A Handmade Future: the impact of design on the production and consumption of contemporary West African craft as a tool for sustainable development

PhD research by Katherine Ladd (completed 2012)

mumandbaby  bamako

Katherine’s PhD thesis provides a detailed account of her experience working with an NGO as a professional designer creating products from traditional West African strip woven fabrics, and a nuanced discussion of the issues which emerged in this situation. She also discusses the ‘M’Afrique’ range from Italian furniture manufacturer Moroso, and Viviene Westwood’s ‘Ethical Africa’ collection.

Excerpt from abstract:

This research presents a critique of a craft development project carried out over a period of four years, where the nature of designer interventions in African craft projects is analysed and questions are raised that challenge the desirability and efficacy of such projects. This study is developed from the perspective of a professional designer rather than that of a professional development worker. Following this particular project over a continuous time period offers a specific and unique context in which to examine key and central issues: the design of such products by Western designers for global markets, the consumption of ‘ethnic’ products in global markets (including historical perspectives), issues of authenticity, post-colonialism, and euro-centric connoisseurship.

Read more:

The full thesis can be accessed as a pdf via the British Library’s Ethos database.

Images courtesy of Katherine Ladd