Shine On Sierra Leone
It’s a country that is the size of South Carolina. It has beaches with sunsets that will melt your heart. It also has some of the highest rainfalls in the world, and it barely survived a brutal 11-year civil war that was ignited by the blood diamond crisis. The post- war facts about Sierra Leone are not easy to digest.
Despite encountering countless tragedies, the people of Sierra Leone are filled with resilience and genuine hope. With peace in their country, if there is one thing the people of this country can agree on, it’s that they are ready to take their optimistic attitudes and appreciation for peace and use them proactively and resourcefully to transform their struggling communities into thriving, sustainable regions. It was this unrelenting positive nature that also captured producer Tiffany Persons’s and filmmaker Rebecca Chaiklin's attention when they traveled through Sierra Leone in 2006 filming separate documentary's.
From my first trip to Sierra Leone, I fell in love with the woven blankets on display at Freetown’s Big Market. It became a practice to take home as many as my luggage would allow to share with my loved ones. Friends and family adored them and the most special part was that each blanket was unique unto it’s own, unlike any other on the planet.I desired to find an item true to the Sierra Leonean culture to share with the world to create a revenue stream for our school, Muddy Lotus Primary School. A 100 year old tradition, weaving is at the heart of Sierra Leone. It wasn’t until I went on a journey to find the weavers of these beloved coverings did I find the beautiful truth about their origin; each blanket is made from a process that I have come to call “upcyclying.” The weavers purchase at nominal cost, sweaters that have donated from all around the world. They “unweave” these sweaters by hand to create a new spool of yarn. These spools are then used to create a one of a kind art piece. And viola, the true meaning of global. Shine On Sierra Leone is now collaborating with Studio One Eighty Nine to present these beautifully unique scarves on its Fashion Rising Collection.
The weavers are a mixture of third generation master weavers and young women and men that have been gifted the art more recently by the elders - post war, at the war wounded camp in Grafton, Sierra Leone. Upon our first production together, we began to make scarfs, which have become treasured by many. The blankets, are truly works of art and are the only produced by the masters. These breathtaking creations take 7 days to produce and can be used as a blanket or room area rug.
The original weavers are now moving to the village of Bongema, where our school lives, to become apart of the community and share the artistic skill set with our students and community members, making it one of our viable business models that will contribute to the community minded entrepreneurship arm of our holistic education model.
My greatest goal is to produce projects with Sierra Leoneans that have the highest integrity and beauty. Items that speak to a persons soul and becomes an extension of who they are. Gone be the days of buying a meaningless trinket to “help a person in need.” Let us partner with Sierra Leone and create articles that the most discernible consumer cannot live without. Well, at least they won’t want to! Let us create and contribute to a powerful new global chain of commerce. Let this be the legacy of Shine On.