Home Institution

College of Wooster

Publication Date

Fall 2013

Program Name

Ghana: Social Transformation and Cultural Expression


  1. Objectives: My objectives for this project were three fold:
  • To learn the process of carving the dugout canoe base through both observation and participation.
  • To investigate the cultural importance of the fishing canoe in Elmina.
  • To investigate the trade of canoe carving within the context of the Elmina community.
  1. Methodology: My methodology includes observation, participation and interview. I spent a month researching canoe carving in Cape Coast and Elmina, Ghana, while keeping my research focused mainly on the Elmina community. I apprenticed and worked for a week with three carvers from Prampram who were in Elmina to complete a job there. I also spent time trying to locate carvers, as well as interviewing carpenters and fisherman about canoes. I interviewed a fisherman about the trade of boat carving, and about fishing culture I general. I also formally interviewed one carpenter about the craft of carpentry, as well as an informal interview with another carpenter. I informally interviewed all three carvers I worked with to get a better grasp on the craft of carving.
  2. Findings: I learned about the tools the carvers use, how they use them, and the steps necessary to complete a canoe. The process requires permits for acquiring the tree, as well as transporting it. Some preliminary carving is done in the bush with a chainsaw, but only roughing out the canoe. Once the canoe arrives at the coast where it will be finished, the carvers use a chainsaw, tetewa, and asenkuma to carve out the canoe base. The carvers work in a series of stages, reaching as far under the side of the canoe as possible with their tools, then turning the canoe with the jack to work and reach the next section. I also did a small amount of research on carpentry, learning the basic process the canoe undergoes after the base is finished.
  3. Conclusion: Through this research process I learned as much about how to research, as I did about canoe carving. I learned to be proactive in finding sources, and always to make one or two backup plans if something falls through. I learned that the tradition of carving is very much alive, and an integral part of the fishing community, Elmina in particular. I also learned that carving still utilizes some traditional tools, and uses them right alongside motorized technologies. This does not cheapen the traditional craft, but instead grants it a space in the modern world. I also conclude that there is still much research that could be done regarding this topic. Virtually untouched by my research have been the decorative painting styles of the Fanti, the decorative carving on the outside of the crafts, and the carpentry used to complete these canoes.


Arts and Humanities | Community-Based Learning | Community-Based Research | Family, Life Course, and Society


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