Kwesi Leroy Sells His Art By the Beach

By: Julian Bessinger

ELMINA, Ghana —The waves at Elmina’s Coconut Grove Resort beach crash over a field of rocks before making it to the shore. Usually a wave will barely lap the end of the tide line, but sometimes a wave will break high over the rocks, and come rushing over the length of the entire beach, sweeping up the wares from the tarps on the sand that merchants sell from. There’s a moment of alarm where the sellers and the buyers alike frantically collect the bits of colorful product from the surf before the beach is once again restored to a calm impasse.
This is the domain of Kwesi Leroy, an artist and beach salesman who has frequented this particular spot for over twenty years. He has a proud affability about him, as if he has heard that the small twisted bronze figures he makes are strikingly beautiful so many times that he doesn’t need to hear it confirmed again to know.
“It’s my grandpa’s art,” he says, gesturing at the little army of dancing men, and singing women. Although he doesn’t look more than thirty, he adds that he has been making and selling the figures for over twenty years now. “I can’t quite keep track.” He also has a variety of other wares for sale, including the ubiquitous sewn bracelets that salesmen customize for customers all over Ghana.
Kwesi trades with the tourists who visit the resort so often that he can recognize repeat customers. “New York University comes each year,” he said, they will be back again next year.”