Indego Africa is a non-profit that works with women artisans in Rwanda and Ghana. All of their profits, donations, and grants go towards their education programs for their producers including business and entrepreneurship classes and skills training. A benefit to a non-profit model is having the support to do this type of programming, teaching both novice and experienced artisans the skills they need to become export ready. In addition to its educational component they design, develop, and sell their colorful collections to international markets ensuring their training isn't done in vain.
Why do you choose to work with global artisans/global handcrafts?
So many reasons... but at the end of everyday I can feel good about promoting consumerism for not only socially impactful products, but for beautiful goods that would otherwise not be accessible to the market at large. I get to go to work in order to help create mini treasures and then offer them up for sale with alongside knowledge, empowerment and education. It puts a smile on my face when I step back and think about it.
What sort of impact do you wish to achieve by working in the artisan sector?
Its important for me to create jobs that can support families and to better equip the artisans we work with with both technical, craft based skills and educational opportunities.
What do you think is the biggest challenge affecting the artisan sector (i.e., artisan training, market access, global instability)?
I think it shifts - what we've seen is that at any given time the groups we work with are dealing with one of these issues (plus others). We launched our vocational training programs to directly answer one of our biggest challenges - lack of technical skills in the youth artisan community combined with high product demand for certain products. Market access is a challenge for sure but it often is a problem of matching skills, availability and demand. We've seen time after time that there is a demand for artisan made goods - but it follows the general design trends and can be up and down for groups or not apply to large groups of artisans who may not have that particular skill needed. Its not a one size fits all model so it has inherent challenges there.
Rank by importance...job creation, craft preservation, and design/aesthetics.
Job Creation, Design/Aesthetics, Craft Preservation
Name a few brands working in collaboration with global artisans that you admire and why.
Proud Mary! :) Lemlem, Rose + Fitzgerald, Aelfie, AAKS, St. Frank. And so many others! We've worked closely with all of them and the dedication to craft and empowerment of artisans is not only authentic but also inspiring. There are so many brands working in this space now and its really exciting to get a glimpse inside and see how many cool things can be created by giving global craft the emphasis and attention it deserves.
What is your favorite product to produce and why?
Our plateau baskets - they were our first product and continue to be our best-sellers and are also a traditional Rwandan handicraft. We release them in new colors every year and people just love them. They are pretty remarkable pieces of art in their own right with each taking days to make (which is pretty evident by the construction / craftsmanship).
Where has been your favorite place to travel and where are you dying to go? (because let's be honest we do this in part so we can see the world!)
I fall in love with Rwanda each time I travel there but because of personal life milestones haven't been in three years. So I'm dying to go back there and also to visit our newest partner country - Ghana!