NID sets the ball rolling on its basketry project with African countries

The million dollar project to connect India and Africa through design intervention is underway at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad.

The initiative was announced in January this year as part of the India-Africa Forum Summit Action Plan. The idea is to train, expose and empower craftswomen of rural Africa through the skills of basketry, which will allow them to tap its market potential.

Slated to cover five African countries over three years, the Zimbabwe leg started ticking with 25 participants from the country visiting the design institute for a Craft Manager’s Workshop. Essentially following the ‘training the trainers’ model that generates a multiplier impact, NID experts are imparting skills to the group members who will transmit their newly acquired learning and knowledge to others when they get back to their country.

The trainers at the workshop have been handpicked after NID articulated the criteria during field visits and field studies in Zimbabwe. To ensure that the design intervention was not restricted to product development and encompassed skills to take the products to the market, the participants’ group does not only have artisans but craft managers as well who will help to put the products on the shelf. “As the larger aim of the project is to connect the products to different markets, the groups have a sizeable number of women artisans who could conveniently handle large orders. Artisans participating are from the sisal fibre basket weavers operating under the Zienzele Foundation and the bamboo workers associated with the STEP Trust,” said the NID spokesperson.

The Craft Managers’ Workshop, which will be followed up by a workshop in Zimbabwe, saw around 17 artisans, 15 of them women, and four from management staff of the two organisations. The manager of Lupane Women’s Centre, the Director of the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, a potential craft exporter and a ministry official were also part of the group.

The workshop culminated today with a brainstorming roundtable event, from where experiences and insights will be used to steer the project in the future. Over the weekend, the participants will visit Delhi and see venues like the Craft Museum, Cottage Industries, and Dilli Haat.

At the initial announcement of the project the five African countries short listed for the initiative were Zimbabwe, Malavi, Ethopia, Tanzania and Uganda. The strategy was to conduct a need-assessment-cum-workshop in each country, followed by a workshop in India and a third workshop in the respective countries for 25 participants. Besides providing design and product development inputs, the project envisaged encapsulating a “major brand development exercise for the entire initiative lending a suitable designed identity to the endeavour”. This would include developing a logo to be used as a common identity and collaterals such as brochures, price tags, and packaging. Now that the project is on its way, designers and innovation lovers are eager to see the results it will deliver on the ground.

More In: Delhi