TANDA: Preservation and modernisation of the African handicrafts heritage

Hello everyone !

I’m Sofien Dahem from Tunisia, industrial designer and self-taught illustrator and as you know part of the OpenVillage experience in Sidi Kaouki.

The Inspiration

Right after my master, I worked with The GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit ) as a junior design consultant in a project of “REHABILITATION OF THE HANDICRAFTS ACTIVITIES IN TUNISIA” and as a first sector they focused on the weaving ancestral technics . So we went to two regions EL KEF wich is in the north and GAFSA in the south , we did workshops for the women handcrafters on marketing , branding and an initiation to product design so they develop the habit of innovation…
Afterwards we co-conceived a new collection of products that transfigure these technics into creative products dedicated to the international market, and we got such a good feedback when we exhibited them in the Tunisian international handcrafts show.

This experience shifted my way of thinking about product design which was more industrial targeted due to my university studies.
I sensed how all of the African continent has this huge cultural heritage that is endangered due to the fact that it is not well represented or used .
And that’s when TANDA came in, which means “ Diversity “ in Tamazight language this project of mine was birthed in the tunisian handicrafts show where I exhibited my first product wich was a new jewelry design that uses the ancestral AMAZIGH weaving technics mixed with copper and silver , something that was never done in Tunisia before. This work was done with two women handcrafters that I got to know when I was working with the GIZ.

And from that I carried on to giving my project this mission : “ PRESERVATION AND MODERNISATION OF THE AFRICAN HANDICRAFTS HERITAGE” to make this sector one of the main pillars of the African economical empowerment.


The approach will be to gather a team composed prematurely mainly of designers, an editor and a video maker/editor, target each year a country and go on an immersive 3-6 months co-living experience with the handcrafters there and co-conceive new products with them dedicated to themed hotels, hostels , guest houses restaurants , lounges , concept stores etc … any kind of space that seeks african themed design or architecture.

A Part of the income will go to the handcrafters themselves in the form of royalties to boost their production capability, engage and help them in creating their own startups.

The result will be a plate-forme containing a digital archive holding EVERY bit of information about the african handcrafts history , a museum and shop In which you can see that every ancestral and modern product from every African country has a story to tell and a legacy to give.

We will be the link that will connect the local heritage producers ( handcrafters ) to designers for the innovation of contemporary authentic products, provide the visibility ( products / handicrafts shows , an annual show to the experience itself ) and the economical support that will insure the African heritage to reach the global market with Africans themselves getting the income they deserve out of it .

All along my stay in sidi kaouki’s open-village, While discussing the subject with @matthias i had this idea about an annual handicraft oriented open-village experience that will include the TANDA project in countries all across africa.

Then i thought about cocluding the immersive 3-6 months co-living co-designing experience in each country with a “space” all designed with the " modernisation of the handicraft heritage " of that country ( architecture , interior design , furniture etc…) , this space would provide a handicraft workshops and activities to tourists the mentors will be basically the local artisans themselves and one or two designers.

I also discussed the project with @natalia_skoczylas and she helped me a lot in finding contests or grants for african entrepreneurship.

Once i got back home to Tunisia i started seeking out ways to concretize this project and i started by following the advise of @anique.yael wich was to first start connecting with local partners through existing or recently completed projects and so i did.

He’s one of the colaborators who worked with us in the Giz Project stated previously, The deal with him would be to get Funds for the project with his NGO since he has a lot of expertise in this , just to speed up the process and to start the project in tunisia and i go indpendent when it grows bigger and he has conexions with a canadian funded accelerator that was interested in the project he’s asking for a BMC That i almost have finished withe help of @islem .

Any kind of help and feedback is appreciated.