Week 1 in Waraniéné | July 2016
After a seven plus hour drive, the last half swerving and bumping along a road pocketed with pot holes, the last thing anyone wants to do is get back into the car for another short drive. However, that is what we did.
Driving down the rust colored road, we arrived to the sound of ticking looms and community chatter, which has the ability to quickly make you forget the day’s earlier journey. Our first official visit as Five | Six Textiles has begun.
With so much excitement, nerves, and curiosity building up to this point, it is hard to not get swept up into the motions of wanting to get to work right away. But this first visit isn't about work. It is about saying hello. In Côte d’Ivoire, as well as in many other parts of West Africa, it is customary when you arrive to sit down with the people you are visiting. To say hello, to bring news from where you came from and regale your hosts with your journey thus far. They responded with warm wishes of welcome and took us around the weaving collective so we could soak it all in. After the brief introduction and as they started packing up their workshop for the day, we shook hands, exclaimed “a demain” and returned to our hotel for some much needed rest.
The next day, work began. We spent the morning filtering through mountains of cloth and motifs. Re-arranging patterns and silhouettes, working with Waraniéné to discuss production, new designs, and creating a solid collaboration. We also learned a bit more about the community. How the collective began and how it has been a haven for artisans, even during a tumultuous few years of civil unrest - this story to come in another post.
One of our tasks while we are here is to spend time getting to know the people who live and work at Waraniéné. That afternoon we sat down with Vali, the head of the weaving collective, who is 59 years old and has been weaving since the early 1970’s. He was taught by his father at the age of 10. For the next 10 years, after school and during the school holidays, he learned and practiced the craft. Now, he is the leader of this community, elected to this post by the collective and because he is a very talented weaver. His children (he has 16 of them!) are all in various stages of their lives. Some remain at Waraniéné, following in their father’s footsteps while others have left to pursue other careers; teaching and farming. You can feel the strong sense of shared familial economy and respect that this community has for Vali. We are so excited to get to know everyone else!