Field Notes ft. Afrika Tiss
Our third edition of the Field Notes series spotlights an organisation whose work has inspired young individuals interested in fashion and design, to reintroduce ethics and the principle of exchange into their work.
Afrika Tiss aims to promote craft as a way of facilitating social and economic development, while preserving history and culture.
With a focus on populations in unstable environments (such as refugees and craftswomen in the informal economic sector), Afrika Tiss connects creators, designers and artisans to enable the creation of unique and extraordinary products. Much like Artisan & Fox, they firmly believe in a co-creative approach that values creative, technical, and human exchange across cultures. To help us learn more about this inspiring organisation, we asked them several questions during a short interview:
How do you ensure that Afrika Tiss remains transparent to consumers?
Afrika Tiss strives to remain transparent by minimising intermediaries in between groups. This can help promote open communication among our stakeholders from our artisans, to our consumers.
Our team in Burkina Faso interacts with the artisans on a daily basis and members of the Paris team also spend several months on the ground in Burkina to facilitate communication between the two teams.
Our boutique in Paris sells products locally as well as to distributors, with whom we provide clear, detailed information about our products and organisation. Selling locally allows us to communicate directly and be transparent with our consumers about our approach; our project, what challenges our organisation or our artisans may be facing, as well as our future aspirations. We are also currently in the midst of acquiring full certification from WFTO (World Fair Trade Organisation) for our work.
As an organisation working to improve the lives of those in the handmade textile sector in West Africa, is there anything that you would like people to know?
We aim to bring weaving back to its traditional birthplace, where raw materials are produced, and talented, skilful men and women are abundant.
Although several African countries produce cotton, the African continent hosts very little industrial textile activity. Burkina Faso produces over 500,000 tons of cottonseed, but only 2% of this is locally transformed into usable products. Shifting the transformation of cotton into usable products back to the cotton’s place of origin will help to value the traditional craft of our talented artisans and allow these artisans to benefit economically from the cotton transformation process.
Afrika Tiss strives to break free from the common language of poverty and pity that often surrounds the topic of development programs.
What is the biggest challenge you’re facing?
Currently, our biggest challenge is the deteriorating security situation in the north and east of Burkina Faso. There have been several terrorist attacks in Ouagadougou, the capital, but the most serious threat is the violence occurring near the refugee camps in the north of the country.
The terrorist attacks place risks on the work done by our artisans living in these camps and may cause delays in production. Despite these threats, we feel that it’s important to continue working to help maintain economic activities in the region.
What does Afrika Tiss hope to achieve in the long run?
We strive to break free from the common language of poverty and pity that often surrounds the topic of development programs.
Instead, we want to recognise and display the vast wealth of history and culture that is found in countries such as Burkina Faso. In valuing the quality, diversity and uniqueness of craft from Burkina Faso, we also support our artisans’ pride in their learned skills and traditions.
Complete the sentence “Social responsibility is __.”
Social responsibility is valuing the diverse ways we can contribute to our society and being inclusive such that everyone can have a fair chance at a livelihood.