Lanka’s war-affected linked with export markets

*Designers reinvent crafts, provide livelihoods for communities

Understanding the crucial role that design could play in Sri Lanka’s development, the Academy of Design (AOD) has facilitated a special project involving the war-affected persons in the North and East regions of Sri Lanka. This project ‘Design Re-Creation’ places AOD’s designers in direct contact with artisans. AOD’s alumni and student body, along with the college’s principal - UK’s fashion design talent Karen MacLeod and Interior Design Programme Head of the college, American Interior Designer Joel Rapp visited the villages of Sri Lanka’s North and East to work directly with the artisans.

The project covers many traditional crafts like Rattan, Palmyra, Fabric Weaving and even recently introduced crafts like Knitting. AOD’s international design team is currently working with the war-affected communities in the villages of Marathamunai, Naruvizhikkulam, Paavulupattan, Kudiyirippu and many more in the Districts of Mannar, Jaffna, Batticaloa and Ampara.

"The Sri Lankan government and several other parties have already set up craft centres in certain areas, but there has not been any consistent training or guidance in design or marketability to help these artisans equal their products with current market requirements. Therefore, as Sri Lanka’s pioneering educator in design, we felt it is AOD’s duty to help these communities and in turn, help Sri Lanka too." said Linda Speldewinde – Managing Director of AOD.

The crafts produced through this project are to be marketed in the international market as high quality exports and will be given a special platform at the annual Sri Lanka Design Festival organized by the AOD too. American Designer Joel Rapp who heads the Interior Design faculty at the AOD said that the AOD design team encouraged the artisans to break away from the standard colours and forms that they use and introduced them to the current trends in the international markets. "These people have the skills and the crafts needed by many in Europe and North America. What we do is give them the vision and the guidance to match their skills with the existing market requirements. AOD is bridging the gap between the artisans’ knowledge and International markets while creating new commercial links for Sri Lanka."

The Design Re-Creation project has only started to transform the lives of many. "The best reward that comes with this project is to witness the amazing impact that it makes on the lives of these people. They really didn’t think they were capable of making products sought after by high-end markets across the world – and to have us telling them that they can, and showing them how they can, has really made a change in their thinking, economies and lives. It is truly an amazing experience for us as designers and for AOD as a dynamic force in South Asian creativity," said Karen MacLeod, Principal of AOD.

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