Where it all started

February 21, 2019

Glenn Lewis, artist and designer, traces his cultural links with Ghana over the last two decades.....

“I was eager to find a way to give back to my roots and see how I could share my design skills.”

I first visited Ghana back in the mid-90s as part of a visiting US academic group, whilst working as a Professor of Industrial Design. Our group had visited some of the leading educational institutions but there were no departments that were appropriate for linkages with the faculty of industrial design.

How I got involved

A conversation with the head of Aid to Artisans Ghana (ATAG), a non-governmental organization which supports local artisans, led to us exploring ways in which I could assist the artisans’ design process. I wanted to be able to help artisans maintain the quality of their output, for instance when they had to fulfil a high volume export order. For this quality standards and use of technology were essential.

I saw the use of computer-aided product design and development as a means of helping artisans to adapt their products and prototypes to buyers’ specifications. “I was eager to find a way to give back to my roots and see how I could share my design skills within the Ghanaian crafts industry.”

I returned to Ghana over subsequent summer breaks to deliver training courses funded by Business Development Service Fund. We developed and delivered courses that introduced small and medium enterprises within the craft industry to computer-aided design. The courses included jewellery modelling with 3D, and a lot of the jewellers featured the Adinkra symbols in their designs.

How the symbols resonated with me

The Adinkra symbols captured my imagination from my first visit, and over time I came to appreciate their depth of meaning and cultural importance. I decided to find a way to produce these digitally on a computer.

Initially I created the Adinkra symbols font for my personal use. Then, reflecting on the heritage aspects of the symbols, I suggested to the head of ATAG, Bridget Kyerematen-Darko that we design the packaging and donate these to schools, technical institutes and universities throughout the country. This was done officially through the Cultural Heritage Board of Ghana at a presentation ceremony.

What makes Innokofa different?

I'm design-driven and I seek to project African culture at a high level. I want to celebrate the beauty, colour, vibrancy of the African aesthetic, whilst incorporating cutting edge technology. Using 3D digital modelling pre-visualization as part of the fabrication process is second nature to me. I aim to infuse the traditional with the new; to reinterpret and reposition aspects of traditional art and culture for the future.