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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

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