CEU Free Design Bank social design platform returns to Kenya

A group of professors and students have collaborated in the construction and equipment of a handicraft atelier for women in need of the “Jimudu Women Group” in the Lamu district in Kenya

Professor of Design at CEU UCH Manuel Bañó and former students Carmen Guijarro and Nacho Errando, along with historian Amparo Balbastre, have been supported by several groups of students and volunteer designers

The company where the designer Carmen Guijarro works subsidized the project presented in association with Free Design Bank and Afrikable, under the title “Cooperation through the design for the consolidation, training, technical and economic development of Afrikable NGDO artisan groups in the district of Lamu (Kenya)”

Since last summer, the “Jimudu Women Group” in Kenya – which in Swahili means “a group of women who value themselves” – and other Afrikable NGDO groups have a new manufacturing place, equipped with nine industrial sewing machines and an extensive collection of new designs to produce. The Free Design Bank project, led by CEU UCH Design Professor Manuel Bañó, has contributed to the achievement of this new objective for this group of Kenyan artisans, with whom they have collaborated since 2012: a new production building equipped in Lamu, new sewing and design classes for training and a new collection of designs carried out by students and professionals so that, with their resources and the materials at their disposal, they can make a living with the benefits of their sale.

The volunteer designers, design students of CEU UCH and other schools that collaborate with the project, have worked under the direction of Manuel Bañó dividing themselves into three teams, who have prepared design proposals from recycled plastic bottles that consumed in Lamu; exclusive sandal designs for the Massai women’s group; and proposals of different objects using Kanga cloth – worn by Swahili women as skirts, handkerchiefs or to carry the babies to the back – and Kikoy cotton fabric in smooth colours or multicolored stripes, used in the traditional dress of Swahili men.

In this mission to Kenya for the launching of the new Free Design Bank design workshop, Professor Bañó has been accompanied by the industrial designer (trained at CEU Valencia) Carmen Guijarro, responsible for project management, and Amparo Balbastre, coordinator of the work of volunteers, patterns and sewing. The heads of the NGO Afrikable Merche Cascajero and Lola Serra have directed and supervised the construction and equipment of the workshop. And former CEU student of Audiovisual Communication Nacho Errando has been in charge of the photographic documentation and the recording of a video about the project.

A consolidated and recognized project

Since 2012, the designs created by CEU UCH students for the “Jimudu Women Group” and “Lamu Recycling Solutions”, among others, of the NGO Afrikable, are marketed in Spain through the NGO’s online shop and can also be found in Fair Trade stores, guaranteeing fair remuneration, no intermediaries and decent production conditions for these Kenyan artisans. Last year the collection of Free Design Bank designs for disadvantaged artisan groups in Senegal and Kenya was exhibited at the Barcelona Design Museum, the only design-themed museum in Spain, as part of the collective exhibition on open design “Rehogar”.

This same project has also been highlighted by the professional magazine Architecture and Design as one of the ten best initiatives of solidarity design in Spain in 2015. Also the specialized magazine Experimenta dedicated last April an extensive report to Free Design Bank, which has been awarded by the Association of Designers of the Valencian Community (ADCV) and by the UV and has been included in the book Design for Social Innovation DESIS, Tokyo Zokei University of Japan.

Free Design Bank has had a consolidated track record of more than 16 years in the collaboration with artisan producers of disadvantaged regions, to ensure a decent way of life to them. The creativity of CEU UCH students in the design and manufacture of competitive products has supported groups of artisans in extreme need in poor countries such as Peru, India, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Ecuador, Colombia, Tanzania, Cuba, Mali and Kenya. All of them have been able to sell their products more and better thanks to this charity project in design directed from the Technical School of Design at CEU by professor Manuel Bañó.

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