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Tapestry production finds new impetus in Senegal

‘Cultural power’

The state reduced support after Senghor left and the tapestries fell out of fashion, leading to production in Thies almost disappearing before orders recovered in the 2000s.

In the weaving workshops, located within the white and green walls of former army barracks, weavers have no margin for error.

Each one meticulously follows the cardboard lines of their looms, using wool from Europe and cotton from Thies to trace their designs.

Not far away, a group of about 30 students from an American school listen to a talk by the director of the cardboard workshop, where the models that guide the weaving process are made.

The establishment now welcomes tourists and film crews, demonstrating its commitment to diversifying operations.

Fourteen rooms and a residence for artists will soon be available to visitors, according to general director Aloyse Diouf.

“We want to turn manufacturers into a cultural power, a link between art and tourism,” he added, although government commissions remain essential to keep production afloat.

“The tapestry is not necessarily linked to our history and remains mainly elitist. It is mainly the authorities who buy tapestries to contribute to the artistic influence of Senegal,” Diouf said.

“The appropriation of this art by the Senegalese is a long-term project that we are developing by inviting schools to visit the factories.”

Currently, the establishment also produces prayer rugs, batik and ceramics, which are a little more affordable for Senegalese than wall tapestries, which cost 1.5 million CFA francs and $2,400 per square meter.