Tanda - questions and steps forward

During my stay in Sidi Kaouki, I’ve had a chance to discuss projects, dreams, and ideas of the project members. The residency was slow paced, but some work - and certainly some dreams - became strongly rooted in my mind. I have slept many nights over Sofien’s proposal and asked if he’d like some help. Luckily, he did - and soon after, I ended up being selected for one-year-long studies for cultural entrepreneurs, where various European organizations that specialize in supporting or developing sustainable art projects will be helping participants to work on their proposals and bring them to life. Zuza Koszuta from Czułość, a successful and acclaimed art gallery from Poland which selected me, told me there will be a guy from MIT that focuses on creative platforms as one of the mentors. I don’t know his name, but platforms and arts - that’s enough to turn me on.

We had a call today with @Sofien-Dahem, during which we discussed where the project is heading now, what are the future steps, and how do we collaborate on it to make it into a solid business sometime soon. In this post, I’ll try to explain what is the idea and what are the challenges ahead of us. This also means a lot of questions to the collective brain of our community and a call for criticism, advice, and support.

Some time ago Sofien took part in a small-scale project that documented some of the traditional crafts in Tunisia and matched the artisans with contemporary designers. The project didn’t last very long, but the idea captured him. He told me about his dream of creating a repository of documentation of traditional crafts from Africa, which would consist of multiple layers:

A digital archive and a museum where materials preserving the traditional methods would be collected. The first comprehensive space of its kind, and a viable source of information for people interested in traditional craftsmanship. It would also have a database of traditional artisans, informing about their skills and history as producers.
An online shop in which you can find the collection of the modern African handcraft products result of the annual co-living co-design experience between the designers and the handcrafters
A learning platform for people who would like to acquire specific skills presented on the page. This also includes educational materials and games for schools interested in including this kind of knowledge in their curriculums. Including tools that would make the learning fun and tangible - weaving kits for example. And it also involves access to high-quality materials explaining the crafts from various points of view - historical, ethnographic, anthropological - available also as a research material. We could for example offer payable access to 3d models of artifacts to researchers willing to investigate a very niche craft somewhere in Tunisia.
A space for contemporary designers, hackers, makers, and artisans to work together on new products that would combine the traditional knowledge and traditional skills
A space That provides handcrafts workshops for tourists.
Offline workshops and master classes in these crafts
Production space dedicated to hotels, hostels, and other spaces searching for the unique design that could be provided based on this network.

The idea is huge and possibly in the future, it could encompass other continents as the first of its kind archive of traditional skills in the world.

We have a lot of question marks here, which possibly some of you could help us address:

What kind of business/ nonprofit entity should this project be based on, and where?
We’re considering having multiple offices - one in Tunisia, as the government is now working on regulations that will support startup owners with funds. It would also allow us to pay one of the members for a longer period of time - in this case Sofien, and possibly someone else from Tunisia who’d like to join in. There is also Estonia, with its e-residency that would allow us to access both European market and funds. And other places, maybe Germany - with its generous funds and booming design scene.

What kind of team do we need?

For now, we determined that the idea has to include a wide range of skilled members, such as
Project manager and lead - Sofien
Content manager/editorial head and a community/partnership builder - possibly me
video makers and editors - I have a great contact in Denmark, but we’d probably need much more if the project flies
3d modeling specialists
IT specialist, web developer and a person responsible for maintaining the database
Historians, anthropologists, and ethnographers who’d investigate and explain the objects, motifs, ideas behind the traditional arts

What kind of resources do we need?

Cameras, computers, microphones, editing programs
Raw materials to produce the objects
Spaces where workshops and meetings could be held
In-depth research about the methods of documenting various methods of production - what tools do we use, how do we ensure a holistic approach? What are the concerns technical difficulties, philosophical questions here?

Where can we get funds for the project?

The program I will be participating in has a module which focuses on funding opportunities. Besides, we’re investigating other options to get the initial funding for the project, and for now, we have found a couple of sources - but we very much welcome your ideas here as well.

Sofien is applying to Safirlab.com - Francophone long-term project that supports startups from MENA region with knowledge and funding
Creating a unique museum of this kind might get support from Google - I saw a presentation from CyArk from Oakland, California who collaborate on a very unique, high-quality documentation of historical sites all around the globe, which made me think of a possibility of working together with them (although I am also concerned about partnering with the evil monopoly)

The colleague of Sofien has offered help with fundraising from sources known to him in the Netherlands that could support the early stage of development of the project

All of these questions are open, and I am well aware that a lot of the questions haven’t even been asked yet. I’d be grateful for your insights and comments. And of course we invite possible collaborators to the table - I’m thinking of @matteo_uguzzoni for the gamification/educational part, @Noemi, @mariekebelle and @anique.yael for their criticism and ideas, as well as possible involvement, @Matthias, and @alex_levene to pitch in as well. And everyone else who find this project interesting, possibly as their own baby in the future. Let us know.


Beautiful stuff @natalia_skoczylas. Happy to lend a small hand where I can (while paying attention to not doing too much) so keep me in the loop and I’ll see how I can help :rose:

Hey @natalia_skoczylas and @Sofien-Dahem,
You bth already know that i find this project realy interesting and exciting, so i’d love to help out however i can. I can certainly start by opening a few doors in Ethiopia (and maybe further into East Africa) through family connections. We may be able to lean on the British Council and Goethe Institutes in those countries as potential sources of funding and/or institutional support.
Similarly, thinking of European institutions who we may be able to leverage for funding or support we have SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies - London) and Tropenmuseum (Amsterdam).
I would imagine that Brussels and Paris also both have similar spaces (part of the joys of ex-empire nations :sob:)

I have also reached out to find out more about a boutique chain of hotels that i’m aware of across African capital cities. They decorate each hotel exclusively with local artists and handicrafts (my cousin was talking to them about setting up one in Addis) so they may be able to open doors to artists/artist communities in the countries they are operating (i think Mali was one of them)

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My cousin Meredyth (lives in Lyon) knows a lot about developing and bringing to market African crafts and handiwork via a nonprofit. Her focus is Burkina Faso. She’s a good resource for on-the-ground advice. What she does is not exactly what is gelling here, but isn’t far off. The last time I chatted with her about ‘what it takes’ she made it clear that it’s a lot more work that one might think at the idealistic front end planning and vision phase. She offered to weigh in anytime it might be useful. Her company is Paga Bags;


This is the boutique chain i mentioned above:
They’re super high end. Contact is going to look out their email contact details for me for future reference.

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Hey @natalia_skoczylas!

I love the project <3

If you think you need to pick my brain at some point or need help, just ping me;-)