Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Artisan Reseau

Wednesday, February, 23rd 2011

The first Artisan Reseau meeting was held yesterday and today. After working furiously last week to make it happen, I began to have my doubts over WAIST weekend and they all came to fruition yesterday. Only eight out of the confirmed thirteen artisans showed up and several PCVs didn't attend either. Mamadou the wood carver from Diourbel who I had so much faith in, he came to the mini expo a couple of weeks ago, and had so many ideas for the Reseau told me after WAIST, where he sold a bunch of stuff, that he was too tired to attend the training. He was the only one I knew going in had RSVPed and wasn't coming. There were a couple of women's groups that told me they were sending two representatives when it turned out to be just one, which I can't get too angry about, but there were also people who just didn't show up and then didn't answer their phones when I called them. The excuse of not understanding me over the phone doesn't apply because Madame Ly called each and every one of them.

Madame Ly didn't attend because one of her aunts is in poor health and today they were holding something which sounds like a pre-funeral ceremony for her. After 18 months in Senegal, there are still cultural things I can't fully understand and that still rankle me and this is one of them. When asked if one or if someone else is feeling better, Senegalese people always say "yes." Even if you just coughed up a lung, you're still feeling better. So, even though it shouldn't, it upsets me when I ask Madame Ly how her aunt is and she says she's getting better. I want to hear that she's on death's doorstep and Mme. Ly is so happy that she's there to be with her aunt. All of the artisans seemed to completely accept this reason for her absence, which is good.

Khady, Mme. Ly's daughter, was supposed to serve as her proxy at the meeting, but didn't. This sent me over the artisan edge and into a controlled rage. One thing to note is that the Ly family has more cell phones and more cell phone numbers than anyone/ any family I have ever met. I have a bazillion numbers for them in my phone and have no idea who they are actually attached to because everyone answers each other's phones. I called what I thought was Khady's number yesterday afternoon and got Madame Ly who told me that Khady was in Dakar. Interesting since I was told she left Dakar Monday night and it was Tuesday afternoon. Madame Ly assured me that she was en route an would be at the center soon. No dice. Nor did Khady call me. This morning when I called her she told me that her mom, aka Madame Ly, told her to come to her aunt's village. When I asked about her aunt the aunt was obviously feeling better. So frustrating.

Regardless, the meeting seemed to be a success. The artisans who came are obviously the ones who are enthusiastic and committed, which is great. Although, they did elected Madame Ly as president again so I'm not quite sure what that says. What I can say is that the women from Kebemer are freaking awesome and I wish that I could work with them even though they don't have a PCV to work with anymore and don't need one. They are amazing and so on top of things. Did I mention that they also showed up dripping in over-sized jewelry? Need I say more? I think it's obvious why I am in love. They pretty much ran the show and told the men at the meeting, who were trying to take control, how it was going to be which I appreciated since the men wanted an artisan I'm not a big fan of to be the president.

I will label the artisan meeting a success for now. We accomplished our goals of electing an executive board and coming up with a constitution of sorts for the association. The artisans also thought the meeting was a huge success and thanked all of us PCVs profusely afterwards, which was extremely nice considering I only organized - Talla did all of the work with them and the teaching during the formation. The next test will be to see what happens in the next three months until we have our second meeting. Will the secretary actually call the other artisans to tell them what happened at the meeting? Will artisans pay their dues?


  1. Alyssa,

    Group dynamics are fun aren't they. At least the meeting was held, you got most of what you wanted done and you can keep pushing them to keep the entity alive.


  2. I think 8 artists sounds like a great turnout! Plus you got a lot of business taken care of too!
    The group sounds like they were very happy with the results. I am curious about this pre funeral festivity however.