As a follow up to yesterday's post that focused on architecture, traditions and crafts, let's take a look at a recent project by Droog. A few months ago the Dutch design company was commissioned to redesign the Cacau cultural center in São Tomé e Príncipe.
The island's cultural center - a space where locals can celebrate art, music, fashion, film and food - was planned as a sustainable socio-economic infrastructure to enhance and develop cultural enterprise in the community. The locals were therefore invited to participate in the project, putting their craft skills at the service of design.
During the summer Droog organized for example a workshop on the island to make a 90-meter long curtain conceived as a divider or space opener to create different sections inside the building according to the needs of the center.
The workshop was led by textile designer Nikkie Wester, and a community of around 25 men and women living on the island joined in to weave the curtains using banana fibers.
The piece was made recycling and reusing as many local materials and waste items as possible and using locally handmade tools and looms. Smaller looms were first used for training, and then the work moved onto 5 larger looms (working with 3 people per loom).
The dying techniques employed for this piece were also borrowed from local traditions as the weavers employed an ancient tint derived from the indigo plant, native to São Tomé, combined with other colours such as dark grey/green, light green, yellow and pink, also produced from natural materials. The plants used for the natural dyes came from a botanical garden belonging to a local, Olivia. The dying process was made by 5 people from a small cooperative called Uê Tela based in São Tomé.
The actual design of the curtain combined visual references of São Tomé's flora and fauna intertwined with the words of a poem by Alda Espírito Santo, embroidered along the edge of the curtain. The curtain is also a metaphor for the collective identity of the local community as each individual left his or her mark on the piece.
Apart from making this design piece, the workshop participants learnt new skills and techniques that will be used to support the existing island-artisan activities.
Photographer Dário Pequeno Paraíso has so far documented the process and taken some wonderful portraits of the artisans and the centre (hopefully, he will get his own exhibition at some point).
The project will be presented today at Hôtel Droog (Staalstraat 7b, Amsterdam) accompanied by a special opening of artwork from Kwame Sousa, an artist from São Tomé e Príncipe, but you can keep up to date with its developments at this link, where you can also discover more about the socio-economic impact of the project.
All images in this post by Dário Pequeno Paraíso