I have always been
deeply interested in art and the handmade artifact. My interest has taken me on a road, not always
smooth, but endlessly enriching and full of surprises.
My background is in
accounting and computer science. While working as an accountant, graduated from
Addis Ababa Commercial College, I
studied chartered accountancy by correspondence with ACCA (United Kingdom) and
then I joined Addis Ababa University and graduated with a Bsc in Computer
Science. In 2008 I stepped into the world
of art and opened a shop in the Getu Commercial Center, Addis Ababa I did not have any selling experience and
found myself tongue tied and unable to discuss price with my clients. First
lesson learnt: selling is not about shame, but a world rich with possibility! That was the turning point for me and I did
not look back.
Through the ten years
that I have been creating and selling art and craft, I have had many successes
and many failures, but I have never given up. Political uncertainty in our
country saw two of my shops close. But
again, lessons learnt through my business startups have been priceless, and I
mean just that, beyond value. It is this learning that I have brought with
me into my present business, Weyra Crafts,
situated in Bole Medhehanealem. Weyra
has many distinguished clients, chiefs of mission to Ethiopia, ambassadors,
directors, and presidents. Participation
in trade shows both inside and outside of Ethiopia has further extended Weyra’s
reach and its clientele. It was with some
pride that I was invited to present Weyra products in Nairobi and met Kenyan
president Uhuru Kenyatta and his wife.
The Weyra workshops are located some two
kilometers from the center of the city. There are two: a weaving and a sewing
workshop. At the weaving workshop seven weavers create Weyra’s beautiful fabric,
and at the sewing workshop, seamstresses, three women and two men, create
Weyra’s distinct products. The workforce
expands when orders require it. Weyra’s
employment policy is founded on social responsibility, favouring the poorest
and the most vulnerable.
The sewing section is run by Yesewzer
Assefa, Bezunesh Webu and Abaynesh Gizaw, two of whom experience hearing and
speaking challenges. The youngest member
of the workshop is Amanuel Aklilu, son of single mother Abaynesh Gizaw. Amanuel
has become the joy of the workshop. From
the age of 3 months he has spent his days there and this year, now 3 years old,
he has joined a kindergarten at Selam children’s village, sponsored by Weyra.
Sitotaw Assefa heads the weaving workshop.
His team can expand from two to five or six, depending on orders. Sitotaw Assefa is an artisan who inherited a
love of handcraft from his parents. Steeped in the practice of traditional
craft making, he grew up watching his mother, a potter, mould clay, and his
stepfather, weave cloth. Traditional art resides in Sitotaw’s family for generations.
Pottery is one of our product lines. Weyra commissions
women, low income family bread winners, to produce its unique collection. These women have become excluded from society at
large for the mistaken belief that they possess evil powers. The women work their pottery in their homes
and supply Weyra on a contract basis.
The wood carvings in Weyra’s collection are
largely made by woodworkers working in non-government organizations established
to support the deaf, those unable to speak, and the physically challenged. Another working group is made up of self-employed
youth that Weyra in with its social responsibility commitment, includes as
At the Weyra shop in Bole Medhehanialem,
two young women who have returned from the Middle East where they worked in the
service industry, have been hired as sales staff. Providing support and encouragement for Middle
East returnees, many of whom are traumatised and disoriented having been poorly
treated by their employers, forms another part of Weyra’s social responsibility
commitment and helps young women reintegrate into society.
Weyra Crafts will continue to pursue its dream of having
a positive impact on the network of communities with which it works. Building a
sustainable and profitable business will benefit all of Weyra’s producers. It is equally Weyra’s
dream to share with discerning buyers the world over, the expertly designed and
produced craft of Ethiopia. Weyra wishes
to bring joy to homes in all corners of the globe. As Weyra’s footprint grows, the impact that it
can have on communities in Ethiopia, will grow too. And with the economic outlook of Ethiopia steadily improving, Weyra is well
positioned to flourish and prosper. Hand
crafted weaves, household goods, jewelry and traditional pottery, furniture and
carvings, will be gracing the homes of Addis Ababa and beyond well into the