“I started on my sister’s veranda and here I am now” - Mablé Agbodan, founder of the Craftsmanship Club of Togo

Economic governance
Monday, 02 July 2018 16:56
“I started on my sister’s veranda and here I am now” - Mablé Agbodan, founder of the Craftsmanship Club of Togo

(Togo First) - Passionate, perfectionist and visionary, Mablé Agbodan truly incarnates the multi-talent Togolese Woman. Specialized in luxury designs, she is the director of a gallery and online shop.

“Craving to change things and help her Togolese brothers and sisters”, the laureate of the “Arts, Sports and Culture Contest”, Women Category, created in August 2016, the Arts and Craftsmanship Club of Togo. The club’s objective is to improve skills of Togolese artisans to make the sector more competitive and attractive. However, she went through many hardships before getting to that stage. Let’s now discover the adventure of this admirable personage in the present interview.

T.F : You were living abroad where everything was going well for you, both in regards to your work and business. Yet, you returned home. Why?  

M.A : You often hear people say that the best place to serve is home or that no place feels like home. Well, I always say Europeans built their own place and that it is also up to us Africans, to build our own continent. I would like to contribute to that process.  

T.F : So, what do you think are the measures to implement to help Togolese artisans reveal their potential and enjoy their profession ?

M.A : I believe we still have very much to do. African craftsmanship still has a long way to go. For now, one becomes an artisan either when he fails in school, does not want to attend school or when there is no other option. Proof of that is some have to work for free to learn the ropes of a given job since they have no way to pay for the training. I would thus say that what African craftsmanship first needs is sensitization.

For my part, with the limited means I have, I intend to provide the young people of my centre, training in English. I am thinking of negotiating a deal with the US embassy in this regard. Also, since each of them has a bank account, I wish to help them get loans to purchase a vehicle. My goal is to let them understand that their work, what they do, craftsmanship, has great value and that they can live off it.

T.F : Institutionally,  what do you think should be done to develop this sector ?

M.A : Well, I think the sector should be modernized by providing artisans practical tools to stimulate them, to spark their creativity.

T.F : In regards to standards, what is your opinion of African artisans compared to the Europeans, since you have experience with both ?

M.A : African artisans are unable to perform some tasks for the simple fact that they know not how to and lack the means to as well. Also, culture is a barrier since the African artisan was taught to be a follower and not a leader. He is limited, conditioned, he lacks the means to explore and his culture prevents him from truly expressing himself. This is clearly not the case for the European artisan.

T.F : How do you finance the craftsmanship club ? 

M.A : I must say that it is quite difficult at the moment and I would like to take this chance to ask for support from the government, first, and any other willing person, so that this centre will not be the first and last of the kind. I started with whatever I had. I primarily funded the centre with savings I gathered over 10 years and I often tell my artisans that if one does not quickly find a way to sell his works, the well from which he draws money would dry (chuckles…).

T.F : In this regard, what are your outlets ? To whom are your products directed?

M.A : I would surely like to sell to everyone but it is not possible to please everybody. So, my main clients are so far currently in Europe. I offer high-end products which are directed at a specific social group: football players, designers, bourgeois… However, my goal is to sell to people in the African middle class in addition to my actual customers.

T.F : Do you have issues selling here, in Togo ?

M.A : Yes of course. People here are not much interested and often get discouraged by the prices. Others are however interested but do not buy.

T.F : So why don’t you reduce your prices ?

M.A : The thing is, we spend a lot of time making our products. We do not rush. We take time at the stages of conception, design and all the rest… That is why our prices are relatively high.

T.F : Creating this centre is a first milestone. What comes next?

M.A : My dream is to have a university where craftsmanship will be taught. I was dreaming about the Craftsmanship Club for many years and that dream finally came true. I have been through a lot to get here. Since I started my journey on this path, and during my countless trips, I dreamt of one day creating an African institute of craftsmanship (chuckles…). I started on my sister’s veranda and here I am now. The next step is to build other centres in Kara and Dapaong and create a real training centre for artisans. A place where a certain level of skills would be demanded before admission

Interview by Fiacre E. Kakpo, Séna Akoda and Ahlonko Octave Bruce

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