Rita and Joe's workshop is large enough to accommodate twenty workmen at a time and stands opposite a two-story warehouse. Further down the road stands a residential facility. Workmen chip away enthusiastically at pieces of wood.
Rita with her ‘Dan Comic’ Ivory Coast Embossed Aluminum and Wood Mask
Rita Addo Zakour tells us how she got into the crafts trade. “I’m originally a trained secretary and worked in public service for some years, but I have always loved to sketch. In high school, I was a visual arts student. While studying, I used to make beads to sell to my colleagues. I carried the practice into my work life and earned extra income as an amateur. It was my husband, however, who introduced me to the idea of crafts as a full-time trade. He has inspired me and been my mentor. Today, under his guidance, and a few courses and workshops here and there, I’m a full-fledged designer.
“It all started when we were dating. He was already established in the trade, was a member of the National Crafts Association and an accomplished exporter."
”By the time we had tied the knot, I wasn’t only in love with his person but also with his trade. I resigned my job in the comfort of an air-conditioned office and joined him at the workshop. We have worked together in a collaborative union for many years, braving the challenges together and sharing our successes.
“The arts and crafts trade in this country is not an easy terrain. It takes passion, dedication, and hard work to remain relevant in the industry. There are times that business could sink so low as to threaten the very existence of the artist. For instance, at the time that we discovered NOVICA, our export markets had dried up and we hadn’t exported our products for months. Loads of items were locked up in the warehouse as a result of orders that had been canceled. My husband and I used to walk from shop to shop trying to sell our products. Today, our products are known all over the world."
"Some of the joyous moments in my current circumstances are periods when I bring together young women from the neighborhood to train, assist me with the jewelry orders, and make money to support themselves.We are not only helping to create jobs but also to develop skills and build inventory for the industry.
“I’m a very lucky woman. It is wonderful to work alongside my husband, himself a designer. It is also my joy and pride to have children who are demonstrating a passion for art and fashion. Right from their childhood, they have helped out with stringing the jewelry and shared their opinions on my designs. Also, my beautiful twins are more than likely to succeed us and carry on the tradition. To me, the family is the trade and the trade is the family.”
“When I examine everything that has transpired, my marriage and the link up with an art career, my wonderful children, my ability to impact the lives of others, I can’t resist saying, it’s been a beautiful love story!”