Ernestina is a skilled carver making a name for herself in a male-dominated craft

Story by Talea Miller, photos by Brandon Smith

Ernestina, an artisan in Ghana, is dressed to the nines for company but doesn’t hesitate for a moment to climb into her carving workshop and show us how it’s done.

When she carves it’s a full body effort. She positions herself on a tree stump, across from her material. She uses her legs, clad in beautiful orange embellished pants, to pin the wood in place and begins chiseling, wood chips flying. She kicks off her shoes for better traction.

It’s mesmerizing to see how quickly the wood changes from a plank with a rough pencil sketch to the form of a mother.

“When I carve, I feel like God has given me something to create,” Ernestina says. She’s been honing her craft for 20 years, since she was 15 years old. Women carvers are still not very prevalent in Ghana, she says, but she loved the craft so much she kept working at it.

“I’m glad I have been able not only to infiltrate…but to also make an impact on the trade.”

Ernestina took out a $500 Kiva loan to buy raw materials, including wood, metal plates, beads, leather and paint. Seventeen Kiva lenders backed her loan and helped light up Ernestina’s life and the life of her children.

The loan helped her produce more stock and make money to support her 8 adopted children and pay their school fees. She took in her children from friends and family who weren’t able to care for them.

She is emotional talking about her choice to adopt, and tears fill her eyes.

“My own father, the one that took care of me, I found out that he did that for us…so that is what made me want to [adopt children],” she said. Her father died long ago, so didn’t get to see how she honored his legacy but she knows he would be proud.

As for her children: “I tell them to go to school because if you know how to write and if you know math your business will grow fast.”

Her hope is that she can eventually go back to school as well to learn math and improve her writing.

She now works with her husband and runs the shop. She plans to continue expanding and wants a drill machine so she can produce more. They own a piece of land, but want to make enough money to build their own shop and a home.

“If I’m able to produce more, I can sell more!” she says.

You can help support a woman-owned business by making a loan of $25 or more on Kiva today.

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