focus on: Akwete

co/rizom incubator is guiding amazing artisans, designers and business professionals in developing their collections for a global audience.

 focus on series will allow you to get to know better the people behind the PODs.

This edition is dedicated to Akwete of a Different Kind – Old Meets New.  Akwete cloth is usually made of cotton thread, and the decorative motifs are produced with cotton threads of a heavier texture or rayon silk. Most Akwete designs or motifs are created through the inspiration of the weaver. This POD is adopting the Akwete weaving technique using new materials – woven water hyacinth, a natural fiber material and fish twine both of which have never been used in the history of Akwete weaving.

The items in this collection will be used to adorn the home and not the body as the traditional Akwete cloth. The water hyacinth will be woven by Artisans in Idah while the tapestries, mats and runners will be woven by Artisans from Akwete. 
Philomena Chigozie Ekwutosi is representative of the Akwete weaving community. She comes from a family of Akwete cloth weavers and is excited about applying the same weaving techniques using new materials to make the collection.

 How did you start working as an artisan?
I started weaving at the age of twelve. My mother and grandmother wove Akwete textiles and I learned from them. I am keeping up the family tradition.
Can you describe the material in 3 words?
Hard, thick, different.
What is an emotion connected to this collection?
Happiness and a sense of accomplishment.
  Toni Akinmoladun is a young multi-disciplinary artist and designer, who is heavily influenced by her rich African culture. She explores the use of natural materials in her creative process to give expressions to her imaginations. 

How did you start working as a designer?
My journey as a designer began with a spark of inspiration fueled by my deep passion for the arts. This led me to immerse myself in the world of interior design, where I have since honed my skills and crafted my unique design voice. With every project I undertake, I approach it with an unwavering sense of curiositypushing boundaries and embracing new challenges as opportunities to learn and grow.
What attracts you to the material you chose for the process? 
Water hyacinth as a material is a sustainable and environmentally conscious choice for us to work with. It is also very versatile, works well with other materials, and can accommodate a myriad of design choices.

Describe the co/rizom incubator in 3 words:
Empowering, Collaborative, Inspiring.

What are the biggest challenges for your profession in the future? And the biggest opportunity?
The biggest challenge is creating designs that stand the test of time. The biggest opportunity lies in the worldwide shift to more eco-friendly and sustainable products.
Achenyo Idachaba Obaro is a Computer Scientist turned Social Entrepreneur and a Creative at heart. She is the Founder of MitiMeth, an award-winning Social Enterprise transforming waste and building livelihoods through the transformation of invasive aquatic weeds and agricultural residues.
Early in 2022, Achenyo along with two weavers from Ebira land visited Idah in the North Central part of Nigeria to explore weaving water hyacinth on vertical looms. This visit sparked local interest and community members marveled that an age-old fast-dying tradition was being reintroduced with a new weaving yarn – woven water hyacinth. This motivated Achenyo to start exploring new means of increasing the earning potential of the Artisans whilst preserving the tradition of loom weaving.
How did you start working as a business developer?
Thirteen years ago, I embarked on a journey to establish an Artisan economy focused on recovering and weaving water hyacinth and agricultural residues into home goods and accessories. Through this Artisan economy, we are transforming environmental menaces and waste into sustainable products for functional or decorative use that appeals to eco-conscious consumers.
What attracts you to the material you chose?
Water hyacinth is a widespread invasive aquatic weed with a story behind it that represents a paradigm shift. The story is about transformation, durability, sustainability, versatility, and multi-use.

What would be the dream, professionally speaking?
I want the Eze collection to become a reference point for water hyacinth table and wall décor globally. I am also hoping to impact thousands of women and youth in Nigeria and on the continent by providing them with opportunities for decent work and economic growth right where they are through the transformation of water hyacinth and agricultural residues. We hope to create hundreds of environmentally and economically thriving handicraft-producing communities and become Nigeria’s #1 choice in sustainable natural fiber products.

What is an emotion connected to the collection?
Excitement and Joy at the birthing of something new.

If you would gift this collection, who would you gift it to?
Horniman Museum and Gardens, London, UK. I would love for this Collection to be showcased in the Museum.