Maxwell Kofi Donkor first learned the skills essential to a drummer at his grandfather’s knee, in his native village, Otumi, located in Ghana, West Africa. As a teenager, he was comissioned like many Ghanaian youths, to carry on the traditions of his ancestors and perfrormed for a number of years with the Folklore ensemble of Ghana. He became a master drummer before he graduated from the University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana, where his studies focused on his nations’s culture, sculpture, rural art, and industry. His educational study, combined with his life-long exposure to the music and culture of his Asante village, gave him a uniquely comprehensive grasp of traditional African daily life.
After graduating, Kofi begun teaching and showing his sculptures in Ghana and neighboring countries before exhibiting in London, where he was invited to represent Ghana in the United States. He started teaching sculpture and drumming, both as a way to educate others, and to preserve the culture of his homeland. He considers the presentation of the Ghanaian art and culture his mission, bringing the sights and sounds of its history and a way of life around the world.
Since his arrival to the US, Kofi has been teaching art to children as well as adults. The programs he has been involved in range from teaching special needs children to use clay, potter’s wheels, kilns, and woodworking tools, to elementary, secondary, and university level school programs in the areas of African dance, sculpture, traditional Adinkra hand printing, drumming, drummaking, and storytelling.
Kofi has been instrumental in forming a significant number of drum circles in the tri-state region. His experience as a teacher of the arts has given him a unique grasp of the subtle nuances of group interaction. His drum circles are a place of understainding, support, and growth for people of all ages and all levels of drumming. the type of drumming that Kofi does not only “penetrates the body, mind, soul, and spirit, but also brings a balance into a person’ it is, in fact, the heartbeat of humanity, balancing the negative and positive energies of the everyday hectic life in the community.” He has played with such nationally known drummers as Babatunde Olatunji, and his Drums of Passion, Mickey Hart, Sikiru, and Camara.
Kofi’s work is award-winning, and includes the 1985 Best Sculpture award at the GIFTEX Interntional Trade Fair, in Ghana, Africa and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts 1999 Fellowship in Folk and Traditional Arts. He has also received awards for his residencies, including the 1994 “Gift of Time” from the American Family Association, PA. He has had numerous U.S exhibitions, including the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, art-in-education conferences, Monroe County Arts Council Art Space, PA, Lancaster Museum, PA. Main Line Art Center in Philadelphia, the Three Rivers State Exhibition in Pittsburgh, PA, to mention a few. Kofi has also done wood carving demonstrations in schools, colleges, and road exhibitions, including the 1999/2000 American Woodworkers Show in 5 US cities sponsored by Readers Digest as well as a significant number of other woodworkers shows.
Kofi feels that the culture sharing process does more than enhance student’s ives or provides an outlet for drummers. It pushes him along his own journey as an artist.