Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Ghana Materials Industry, Part 2

Ghana's Ceramics Industry: On Flower Pots, Roof Tiles, and Nano Technology

Any visitor to the University of Ghana, Legon campus, is immediately struck by the lovely terra cotta roof tiles. For many years the campus buildings were sadly neglected, so on my latest trip it was inspiring to see the numerous construction and renovation activities on campus. I was pleased to note the deliberate effort to preserve the original architecture, represented in part, by the red-tiled roofs.

Our second field trip took us to a company that supplies some of the tiles being used at the university, Ceramica Tamakloe, in Dodowa, near Accra. Peter Tamakloe, the proprietor and Managing Director, is a graduate of the College of Art of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST). He began by making flower pots for export and when that business
slowed down he experimented with local clays for the manufacture of unglazed tiles. Lately, he's also added another product: ceramic-based water purification systems. Incidentally, the antibacterial action of the filtration system relies on a coating of nanosize silver particles.

Mr. Tamakloe is passionate when he talks about the need for people to put their head knowledge into practice.

Here are some words of wisdom he shared with us that day:

"We've given education a certain wrong feeling in Africa"
(i.e., we learn stuff but we don't DO it. It's as if learning is only for passing exams.)

"(There are) so many people with knowledge in their heads, and it dies with them."

"The clay is in my blood. I'll do it." (Even though he has faced severe financial challenges, he has no choice because he sees this work as his mission. He'll overcome all odds to do what needs to be done to pursue his dream.)

"Do it because you love it." (Everyone should find something that excites them and give it their best.)

"Don't be afraid to share knowledge. It will come back to you." This last quotation reflects his openness to collaborating with university researchers. He has been experimenting with local red and white clays and welcomes partners who bring a scientific approach such as will be forthcoming from the University of Ghana's Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

"Knowledge is useless unless it benefits somebody."

I left Ceramica Tamakloe inspired, but with this persistent question haunting me: why is a ceramic artist taking the lead in advancing technical ceramics? Where are the materials engineers?


Dk said...

wow this is great; precisely the attitude we need more of...

i agree with "Don't be afraid to share knowledge. It will come back to you." but this seems like the inverse of current practices, in which everyone seeks to guard knowledge.

Kwadwo Asare said...

The materials Engineers are still being trained in Ghana. I am offering materials Engineering in KNUST, Ghana and it is a very fascinating course. The slight challenges we face are the unavailability of Materials ENgineering industries as well as materials engineers to spur us on.

Chingynt said...

Materials engineers should be the ones at the forefront of the ceramics industry in Ghana since they take into consideration the structure and properties of the ceramics such as the phases present and at what composition, the impurities and the other components present. The artist merely takes into consideration mainly the aesthetics. Hence it is high time Ghanaian materials engineers both home and abroad invest their knowledge and practise in improving the materials engineering sector in Ghana. Charity they say begins at home... Kwadwo Asare Owusu.

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