Maxime Issoko is one of three sons who inherited the blacksmith trade from their father. They are specialists in the fabrication of Bwiti, a reliquary of the Bakota tribes plated in copper. He also sculpts the Mousélé and other traditional and ceremonial knives and arrow heads.
Born in 1975, Maxime is from Zokota, 42 km from Mekambo. He works in Makokou, the capital of the Ogooué-Ivindo province. “When I was a child I stayed next to father who taught me how to heat and shape metals. That was how he made his living. It is a tradition in our family.”
Maxime started making masks on his own when he was 15 years old and estimates having sold well over 1,000 masks. “I sell to tourists, loggers, government officials, and everyone who lives in Makokou. My brothers and I are the only ones I know who make the Bwiti. It’s natural. It’s a symbol of our people.”
Gabon Boutique offers a new market for the Issoko Family products and Maxime welcomes the exposure. “The more the better. I always look for work. But I’ll always come back to sculpting. It’s seared into me.”