Ethiopian Traditional Artisans Appealing to the Global Market


As in many countries in the world weaving, pottery and basketry are ancient crafts developed in Ethiopia. Such traditional handicrafts have always been and remain to be both vocation and way of life. Gone are the days where craftspeople exist unrecognized and marginalized in the society. Instead there have been many initiatives to develop activities to enhance the socio-cultural and economic roles contributed by crafts.

Several number of arts and crafts people, are getting opportunity to market their piece of creation offering to local and international markets. Unique designs of pottery, rugs, dolls, painting, weaving, embroidery and leather products continue to attract several clients.

Crafts in Ethiopia reflect cultural diversity in combination of the creativity, heritage and the surrounding of the craftspeople. For each community, crafts form an important part of everyday life. The skill of craft production is passed down from generation to generation and involves everybody from children to adults. Certain artisans have specialized, such as scribes that make sacred objects, while majority of artisans focus on tradable creations such as pottery and metal making, tanning and weaving.

The use and production of handmade objects goes as far back as Ethiopian history which can be characterized by the feudal form of social organization throughout the centuries. The arts and crafts of Ethiopia have also benefited from its diversity. Many handicraft items are common to different ethnic groups and found all over the country. Although some clothing designers develop modern outlooks to their brands many crafts have maintained their artistic originality for centuries appealing to the rising interest for contemporary African creativity.

These outfits usually feature a decorative border called tibeb. It’s a distinctive design of Ethiopian textiles with elaborated patterns and bright colors. Currently, weavers have incorporated tibeb into larger patterns for household products and personal accessories being the must have items. Weavers use intricate motifs with eye-catching hues that are beautiful and exotic taking their work beyond Ethiopian borders. Crafts men started to see return benefit from their piece of art introducing new creations and new raw materials being competitive in the industry.

Ethiopian arts are making a way in the global market exporting end products. These end products come in a variety of forms of skirts, shawls, shorts and trousers, scarves, caps, bags, sweaters and shirts among others. On the other hand there is a growing popularity of home and office decoration industry where demand is outstripping supply. Interior decorators are opening loads of opportunities to Ethiopian designers for naturally-sourced, beautifully crafted, high-end cultural decorations. Many designers have gained a reputation for the quality and the originality of their work and are making headway in the international market.

“The potential is boundless. Ethiopian artisans can expand the range of product designs and sustain a regular flow of new designs. This will enable them to supply the world market as well as influence the local economy generating foreign currency.” Said Alexander Burtenshaw, Country Manager of Jovago Ethiopia.

By Eden Sahle


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