Sri Lanka Design Festival 2011 to showcase island craft and apparel industry with strategic support from the Ministry of Economic Development and Ministry of Industry and Commerce
AOD (Academy of Design), Sri Lanka’s active promoter of using design and creativity for economic development within industry and the rural communities, presented two main model projects at a special session convened by Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa at the Economic Development Ministry premises and discussed the presentation of the projects and the vision for the upcoming Sri Lanka Design Festival 2011 to be held in November.
The model project 1 which focuses on the north and east of the country involves over 100 women artisans from the Districts of Jaffna, Mannar, Mullaitivu, Ampara and Batticaloa who are rebuilding in a post-war era.
AOD was invited by the Ministry of Economic Development – ‘Reawakening’ project to do a scoping visit and carry out an initial training back in January 2011. AOD has continued the project since then and has trained the women to produce palmyrah designer home-ware products for high-end clientele of the hospitality industry such as Mount Lavinia Hotel and Chaaya Hotels and currently the women of these districts are doing these orders. This project has increased the wages of the women from Rs. 8 to Rs. 50 per hour, increasing their income over five fold.
The palmyrah project logistics are carried on in partnership with the Palmyrah Development Board and UMCOR. The handloom weaving work is carried out in a cottage industry model in Mardhamunai in Ampara and Eruvil in Batticaloa. Currently all artisans are preparing newly-designed product collections to be showcased at the upcoming Sri Lanka Design Festival, whilst producing for the new commercial orders from the hotel industry.
In the north, another successful project is being carried out in Mullaitivu with the help of the Norwegian Embassy Cultural Division, where AOD has conducted a design and skill development programme for 20 women and introduced them to knitwear and the project has successfully produced products for the international markets and this too is due to be showcased as part of the island craft fashion show at the festival.
The second project encompasses the south and the central part of the island and the new products developed in these regions are due to be also showcased at the upcoming Sri Lanka Design Festival carrying on all the outcomes and success stories from the 2010 craft project, which was showcased at Sri Lanka Design Festival 2010 by AOD in partnership with EDB.
The project is carrying on with AOD designers working the artisans in the south with the Galle and Dickwella lace community, batik, ceramic and wood working artisans in the south and central regions of the island involve traditional crafts like lacquer-work artisans in the village of Hapuvidha, hemp weaving community in Manikkhina, and brass-work in Pilimathalawa, dumbara weaving in Talagune and batik in Kandy and Matale. These are amongst the many different crafts which number over 50 artisan communities that AOD is working with and the project touches the life of almost 500 people.
The other main discussion at the Ministry was about the new project to be showcased at Sri Lanka Design Festival and that is the unique project in the Western Province – Gampaha District in Ilhala Madampe in the Divulapitiya division. The project is carrying on under the ‘Liya Abhimani’ programme of the Ministry of Economic Development and under this project AOD is working with the Ministry and training 60 weavers in design and product development.
The weaving community is currently working on producing collections of fashion and interior products to be showcased at Design Festival. The weavers in the village are very unique and pose many different technical skills as they weave not only with yarn but with thread and they have a unique capability to weave recycled material and experiment with many new and different contemporary projects.
The project ‘Liya Abhimani’ works on empowering women economically and works on the premise that women can contribute immensely towards economic development of the country if they are provided with self-employment training, financial assistance and proper guidance. Even the plight of Sri Lankan female workers in foreign countries can be ended by empowering women economically.
The other new projects are a project in the uva area in Bibile and Badulla where AOD is working with cane and kithul wood artisans. This project was started on the invitation of the Uva Chief Minister’s office.
AOD is designing and carrying on product development work for all these projects under its project ‘Design for Sustainable Development’ and its project ‘Sri Lanka Design Festival’ – both voluntary projects carried out by AOD with the sole intention of supporting Sri Lanka’s national development agenda, supporting livelihood restoration in the north and east and helping rural artisan communities around the country through design, product development and the creation of market linkages.
Sri Lanka Design Festival is due to be held from 16-20 November and the outcomes of all the above projects are to be showcased at the upcoming Design Festival in the form of an island craft exhibition, contemporary craft fashion shows and a specially curated pop-up store.
The festival’s other key agendas apart from the craft are the promotion of Sri Lanka’s globally acclaimed apparel industry which is showcased at the festival under a different programme and agenda. The festival, attended by design, hospitality, apparel and fashion leaders from across the world, is to aid the continuation of the project into 2012 through establishing international and local industry clientele and the development of market linkages for the craft community and industry.