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Aissa Dione

Aissa Dione, Kameroun, ca. 2001, cotton, raphia.

IN WEST AFRICA, the practice of traditional craftsmanship—the act of transforming raw materials into useful objects—is in a state of crisis, one linked to the disappearance of local talent and the spread of poverty.

This situation makes us feel powerless. We are helpless to stop the massive export of our most precious materials, such as cotton, wood, marble, gold. And we cannot halt the rapid loss of ancestral knowledge, which remains so simple and efficient but also complex and essential to sustaining a livelihood.

Rarely are design and the applied arts regarded as means of economic development. Professional training in these areas is always basic. One hopes that the Senegalese government, which has such a rich history of implementing cultural policies in support of the arts, might establish a technical school of craft and design.

A will to survive inspires us—it

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