The photograph of my paternal grandmother has been a source of inspiration to me for as long as I can remember. As a family that inhabits space on virtually all continents, this photograph has also been a link to our shared ancestral connection to Ghana.
The woman pictured is Hannah Nana Aba Tarkowa Sam. It was taken in the early 1920's in Kumasi Ghana. She is buried in the ancestral home of my paternal grandfather in Kormantse in the Central region. I have asked my father's permission, the eldest member that I know in my Ghanaian family to use her image in this way. Please be respectful and ask permission before publishing this image.
I have wondered about her happiness. Was she sad when this picture was taken or just shy? Did she burst into a wide symmetrical smile like my sister does, who's resting face is much like Grandmas' in this picture, as soon as the the photographer had taken the shot? We are all proud descendants of this woman who like women of her time was resourceful, hard working and had the emotional resilience to survive multiple children dying at birth and in infancy. She traded gold along the coast and for a time lived and worked with her mother in Grand Basam in the Ivory Coast.
I imagine her hands picking up brass weights, measuring gold dust and nugget from her Kuduo,a brass vessel made for that very purpose. Her hands layering her necklaces of glass and gold around her neck. Placing the embellished pin just so in the front of her perfectly ironed hair, made smooth with a pomade of shea butter over a nest of natural cotton. A halo crown for our queen mother.
With this limited edition of totems and charms, I employed a very skilled craftsman in Bali to individually hand carve each ebony wooden hand. I have used sterling silver and gold to simply cap each hand with a plain bale so the wearer can add to their own arrangement or wear with the chain provided. A limited number are also cast in sterling silver and embellished with an array and scatter of gemstones, making each piece completely unique. I like to wear various meaningful charms as pendants on one chain, I like the sound of the pieces touching each other and I like to be reminded of the stories and symbolism each charm.