Thursday, January 13, 2011

Back In Action

Madame Ly and the rest of the family was so excited to see me this morning that it pretty much made my entire day. They are still in the shock and awe period of the Artisan Expo. They still cannot believe how much money they made and what that means for them, not only in economic status but also social status. Madame Ly told me that all of the other artisans have been calling her non-stop since the Expo to talk about where the artisans are going from here. As president of the association, which is currently only a lose coalition consisting of artisans at the Peace Corps Artisan Expo in December, Madame Ly is fielding everyone's questions, keeping up everyone's enthusiasm, and towing the line of Peace Corps is pretty freaking cool for putting on such a badass Expo. She in turn looks to me for next steps. What is the next step from here? I hope that we can organize another meeting for all of the artisans where Talla, the Peace Corps trainer, can further help all of the interested artisans refine their idea of an association and start to become more independent from their volunteers and even start to plan future Artisan Expos. This is obviously a long way off, but Madame Ly is definitely self-motivated. She told me that she would call of the other artisans to inquire about what they wanted from the association and what types of trainings they would be interested in. What? I could barely believe me ears. All of this self-starting independence was almost too much to handle on my first work excursion post America! I'm really excited to see where this goes because I think Madame Ly is awesome and I think that the artisans are on such a success high after the Expo that they are really ready to band together and create an association which could prove very beneficial in the long run.

While I got sucked into reminiscing about how wonderful and amazing the Artisan Expo was, a little ego boost is never a bad thing here, I really went over to her house today to check in with the family and give them the gifts I brought from the States. I gave Madame Ly and her daughter Khady, who ofter accompanies her to self their jewelry, a bunch of glass beads which they were over the moon about. I thought I couldn't top myself with the beads, but I was wrong because the stack of pictures I printed out caused a complete stopage of all work at the house. Samba, Dioss' dad and Madame Ly's husband, was just as obsessed with the pictures as Ahmed is with his snow boots! They couldn't get over how clear the pictures were and the brightness of the colors. I spent at least two hours sitting with Samba and going over everyone's name in each picture so he could write it on the back and therefore remember the moment forever. It was very cute and I'm happy they appreciated their gifts.

As Samba was meticulously documenting everyone possible detail of each picture on the back of the print out, I was also talking to Khady about her ideas for the family's jewelry business. With the cash they now have on hand after the Expo, Madame Ly and Khady want to make a little pamphlet (in the form of the one I made as promotional material for the Expo!) to help promote their business as they travel around the country and to hand out to exporters when they meet them at events. While I usually don't promote things like this (aka Dioss' catalog) because I don't think they'll get enough exposure, I do think this is a good idea. Khady came up with the idea by herself, she already has a fairly well laid out plan, and she only plans on printing a small amount at a time which is easily covered by their Artisan Expo profits. I'm going to take all of the pictures next week and the family has a computer so there are very little costs. Madame Ly and Khady to do see a lot of exporters and French tourist groups that return year after year so it will be interesting to see if they think the small marketing efforts are helping them.

Finally pulling myself away from Madame Ly and crew was difficult, but made easier by the fact that Dioss called me and told me to come over while I was sitting at his parents' house! Dioss is Dioss. He assured me that he had worked diligently all of December. I didn't see any new artwork, but the atelier make over is completely finished and things look good. He was also at a little bit of a standstill because he was waiting for a couple of French partners to fly in tonight who are going to help him with creating the various websites for his artist association that he's obsessed with. I don't know too much about all of this other than he really wants a nice website and through an NGO these French, website specialists are helping him for free. I'm really just a sounding board for things like this with Dioss. We'll see what happens. It does mean that for the next three weeks I'm playing second fiddle and we aren't doing any accounting or more workshops with the art supplies that my Aunt's class sent, but hopefully after these three weeks we can start really working on our projects.

What is actually happening is the thing that I've been alluding to for quite a while with Dioss. I never thought this was actually happen, but it did. I'm shocked. Remember last year when Dioss was in that big exposition in Dakar and I went it is was a little awkward? Well that was actually a pretty big deal and a huge art event put together by the energy provider Senelec here in Senegal. At that event the Red Cross took notice of Dioss and asked him to participate in a calendar of African artisans who predominantly portray strong women in their work. Dioss is one of three Senegalese artists; there are also artists from Kenya and South Africa. Regardless he is one of twelve artists whose works are featured in a freaking calendar for the Red Cross. This calendar is being distributed in EVERY country where the Red Cross is active. That's almost every country on Earth! Go Dioss! More information on this to come... I will try and upload pictures and links tomorrow.

This afternoon I caught up with Emily and a couple of volunteers from the new stage. You can imagine we had a good time! It was a great first day back into work and I hope to keep the ball rolling!

Thinking of MHM and his family.


  1. The entire Ly family is so cool. I realized, as I read this post, that if the Ly's moved to any other country in the world they would still be very, very cool. They are warm, curious, talented, energetic and have an uncanny ability to make those around them feel safe and special. I am so happy for their success!

  2. Alyssa,

    Fantastic, help them keep the momentum going.

  3. Hi, Alyssa...
    I saw your mom yesterday...she was running and looking fantastic...I was in my car being lazy : ) She filled me in on your trip home and travels back to Senegal. I enjoyed reading about Ahmed and his boots and happy to learn it's a universal thing-little boys love boots!
    I always enjoy your posts...
    Take care...