The Supply Change blog. It's pretty wordy but a good story nonetheless:)...
I feel like Mali found me. I knew absolutely nothing about the
Francophile, West African country until last summer. I had been talking
to a Crafts Development coordinator from an African development
organization about working with textiles artisans in West Africa…I
thought that I would go to Ghana to work with Batik and traditional
African wax cloth fabrics but I was assured that Mali had “the best
textiles in Africa”, an opinion that I took as truth and ran with. I am
sooooo glad that I did. I traveled to Mali in December to work on
Proud Mary’s new collection and was totally blown away with the talent
and depth of textiles. I spent the majority of the time in the capital,
Bamako and Segou, a village a few hours North along the Niger River
working with artisan workshops developing samples for our line that
debuted at the New York Gift Fair in January.
I had an idea going to Mali of the collection I wanted to create; I
knew I wanted to work with mud cloth (of course, it is Mali) and tie-dye
but discovered a wonderful cooperative that works with crochet and had
to incorporate that into the new line. Not your grandmother’s crochet
either…these women create insanely unique designs with their crochet.
The head of the cooperative is an incredibly beautiful woman outside and
in. I loved spending afternoons in her atelier speaking the very
limited French that I knew and through my translator (who I’m not sure
really knew English very well).
About a month after returning from Mali I got news that the head of
the crochet cooperative’s husband had been killed fighting in the North
of Mali. He was in the Malian military trying to fend off heavily armed
insurgents and lost his life after a battle. Whoa, and we think our
lives are intense. [In the past 6 months there has been an influx of
insurgents in the North of the country attempting to claim the desert in
the North of the country as their own. The situation was starting to
get more intense when I was there but it didn’t seem like something that
would actually reach the news in the U.S.]
Fast forward a month and I get news from Mali that there has been a
coup d’ etat. The military had taken over the government for not
supplying them with adequate resources to fight the insurgency in the
North. Now came the news…a coup in a model democracy in volatile
sub-Saharan Africa was now a story. I’m so glad I’m not there, I hope
all of our artisans are safe, how long will it last, and will I get my
products; all thoughts going through my head; some selfish and some not.
It’s a strange feeling to be personally connected to a political
situation on the other side of the world but this is globalization
right? We’re all connected, we are all people, and we all deserve each
other’s respect and love. I am so excited to share our new, Mali
collection and support and share the AMAZING, and honorable work of our
artisan partners! Made with some serious love and coming soon to www.proudmary.org!