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Maryanne Maina
À savoir | 29 juin
8 mn

Au Sénégal, Sarayaa file un bon coton
Le tissage à la main, si élégant dans ses formes géométriques, est ressuscité par Safiétou Seck, entrepreneuse et fashion designer. (en anglais)

Safiétou Seck, entrepreneur et fashion designer, ressuscite le tissage à la main, réputé pour l'élégance de ses formes géométriques © Alain Pasetto
Weaving is a skill that has been passed on from generation to generation in Africa. Sadly, the skill is disappearing due to industrialization and lack of support in countries. Weaving has been used to create baskets and other products. It is used to preserve culture and traditions as it is a way of life for many African communities.
To preserve the culture, Safiétou Seck, fashion designer and entrepreneur from Senegal, created the brand SARAYAA. The word SARAYAA comes from the name Saraya (which has one A at the end), a town in southeastern Senegal located in the department of Saraya and the Kedougou region, not far from the Malian border to the east and Guinea border in to the south. It is one of the regions that produces gold in Senegal. The last A that was added at the end of the brand name stands for Africa.
Safiétou Seck, entrepreneur et fashion designer, ressuscite le tissage à la main, réputé pour l'élégance de ses formes géométriques © Alain Pasetto
« My career as an economist prepared me mentally for my business. It allowed me to see opportunities like the one of the African Growth and opportunity act (AGOA), an American law that provides a variety of trade preferences to eligible African countries, particularly in the textile sector. This law eliminates taxes on more than 6400 products imported to the US. I thought that this would be a great opportunity for me if I developed a fashion brand that would have easy access to the American market was a great idea », explained Seck.
SARAYAA is for women of ages 25 to 55 years old who is urban and active. « I have 5 employees working full-time in my workshop in Dakar, Senegal. I outsource the hand-woven fabric for now but the goal is to employ weavers when the company will have the financial capacity for it », she added. « I do lot of private sales and trade shows. In addition, I have participated in several fashion shows in Paris, Geneva and in the US. » SARAYAA creations are a combination of hand and machine work using six different hand weavers.
Safiétou Seck, entrepreneur et fashion designer, ressuscite le tissage à la main, réputé pour l'élégance de ses formes géométriques © Alain Pasetto
Seck uses weavers to preserve the heritage and skill of the weavers; job and wealth creation for the communities. Hand-weaving is central within SARAYAA philosophy. The patterns created are woven with contrasting colors, making the fabric stands out more than usual. The charm of the hand woven fabric is in its warm colors, the beauty of its motifs and symbols.
« The skill has been has passed on through generations; but due to imported cheap clothes and modernization, the once thriving industry is now reduced to minor activities resulting in a slow disappearance of this traditional art », she stated.
« We rarely see these fabrics being worn these days. This sector is no more the provider of jobs. Preserving hand woven fabric is about securing a livelihood for the people who were born to do this. Supporting hand weaving fabric is about encouraging the weavers to put value to their art. We need to give them back their confidence because their work is really spécial. »
Safiétou Seck, entrepreneur et fashion designer, ressuscite le tissage à la main, réputé pour l'élégance de ses formes géométriques © Alain Pasetto
The preference for contemporary fabrics rather than preservation of hand woven fabrics is damaging the hand woven fabrics sector in Senegal and Africa, wholly. Majority of the weavers in Senegal are young with a growing interest in more youth. The challenge the sector faces is the lack of government support to enhance the progress of weaving for economy prosperity.
Senegalese hand-weaving is greatly influenced by the traditional Mandjaque weavers (who originate from Guinea-Bissau). The weaving is unique in its elaborate geometric patterns. The machine used is a tradition foot pedal weaving machine mostly made of wood.
Safiétou Seck, entrepreneur et fashion designer, ressuscite le tissage à la main, réputé pour l'élégance de ses formes géométriques © Alain Pasetto
« Hand weaving is made in a horizontal way in spacious grounds. It takes the weaver a distance of 10 to 20 meters to organize the work plan. Senegalese weavers produce a fabric of 15 to 20cm in width, but due to demand it can vary between 20, 40 and 100 cm, depending on demand », explained Seck.
« This weaving exercise is exclusively reserved for men (in countries like Burkina, it is made by women) but the finishes are often the responsibility of women. The fabric is flexible, soft and thick. The Senegalese weaving technique requires the presence of two people and this enables very elaborate and complex patterns to be woven. Fibers traditionally used for weaving are predominantly cotton but can include silk and raffia. »
The most important obstacle is the lack of raw material, like transformed cotton. Spinning and textile industries have nearly all closed and traditional weavers are slowly but surely disappearing.
« These fabrics are reproduced in limited quantities a lot of time for tourists. As a consequence, the weaving sector does not generate any major revenues for the home. The disappearance of traditional fabric-making techniques will mean the disappearance of a centuries old history and culture », she added.
« There is a need for more supportive initiative to protect this sector and make it more vibrant. Weavers are still out of job and chased away when they are trying to find a location in the street. The centuries old techniques of hand weaving are threatened in a market swamped with cheap, synthetic, imported fabrics. Traditional textiles have remained somewhat neglected. »
SARAYAA is not retailed globally as of yet. The company is looking into partnering with boutiques and stores around the world. « When a client purchases one of my hand woven fabrics, they wear culture; they wear art and share in my passion of preserving this beautiful héritage. »
Safiétou Seck, entrepreneur et fashion designer, ressuscite le tissage à la main, réputé pour l'élégance de ses formes géométriques © Alain Pasetto

Plus d'informations

 Sarayaa
Crédits photo : Alain Pasetto
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Article paru dans le numéro #118 SÉCURITÉ
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