February 2, 2021
At last, school has started! Schools in Niger were closed for about 45 days from December through mid-January because of the pandemic, but finally, we were able to open the weaving school. The school is set up under the new weaving shed with five traditional looms. There are ten students who attend class five days a week from 8 AM until 1 PM. They are picked up from their homes via a van hired by the school. Thanks to your help, all training, transportation, and supplies are provided free of charge to the students.
June 1, 2021
Our weaving school has now been in session for four months. The students have moved from learning introductory weaving to more complex techniques for making patterns in cloth. Completed projects are piling up in the weaving shed.
Amanda Gilvin, a textile scholar who has studied Nigerien weaving, is making a video about the school and the historical background of tera-tera weaving. She plans to present it at a conference on African art. You can see the video at: https://youtu.be/N4gT5UU1wPM
July 21, 2021
The Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage has published an interview with our president, Soumana Saley. You can read it here: https://folklife.si.edu/magazine/future-of-craft-apprenticeships
September 20, 2021
We continue to make progress here at DIMA. The students have been taking their summer break in August and September, but the staff has been busy preparing for school to begin again in October. When school resumes, the weaving students will join 60 new tailoring and leather working students.
Our president Soumana Saley has spent the last three months in Niger building support for DIMA and working on plans for the coming year. He is very close to getting confirmation of a travel grant that will allow us to bring a trainer from the United States to help the weavers make the transition from traditional looms to more efficient floor looms—very important for people who are going to be doing production weaving. DIMA is also completing paperwork that will make it eligible to receive foreign aid funds dispersed by the Nigerien government.
Our ultimate goal is to provide young people in Niger with the skills and equipment to earn a living. We are beginning to see proof that our approach to this issue is working. Our first group of students graduated from a three-year program (in tailoring and leather working) in July and we are happy to report that they are now finding work either in workshops or as self-employed artisans. We are also taking the first steps in forming a cooperative. A group of leather working graduates come together to work on their first order, a batch of handbags for a store in Niamey. DIMA is allowing this group to use its leather working studio free of charge in exchange for serving as teaching assistants for the new class starting in October.