Unravelling the Weft and Weave, a new project conceived of for the Fund, involved the creation of a digital platform to connect semi-broad loom weavers in remote areas in Upper West Ghana (Nadowli, Nandom and Wa) with designers and buyers from all over the world.
The prototype platform, currently in its final stages of development with an alternative platform used in the meantime, will be used by designers to share weaving commissions with weavers, whilst allowing buyers to make bespoke commissions, selecting the design, colours, quantity and the type (weight) of final strips.
Research observations and conversations took place with weavers, members of the dyeing community in Daboya and designers throughout, to understand how this knowledge and process could be factored into the functionality of the digital platform.
Beyond commissions, the platform also showcases stories from designers and weavers about the weaving practice in the communities and the collaboration, building understanding of the weavers’ processes and archiving knowledge of the craft heritage of this region.
This prototype project allowed the Nubuke Foundation and Assemble to explore how they can work with weavers in remote areas who face challenges with communications and technology, supporting them to connect to wider networks, fashion movements and buyers who are unable to travel to the region. The project built on prior engagement with weavers from this region, that involved workshops on new design, tastes and trends emerging in the market, where the missing next step was supporting connection to the market.
- Build on existing relationships with partners or participants, to provide a strong foundation on which to start a short-term project of this kind. For example, the Nubuke Foundation worked with weavers with whom they had had an existing relationship for over 10 years.
- Spend time before applying to understand the values and interest of partners and work with partners whose values and interests are aligned with yours.
- Consider the complementing skills set or networks of partners. For example, Assemble had experience of briefing and working with website developers, refining the brief to focus on what was important and interesting, to highlight through the platform.
- Be really clear about the information needed from artisans when conversations are taking place digitally, thinking of elements which might have previously been established physically/visually i.e. the thickness of the yarn.
- Carefully consider what is best suited to digital, the elements that need to take place physically and the processes needed before deciding on the format or facilitating the final output, ensuring that it is true to the vision and aims of the project.
“when we think about digital projects, you think…[it] can solve all problems, from beginning to end, like a magic wand... But for me…there's also a bit of the manual [physical], interaction, intervention being important. It doesn't mean that everything is going to be digital, you need to recognise what you need to do to facilitate the digital” Project partner
Nubuke Foundation will showcase the work of the project at their annual Woori festival, with interviews with the artists, designers and weavers in order to raise the profile of this work and build on the network of weavers in Ghana and designers in the UK established through the project.
The project partner organisations also made new connections through each other’s networks. These connections, such as Assemble’s introduction of artists working with clay and concrete along with architects to the Nubuke Foundation, have stimulated ideas of how materials available locally in Ghana could be used in their community. An outcome of this, is a project creating a drinking ceremony structure using natural clay which considers the traditions in Ghana but also works with artists in Ghana who are pushing the material further. Furthermore, the partners are continuing their conversation, considering how the prototype of the process explored with weavers might be translated to those working with clay.
A project partner said:
“You go into [project] with a certain mindset … and you're thinking I know this … things will be like this, but it was just the way we're constantly finding out new things … this unravelling [of the weavers practice and process] is exciting because it’s … an eye opener… it means that once we kind of unpack all this stuff, we can put things together again, into different offers, wider opportunities”.
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