The USAID West Africa Trade Hub invited Marcella Echavarria of SURevolution, an international handcrafts specialty store in New York City, to give her impressions of the Salon International de l’Artisanat de Ouagadougou, the world’s largest African handcrafts fair.
SIAO: Africa’s main handmade show features the best, the old, the new, the fresh, all in one place, during ten days of intense passion and African savoir-vivre.
The event is a cultural feast of color, texture, shape and happy people honoring their ancestors with the work of their hands.
Ouagadougou, during SIAO, is overflowing in cultural richness, craftsmanship and simply a connection to tradition and heritage in a way that is deeply felt by Muslims, Christians, Fulanis, Tuaregs, and Mauritanias to mention just a few of the participants.
6000 exhibitors came in trucks, buses, planes, walking and singing, from every corner in Africa which this year had as a theme youth and employment, both key issues for an industry based on human talent and the passing of knowledge from generation to generation. This beauty, exuberance, richness, color, happiness and beauty cannot disappear.
The highlight was the Pavillion de la Créativité where well known names are partnering with traditional rural artisans with three common denominators: quality, design and excellence. The incredible furniture of Hamed Ouattara (www.artmajeur.com/hamedouattara
), a native of Burkina Faso, is not only gorgeous in its redness and roundness but it actually comes from recycled oil drums and other reclaimed materials. His input consists of taking a very cultural African way of reusing and not wasting anything to a new level where art and function meet. His pieces are collector’s items that tell the African story in contemporary ways.
There was also Master Cheick Diallo
from Mali walking the show and paying a visit to his mentees from the Centre Lukare, an association of furniture makers who reuse tin and rubber, just outside of the city. “Everything is possible, design should embrace big ideas about the world we live in,” Diallo said.
Designer Frederic Alcantara
from Morroco was sitting at the booth with Malian artisans he knows well.
Beautiful fabrics made with natural cotton yarn are transformed into tri-dimensional indigo pillows inspired by the fleur á joven from Mali, scarves and necklaces with crotchet pom pons by the 110 women Cooperative Djiguiyaso
run by Madame Niangaly. It was refreshing to see the traditional Bogolan, commonly referred to as mud cloth, take new proportions and dimensions at Sinignesigui
from Segou Mali.