Collective Stories | Part I
Collective Stories | Waraniéné
Four kilometers down a red dirt road from Korhogo, Côte d’Ivoire lies the village of Waraniéné. The village, half Dyula, half Senufo (the two dominant cultural groups in this area), is renowned for its’ exquisite textiles. The Dyula, traditionally weavers, have been perfecting their craft for centuries and their textiles are captivating works of art. Each geometric pattern and use of color has a specific meaning, but the weavers are free to create, develop, and modify as their artistic eye sees fit. This means that their motifs are modern interpretations of traditional patterns, re-imagined for the contemporary aesthetic.
Laine and I began working with Waraniéné over a year ago, after I met the head of the community, Valy, in 2014. The collective expressed an interest in collaborating with someone who could increase exposure to consumers outside their local communities and help with product selection. Better business means a more sustainable daily life for the artisans and their families and ensures the longevity of this practice. Both Laine and I were inspired by Waraniéné’s philosophy, approach to weaving, and desire to create a productive community which works, collectively, to keep the rich history of their shared craftsmanship alive.
Weaving is a family business, and its’ legacy still reverberates in the local community. Today, this craft is passed down from parent to child. The children begin to learn how to weave between seven and ten years old. They play with basic weaving techniques during their school holidays and after-school. Their apprenticeships last up to ten years, after which they have the option to become a full-time weaver or pursue another career path of their choice.
This talented artisan community is unique in their ability to function as a cohesive collective. Prior to incorporating in the early 1970’s, the weavers would produce cloth and sell their goods in markets. In 1972, the first president of Côte d’Ivoire, Félix Houphouët-Boigny, visited the village and selected five weavers from Waraniéné and the surrounding area to train to work together as cooperative. Their training consisted primarily of business development and streamlining business strategies to increase sales. In the 1990’s this artist collective split, but Waraniéné continued to work together as a local community. Today, with more than 300 members and an elected board of 11 elders, 20% of each purchase is invested back into a collective “pot”.
*stay tuned. Part II coming next week.