Sinclair Yao Daley
Hand-carved African wood masks and sculptures in West Africa
"My hope and plans for the future include establishing a workshop in my hometown and starting a tree farm and fish farm to help the youth there have a source of income.""I am a woodcarver who is friendly and at the same time shy. I am a firm person and stick to my words.
"I was born on May 20, 1948 in Kpando-Fesi in the Volta Region of Ghana. As I was growing up in my hometown, I used to carve when I was in school, but little did I know that I would one day become a woodcarver.
"I came to Accra to meet my dad, who was an ex-service man, because he wasn't staying with us. While I was living with him, I worked as a gardener to make some money. I kept complaining that I wasn't earning much.
"At the time, my father was into carving and had been asking to me to join him in his workshop, but I wasn't interested. I once visited him at work and he asked me to help with some masks he was carving. To his surprise, I finished earlier than his apprentice and did a good job. My dad sold the masks and gave me a commission, and I realized this was more than I earned as a gardener.
"That convinced me. I quit my job as a gardener and started assisting my father in his workshop. Eventually, I went to Mr. Winfred Ezi to learn how to carve other items and also to improve on my skills. Learning from the beginning wasn't easy for me. I had to observe my master as he carved and identify how he handled his tools carefully when carving to master my craft.
"When I started working on my own, it was not an easy task because all I had were the raw materials. I had to produce and sell in order to have money to live on.
"Papa Billy, who was from Nigeria, was my first customer. He purchased a lot my designs and his praise for my work encouraged me.
"My family members who work with me are organized well in such a way that the beginners start with woodcutting and others are involved with shaping the wood into images. Some also drill through the images and some women do the painting.
"The materials I use are wood, stones, clay, dye, jute, cola nuts, soot and dust. I usually buy some of these from the market and prepare the others on my own. Currently, I am training eleven apprentices.
"I look out for accuracy and good imagination and creativity in my designs. I get my inspiration from my environment and the people around me. Also people who purchase my masks usually inspire me, and their satisfaction is a source of joy.
"My hope and plans for the future include establishing a workshop in my hometown and starting a tree farm and a fish farm to help the youth there have a source of income. My woodcarving workshop has created a source of employment for the young people in my community and they pick up the remaining scraps for firewood. Others use the bark of the trees as medicine."