling to the northern part of Mali and Burkina-Faso. Their style and culture inspire me a lot. I work with my family members who are around me all the time and they help with the leathering and shining of the works.
"My dream is to craft good and quality works for international shoppers and also teach the youth on the streets who are jobless."