The 15th edition of the SIAO Fair gets underway in Ouagadougou

SIAO entrance

BY ALAN GREEN

The fifteenth edition of the Ouagadougou International Art and Craft Fair, SIAO, kicked off Friday, bringing together artisans from 25 countries, in an effort to serve as a framework for the promotion and the exchange of African handicrafts, and to facilitate the artisans’ access to the international market.

Julie Payette, Canada's governor general, cuts the ribbon during the opening ceremony of SIAO 2018 as President Kabore, right, looks on.

Julie Payette, Canada’s governor general, cuts the ribbon during the opening ceremony of SIAO 2018 as President Kabore, right, looks on.

With this year’s theme, “African artisanry, markets’ requirements and technological development,” SIAO’s officials clearly show their commitment to making sure the biannual event is in sync with today’s technology-driven world. The significance of the fair was underscored by the attendance, in person, of none other than the head of state, President Roch Marc Christian Kabore, flanked by Julie Payette, Canada’s governor general, at the opening ceremony.

Minister of Commerce

Burkina Faso’s minister in charge of commerce, industry and artisanry, Harouna Kabore, stresses the high-profile and the international nature of SIAO.

One edition after another, SIAO has earned an international reputation that makes it the greatest artisanry market in Africa.”

However, Kabore says, African artisans must adapt to the current circumstances: “The world is evolving, and so is the clientele’s taste.”

Benin's shoemaker Sakaliou Salifou in his shop at SIAO 2018

Benin’s shoemaker Sakaliou Salifou in his shop at SIAO 2018

For his part, Alassane Bala Sakande, the speaker of Burkina Faso’s parliament and the Godfather of SIAO 2018, says this year’s theme speaks to the need for African artisans to adhere to today’s international and technological norms in their quest to conquer new markets with their works.

Every sector in the artisanry field must constantly follow the norms dictated by the new context, the number-one lawmaker of the nation says, adding:

Unless the African art complies with this requirement, it will stop existing in the next few centuries. The rich and diverse African artisanry sector must free itself from the grips of the informal sector and some socio-cultural predicaments.”

Speaker Sankande also calls on the authorities to keep lending their much-needed support to the African artisans. As if to set the example, the speaker assures the audience of the legislative body’s readiness to enact legislation aimed at ensuring that artisanry actually “feeds” the artisans.

Nouvelle photo1

The opening ceremony of SIAO 2018 provided the occasion to honor the legendary figure in whose mind the very idea of SIAO crystalized thirty years ago, the father of Burkina Faso’s revolution, the late Captain Thomas Sankara. Speaker Sankande calls on the commissioner of SIAO to dedicate the creativity pavilion to Thomas Sankara starting with the next edition, as well as the institution of a special Thomas Sankara Award to be bestowed upon an artisan whose original work displays both a creative genius and a Pan-Africanist spirit. The speaker states the payment for that award will come out of the parliament’s budget.

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