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Thursday, November 4, 2004

Gallery: Out and About: SIAO 2004

SIAO is the International arts and crafts fair held every year in Ougadougou capital of Burkina Faso. Trish Graham eShopAfrica's Product Sourcer went in 2004 with her friend Ren Englebrecht. Here's their photo essay. Text by Trish, photos by Ren.

 Tuareg tea...   
It was overwhelming. Booth after booth of textiles, carvings, beads. Tuaregs everywhere. Ren bought a lot of silver on the first day so every time I turned around there they would be flirting with their eyes and trying to sell me more. They kept offering to make me Tuareg tea - a deadly concoction, sort of tea espresso. They have little wire baskets shaped like a goblet, which they fill with burning charcoal, and a tiny enamel tea pot sits on top. But it was Ramadan and they were fasting so although they offered tea I never got any.

Sleeping gauze...
The Mauritanian women were there with their gauzy intricately tie-dyed lengths of cloth. Often, in the heat of the afternoon if you passed their booth you couldn't tell the women sleeping among the piles of gauze from the gauze itself. Only a hand, or a foot would suddenly show and you would realize there was a woman there.

Appropriate technology...   
There was an outside covered area dedicated to small technology and coops. There were wonderful foot water pumps, and my favorite, an ambulance which attached to the back of a motor cycle so it could navigate the small local trails. There was also a motorcycle taxi trailer attachment that could seat 6 people. I do think it would have taken quite a strong engine to pull it, but the idea was clever.

Women artisans...
While there, we met a wonderful woman from the Association Sinignasigui, a cooperative of women artisans from the town of Dedougou, in Burkina Faso. She had beautiful hand woven cloth and table cloths.

Peace Corps Baba...   
Another highlight of the time was Oumar Cisse, or Peace Corp Baba as he is often known. This larger than life character bounces around his booth, cackling and shouting "African Power". I first found his stall because the boys who were selling the huge aluminum cooking pots across the way were beating out a powerful rhythm on their pots. He was there, festooned with mud cloth, cowry shells and amber and dancing. At his booth, I had time for long talks about amber, silver and his museum in Mopti, Mali. The man knows his beads and has become an international designer, taking part in fashion shows in Paris, Marseilles, Montreal and of course, Mopti.

Warthog teeth...
Another afternoon was spent with Okechukwu Echere, a Nigerian bead seller and designer. He had mounds of wonderful brass beads from Cote d' Ivoire, and piles of intriguing warthog teeth. When I questioned him about the environmental impact of killing warthogs, I was assured that warthogs are very prolific and have MANY children, so it was not a problem. This I don't know, but they looked a fair bit like ivory and his necklaces featuring them were stunning.

Textiles galore and more...   
There was the old Aso Oke from Nigeria, Fulani blankets, that had been over dyed in indigo, making the other colors meld into a soft bluey rainbow. I got a huge, soft Dogon blanket, hand-woven from locally grown and spun cotton, with intricate indigo dyed patterns. There were glowing tapestries hand woven in Dakar, Senegal, and lots and lots of mud cloth from all over Mali. We bought wonderful Indigo cloth from the ladies of Guinea Conakry. There were brass beads and statues from Burkina, leather puffs and Tuareg leather pillows, antique carvings and masks and new carvings and masks. Part of one hall was dedicated to local agricultural products of cashews, dried mangos and paw paw, and mounds of strange herbs to cure every ill you could think of, (but all in French, so I was not tempted).

Party time...
There were stands from Algeria, South Africa, Rwanda, and all of West Africa. The main stage had a constant show of west African musicians and cultural performers going from about 4 pm on.

Great place to shop...   
Ren and Trish (on the right) with their bags full to overflowing with all the great things they bought. They'll be back!!!

Find out more about SIAO, the International arts and crafts fair in Burkina Faso:   

01 BP 3414 Ouagadougou 01
Burkina Faso

Tel (00226) 50 37 32 56/57
Email sgp@siao.bf
Website www.siao.bf

Feedback: Textiles: Sheila Basey, US

I just wanted you to know that I received the Mudcloth shawls this morning and I am estatic! They are wonderful.

Wednesday, September 1, 2004

Finalist in "Global Junior Challenge"

eShopAfrica was a finalist in the "Global Junior Challenge" a competition that is dedicated to all young people, from school children to teenagers and youths taking their first steps on the job market. It is open to cities, institutions, local authorities, businesses, NGOs, communities and individual citizens and all those who are interested or involved in child and youth education and training, and more broadly, in helping in the construction of a more inclusive society.

One of the aims of eShopAfrica is to put money and prestige back into the African artisan sector. Many of our artisans express a wish to be able to give their children a decent standard of living and education so that they remain with the family and inherit the skills instead of moving away to urban areas. Visit the Global Junior Challenge website

Friday, August 27, 2004

What's it like to work for eShopAfrica?

Deborah Jones, a UK post graduate volunteered to work for eShopAfrica during the summer of 2004. Although she is still continuing her studies she wanted to know what it was like to work for an African fair trade arts and crafts business. We were very happy to have her! As well as helping out in the office she helped survey our artisans on what their goals and aspirations are.

As an outsider coming from the UK she was full of ideas and initiated a bead marketing campaign for UK beadshops. She also had some good ideas to make the website better.

Deborah is now continuing her studies at the School of African and Oriental Studies in London and we wish her all success and hope that she'll come and visit us in Ghana again soon.

This is what she said about us:

"Working for eShopAfrica in Ghana taught me that whilst running a business in Africa is challenging, it is also immensely rewarding.

Part of the work I did out there was to interview the artisans about their plans and ambitions. Before I went, I thought the company had set itself a big challenge in helping these people earn a good living from selling their products, but I was not prepared for how enterprising and resourceful these men and women were. I was really impessed by their plans to speed up production and break into new markets.

The challenge they faced on a day to day basis; competition from others selling similar goods, the difficulty of getting hold of raw materials and the pace of life in Ghana, which means everything takes a long time, were akin to the challenges eShopAfrica faces. I really liked the fact there was no conflict of interest between the artisans who were all trying to develop their businesses, and the company that buys from them. They are all small concerns, but they can, and are, helping each other."

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Feedback: Ga Coffins: G Winston, UK

I ordered a decorated chest from eShopAfrica in the shape of a pepper. It's brilliant - a real collector's item. I had seen the work of the Ga carpenters in National Geographic but never thought I would be able to have one without going to Africa to get it.

Thursday, July 1, 2004

A Maasai at the 2004 Olympics

eShopAfrica gets a lot of emails from all over the world asking for help in getting African products. One day we got an email from H&H Sculptors in England who were looking for authentic Maasai attire.

They were casting a full sized Maasai scupture for the exhibition: Ptychoseis: Folds + Pleats: Drapery from Ancient Greek Dress to 21st-Century Fashion organised by the Peloponnesian Folklore Foundation and the Cultural Olympiad.

Although eShopAfrica has some contacts in Kenya, we don't source authentic Maasai products (yet) so we asked for help from some friends working with AMREF the Kenyan based NGO.

One of their staff bought the complete Maasai outfit including earrings, armbands and hair clips and sent them to London where the statue was dressed before being sent to Greece. The photos below show the Maasai modelling for for the cast and the finished sculpture - it's hard to tell which is which:

The Masaai who modeled for the statue

The Masaai statue

eShopAfrica nominated for the Tech Awards

eShopAfrica was nominated for the Tech Awards 2004 that awards innovators who use technology to benefit humanity. Visit the Tech Awards website

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Media: FHM Magazine: Getaway Caskets

All the fun of a funeral in Ghana without ever having to live there. No-one knows where we go when we die. If it's LA though, you're going to need a set of wheels. Thanks to coffin-makers in Ghana, the dead can now take to the afterlife in a hand-carved Ferrari, Subaru or whatever they fancy.
"Ghana's Ga people bury their dead in coffins that represent the life of the deceased," says Cordelia Salter-Nour of eShopAfrica.com, the business that's bringing Ghana's best to the West. The designs come in full, half and table top models. "Half size is a children's coffin," Salter says.
But do Westerners want to spend eternity in a giant phone? "Sure they do," Salter insists. One customer wants to be buried in a peacock so ordered her own coffin.  June 2004

Order your own Ga chest from the eShopAfrica.com online shop:

Find out more in this book:

Media: Playboy Magazine: Fatal Distraction - Going in Style

Playboy Magazine:  Fatal Distraction - Going in Style

Crazy caskets cheer up the grimmest of reapers. If you sell shoes for a living, you may as well step into the hereafter in a giant wingtip. At least that's the thinking in Ghana, where a coffin is the last word in style. Fifty years ago* a Ghanaian angler shipped off in a seven foot fish and started a trend; today there's an endless variety of silly, folk-arty things on the market. Cabdrivers are buried in wooden taxis, preachers in Bible-shaped boxes and suds lovers in beer bottles. Want your own? eShopAfrica.com can help get you one for your living room.   June 2004.

Order your own Ga chest from the eShopAfrica.com online shop:

Find out more in this book:

Friday, May 28, 2004

Africa as a Market - The Bead Trade

Cordelia Salter, Founder of eShopAfrica.com coordinated an exhibition of antique trade beads collected in Africa which was on display at FAO Headquarters in Rome during Africa week 24 - 28 May 2004. She also gave a lunchtime seminary on Africa and the bead trade. The beads that were on display tell an interesting story. Many of the designs were highly localised with beads of a particular colour being manufactured for a particular region of Africa. Fakes were common and both Venetian and Bohemian bead makers were skilled at reproducing beads which had a high value in Africa such as granite and coral.

The bead factories retained agents all over the continent who sent beads that were popular in Africa back to Europe to be copied. The exhibition had many examples of both the African originals and European copies.

The exhibition also showed that although the European bead industry fell into decline in the last century, the designs are still being reproduced in Africa today although the African bead makers use different processes.

Design Competition 04, Rome, Italy

In partnership with Afram, (UN African Amicale), eShopAfrica.com held the Design Competition Judging and Award ceremony at FAO on Friday May 28th as part of the UN Africa week celebrations. The theme was "Trade and Opportunities" 

Art and design students from international schools in Rome were challenged to design products suitable for western markets that incorporated traditional African arts and crafts. The students were shown a variety of African arts and crafts and told about the lives of the artisans. The response was fantastic with a total of 104 entries. The students came up with some truly original ideas.

A special thank you to the art teachers who worked with us to make this competition possible:

Dennis Cigler, High School Art Teacher
Marymount International School

Francesca Godfrey, Art Teacher
The New School

Greg Morgan, High School Art Teacher
St George's International School

Mauro Brooks, Middle School Art Teacher
Marymount International School

The Judges
Daniela Petroff-Simpson, the Associated Press Fashion writer who covers the Italian fashion scene was the Jury Coordinator. Judges were asked to award points on the following criteria:

Incorporation of African materials
Suitability for markets
Overall Impression

Other judges included Sheila Sisulu, Deputy Executive Director of the World Food Programme and Zeinab Gregorio,President of the African Women's Group.

The exhibit and award ceremony was attended by the BBC journalist Jenny Horrocks and was featured in the BBC World Service Radio Programme Artbeat during the week of 3rd June 2004.

Jenny Horrocks (right), editor of the BBC World Service Radio Programme ArtBeat with Father Chinedu Anieke and Cordelia Salter of eShopAfrica.com

The Winning Entries

The standard of the entries was very high and the judges had a tough time making their decision. Congratulations to the winners below and a big THANK YOU to everyone who entered.

Overall winners

1st prize: A Kente Shawl and 100 Euro Amazon Gift Token
"Beaded bag" by Maria Grade 12 Marymount International School

2nd prize: A Mudcloth Shawl and 50 Euro Amazon Gift Token
"Lion Head CD Stand" by Alex Grade 9 Marymount International School

3rd prize: An Ethiopian Shawl and 25 Euro Amazon Gift Token
"Chess Set" by Constanza Grade 6 Marymount International School

Grade Prizes
Each Grade prize received a Kente Strip

Grade 6 1st Place
"Panther Box" by Alif, New School

Grade 6 2nd Place
"African Table Mat" by Lehua, New School

Grade 6 3rd Place
"African Star Clock" by Alessandro, New School

Grade 7 Joint 1st Place

"Tesscam Lamp" by Tess & Camille, Marymount

Grade 7 2nd Place
"The Elly Lampshade" by Emilia, Marymount

Grade 7 3rd Place
"Secret Book" by Gabriel, Marymount

Grade 8 1st Place
"Poncho" by Teresa, Marymount

Grade 8 2nd Place
"School Bag" by Lidia, Marymount

Grade 8 3rd Place
"Cricket Cupboard" by Rizan, Marymount

Grade 9 1st Place
"Hat" by Stefania, Marymount

Grade 9 2nd Place
"Bed-side Table" by Galteera, Marymount

Grade 9 3rd Place
"Taily Key Holders" by Blaine, Marymount

Grade 11 1st Place
"Relax Chair" by Thais, Marymount

Grade 11 2nd Place
"Jewel of the Savannah" by Caroline, St Georges

Grade 11 3rd Place
"African Star Card" by Laura, New School

Grade 12 1st Place
"African Cloth Beautiful Belts" by Vittoria, Marymount

Grade 12 2nd Place
"Voodoo Night Handbag" by Francesca, Marymount

Grade 12 3rd Place
"Easy Assemble Canopy Bed" by Naila, Marymount