Apr 1, 2020

SEPALI team takes precautions for COVID-19

SEPALI team prepares new workshop
SEPALI team prepares new workshop

On Friday, March 20th, the Madagascar government confirmed 3 cases of COVID-19. The government declared a public health emergency, suspended all international flights for 30 days, shut down schools and social gatherings, and asked residents to take standard COVID-19 precautions. The outbreak is believed to be limited to central Madagascar at this time (Tana and Toamasina), but as trends in other countries have shown, the highly infectious disease is difficult to contain. 

The SEPALI project is located in the northeast corner of Madagascar where no cases have been documented as of yet, but the team is preemptively jumping into action. Mamy and Lalaina, SEPALI directors in Maroantsetra held a meeting on the 23rd to brief the team on the situation and teach recommended precautions to staff and artisans. The team used their last day in the office to make homemade masks on the sewing machines and the workshop was shut down for the week, to be re-evaluated on a weekly basis. 

One of the major challenges in Madagascar and especially in the area where the SEPALI project operates is that most livelihoods are based on subsistence, daily hand-to-mouth transactions. With food insecurity as a constant pressure, the feasibility of staying home is limited. SEPALI team members are no exception and expressed their desire to return to work. In response to the team, Mamy and Lalaina designed a system to maximize protection while staying sensitive to the evolving situation in Maroantsetra. 

Mamy and Lalaina spent the past week preparing the workshop to offer the best protection possible. They rented a second house next door, doubling the space of the SEPALI workshop. They designed areas for hand washing and stocked supplies of soap and disinfectant. They ordered uniforms for the artisans to change into on arrival and set up separate sewing stations, 3 meters (9 feet) apart. 

Team members returned this week, adhering to all new precautions and social distancing. Each have their own homemade masks as well and the equipment is cleaned daily. Family members are no longer allowed to visit the office. The workshop will temporarily remain open in this limited capacity unless new recommendations from the government, a safety concern or a case of COVID-19 is found or suspected in Maroantsetra. At that time, the office will be closed indefinitely. 

Meanwhile, the situation in the capital region continues to evolve. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has grown to 45 as of yesterday, mostly traced from international flights prior to the travel ban. National travel bans are being enforced as well. There does appear to be some early data that suggests that the disease spreads slower in humid, tropical environments, but everything else about the situation in Madagascar including infrastructure, healthcare availability and feasibility of social distancing makes the country especially vulnerable to this disease. 

We will continue to keep you updated as the situation evolves, and we will do everything we can to keep our team safe and do our part to combat this global health emergency. Thank you for your support. 

Team makes their own masks before outbreak
Team makes their own masks before outbreak

Links:

Jan 6, 2020

Thank you for a wonderful 2019!!

Card woven belts with silk trim
Card woven belts with silk trim

We have had a wonderful year and would like to thank you for making  it possible.  We started off preparing for the International Artisan Market Santa Fe in January  (the market was held in July).  That event was challenging, exciting and profitable and we are thrilled to report that Lalaina was selected to return to Santa Fe in 2020.  The sales were great but even more she had a chance to meet artisans from around the world – including other Malagasy artists! We are hoping in the coming year to target our new products to match what IFAM buyers seemed most interested in purchasing. Here is a sneak peek - this year Lalaina has made beautiful, raffia,  card-woven belts with wild silk trim.  They are sure to be a hit.  The raffia is dyed from native, Malagasy, plant dyes – a direct result of our collaborations with others at the market.

In October CPALI worked to develop new markets in Portland via a very successful experience at Portland Textile month.  The Sylvan Dyers of Portland transformed 4 different types of silk textiles into 5, beautiful and unique pieces of art that were auctioned off at the fabulous store, Cargo. In addition, Cargo also allowed us to sell Madagascar textiles during October to help us build a market for wild silks on the west coast.  Our hope was to stimulate new interest in the materials.  Finally, Julie Beeler, Portland textile artist and teacher, held an evening class where 12 participants.  They had the opportunity to dye two types of wild silk in a rainbow of colors – and yes, they were all natural dyes.

Thank you again for a great year full of new opportunities and successes for both SEPALI and SEPALI Madagascar.

Lalaina's new basket designs
Lalaina's new basket designs
Textile display at Cargo in Portland
Textile display at Cargo in Portland

Links:

Oct 8, 2019

A Busy Summer and a Future Made From Natural Dyes

Lalaina showcases her work at Santa Fe
Lalaina showcases her work at Santa Fe

In the heart of summer in the US and winter in Madagascar (yes, Madagascar sort of has a winter), conditions aligned to create our best season yet. 

International Folk Art Market, Santa Fe:

As you probably heard from our newsletter, our team kicked off the summer with the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market and it deserves another mention here since all of you helped us get there! Lalaina Raharindimby, our lead artisan in Madagascar and the head of the women’s group, flew in a week beforehand to attend the IFAM conference. There, she met with other artists, mentors and speakers. She brought our natural dye challenges into the spotlight and troubleshot solutions with artists from Nigeria and India. She made connections, developed new ideas for design and direction, and even volunteered to become a women’s health ambassador for her community in Madagascar. Best of all, the team’s work sold like hot-cakes at the show. She called the whole experience “amazing” and left invigorated with ideas for the future.

Tropical Biology and Sustainable Development Conference, Madagascar:

Back in Madagascar, Mamy Ratsimbazafy, the director of SEPALI, was already ramping up for a conference on tropical biology in the capital. There, he did a presentation on SEPALI and its work in the northeast and networked with colleagues working in similar fields. The Tana-based SEPALI field staff, Ravo and Tsiresy, got to take part in some of the fun as well. Meanwhile, the team in Maroantsetra took on a little leadership of their own and continued to fill orders from afar.  

The Next Best Thing: Natural Dyes:

The vinegar-based dyes that we are curretly using have their advantages in terms of color-fastlness and consitency across different materials, but Mamy and Lalaina are convinced that natural dyes are the right direction for SEPALI and could be attainable in the very near future. Thanks to our new contacts from IFAM, they set up a natural dye training workshop in the plateau region and learned plant identification and dyeing techniques specific to Madagascar. The next step will be to adapt all of that information to the project in the northeast and begin to experiment with the whole team. 

What’s up now?:

You! While the wonders of natural dyes are unfolding in Madagascar, textile month is in full swing in Portland, OR and SEPALI’s silk and raffia products will be on display all month right here in the US. If you are anywhere near Portland in the month of October, please stop by and check out our new designs. We would love to see you. 

Learn more here: https://www.portlandtextilemonth.com/event/sepali-textile-installation-opening-party/

 

As always, thank you so much for your support! None of this would be possible without you!

Santa Fe Art Festival in full swing
Santa Fe Art Festival in full swing
SEPALI team in Tana at the ATBC conference
SEPALI team in Tana at the ATBC conference
Natural Dye Workshop with the team, Madagascar
Natural Dye Workshop with the team, Madagascar
Silk and Raffia on Display, Portland Textile Month
Silk and Raffia on Display, Portland Textile Month
Artists at the Santa Fe Folk Art Market
Artists at the Santa Fe Folk Art Market
 
WARNING: Javascript is currently disabled or is not available in your browser. GlobalGiving makes extensive use of Javascript and will not function properly with Javascript disabled. Please enable Javascript and refresh this page.