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Ghana's only glassblower is turning TVs and windows into artistic wonders

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Ghana's only glassblower Michael Tetteh produces glassware at his workshop, in Krobo Odumase.
Ghana's only glassblower Michael Tetteh produces glassware at his workshop, in Krobo Odumase.   -   Copyright  FRANCIS KOKOROKO/REUTERS
By Doloresz Katanich  with Reuters

Ghana's only glassblower produces dozens of eclectic pieces a week - using only recycled TV screens, window panes and soda bottles.

Hailing from the town of Odumase-Krobo, Michael Tetteh first discovered glassblowing in 2012 after spending two months in France and the Netherlands learning the craft. He worked first alongside other Ghanaian bead-makers, and then on his own.

Tetteh was alone in his desire to continue upon returning home and set a goal to establish a proper hot shop in Odumase-Krobo, one of the epicentres of Ghana's traditional glass bead culture.

Undeterred by a lack of finance, he built furnaces from scrap-metal and clay using online tutorials. He fine-tuned his abilities watching YouTube videos of famous glass artists like America's Dale Chihuly. 10 years on, his glassblowing business is thriving.

FRANCIS KOKOROKO/REUTERS
Ghanaian glassblower Michael Tetteh shapes molten glass at his glassware manufacturing workshop in Krobo Odumase, Ghana March 15, 2022.FRANCIS KOKOROKO/REUTERS

Why is glass waste a problem in Ghana?

Tetteh's strict use of recycled materials, which he collects from scrap yards and landfills in the capital Accra, is part of his mission to reduce Ghana's glass waste and what he considers wasteful imports.

He envisions a Ghana free of foreign glass, having channelled its glass bead-making tradition into a modern, multi-faceted industry.

Ghana imports around €277million ($300 million) in glass and ceramic products each year, according to the Observatory for Economic Complexity. More than 80 per cent of that comes from China, the world's top glass exporter.

While some private companies recycle their glass, Tetteh says the majority of Ghana's glass waste ends up either in landfills or scattered throughout the nation's streets, posing a safety hazard.

FRANCIS KOKOROKO/REUTERS
Ghanaian glassblower Michael Tetteh, 44, inspects a piece of glassware after allowing it to cool for more than 48 hours at his workshop in Krobo Odumase, Ghana March 18, 2022.FRANCIS KOKOROKO/REUTERS

He has since trained and hired several young assistants from Odumase-Krobo, who he hopes will one day run their own workshops.

I want to make Ghana beautiful.
Michael Tetteh
Glassblower

"My heart is to train young Ghanaians, both men and women, so they can also learn this job as their professional work, and we can grow Ghana. We will not go to any country like China to buy the material we want to use in Ghana. I want to make Ghana beautiful," Tetteh says.

The team's work can be found in boutique shops in Ghana and Ivory Coast, and has appeared in European and American art galleries.

Watch the video above to learn more about Ghana's only glassblower work.