Margaret & the art of Ndebele women

When a woman meets a group of women, all of them creative, only good things can result from this experience.

It´s the case of the photographer Margaret Courtney-Clarke and her photo documentary about the art of Ndebele women.

Based in West Africa, these women use vernacular art to enhance traditional architecture by painting them by hand using linear elements and “traditional design concepts borrowed from their ancestors“.

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For Margaret Courtney-Clarke, the objective of African Canva work is:

My objective in this work is to document an extraordinary art form – vernacular art and architecture in West Africa – that is not transportable and therefore not seen in museums around the world. It is an attempt to capture the unseen Africa, a glimpse into the homes and into the spirit of very proud and dignified peoples. In much the same way as I photographed the art of Ndebele women, I have drawn on my personal affinity for the art itself, for methods, design and form, rather than the socio-anthropological or political realities of a people or continent in dilemma. These images portray a unique tradition of Africa, a celebration of an indigenous rural culture in which the women are the artists and the home her canvas. Margaret Courtney-Clarke, 1990

Watch the pictures here.

Is Craftivism bringing social change? Julia Feliz says no

Julia Feliz made a very interesting point about the limitations Craftivism has a way to bring social change, the real one. She also pointed out another issue I´ve never think about, craftivism comes mostly from white women, for she, the opressors side.

I understand many of the points she shared. We need to rethink and reevaluate the impact of craftivism actions. I guess if for Julia, craftivism is only a self-strategy to feel proud of your humanity and creativity.

Honestly, I don´t think so.

After years of experience working in the field of development and social change, I think there is space for every kind of activism. The one who promotes and stands for human rights, by using different instruments: crafts, banners, protests, occupations, etc. Or the one who is involved in a long -term perspective and implements concrete actions, let´s say projects on capacity building, advocacy, education, and a long etc. Both ways are rigth and both ways bring change in a way. And this is what Craftivism tries to do so, as this research looks for. In this case, crafts are only a language, an instrument.

An open approach to craftivism that involves both ways of looking for a better world. We migth add the individual one, because our daily choices are also political acts (bying natural textiles, buying from local and avoinding companies abusing labour rights, using public transport, and much more…). But let´s focus on the issue.

Betsy explained very well, and has always prioritise this point of view in her webpage as you can see if you read all her work.

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By brinding concrete change in people´s live or by raising awareness on others. Both are necessary and both are relevant. For me the pussyhat movement was a wonderful way of saying – here we are!.

An opportunity to show how many people are linked and shared same values. (My percection might be wrong). But, the same people who coordinated the pussyhat movement are now coordinating the Welcome Blanket a way to raise awareness about the abuse and injustice the wall between Mexico and the USA represent. And I see this action as an action supporting POC people.

Now, what I see as a point that we can really think and analyse is how POC people is involved in the craftivism movement. According to Julia they are not part of the movement only “fake beneficiaries”. Why they do not participate in? they do not feel invited? or it´s because their real needs are not reflected in the message. How can craftivism movement be more participatory?

I do not have many responses but I´m sure there is a way of bringing craftivism to POC people as Julia said. A way of promoting a way to promote ownership of craftivism as strategy to let them voices heard.

At Dialogue Café, we organised a wonderful session on Craftivism (you can listen) in the framework of the Global Exchange of Crafts Makers.

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Any thought to be shared around?


The Refugee Company

Experiences We Admire

If you do not know yet The Refugee Company work, you must. The work they are making in cooperating with refugees in order to quickly integrating them by supporting their talents and competences is amazing.

Tailors from The Refugee Company Atelier are now empowered because they are contributing with their knowledge to the society and their skills are recognised, proud of the work they make and the new things they also learn.

Focusing on many issues, but particularly in crafts and handmade work, The Refugee Company Save the Crafts project might be consider a very good practice to be replicated around the world. Despite The Refugee Company does not work exclusively with women, the business and organisational model apply is a source of inspiration.

Once again, we can say handicrafts can bring social change and empowerment. Because craftmanship work is based on personal competences and skills, because it brings a unique work, but also because it can strongly contribute to enhance the culture and know-how of our societies.

During the session organised at Dialogue Café, on Refugees Social Inclusion through Artisanship, Fleur Bakker, Director of Refugee Company shared with us the challenges but also the amazing results organisation is facing and getting in the implementation of this project.

Here below, you can find a very nice article written by STEPHANIE SALDAÑA on July 10, 2017 at Mosaic Stories where she focus on Omar and Khalil story. 

To know more, follow them on facebook or visit their website.

Do you know other initiatives supporting empowerment and social inclusion of refugees, displaced people or at risk through craftmanship?

If yes, let us know !


Bringing market access to refugee Artisans

Thanks to MADE51, a new initiative supported by UNHCR displaced craftspeople from 11 nations across the world will present their products at the annual Ambiente fair, which runs 9-13 February in Frankfurt, Germany.


Continue reading “Bringing market access to refugee Artisans”