The exhibit "Albert Watson: Visions feat. Cotton made in Africa" returns to its country of origin in two ways: a selection from the heart of the show - the portraits of the Cotton made in Africa smallholder farmers -- is currently on display in public spaces in Cotonou as part of the Biennale Regard Benin. Additionally, the models were presented with their portraits, which had already been shown in the House of Photography, Deichtorhallen Hamburg.
Tina Stridde, Managing Director for the Aid by Trade Foundation (AbTF), who accompanied Watson on his travels though Benin emphasises: "From the very beginning we knew it was important to bring the exhibit back to Benin. Without the people and our partners there, the project would never have been possible. We would like to express our thanks to all those involved."
Cotton made in Africa at the Biennale Regard Benin 2012
Printed on comparatively grainy advertising media, eleven of the large-format Watson prints will initially be on display in Cotonou. Here the photographs from the country's cotton region represent a world that is far-away and foreign to Benin's urban dwellers.A plan to have an additional series travel through the north of Benin is also in development. The photographs are on open display from February 16 to April 16, 2013 in four-square-meter display cases owned by the Sonaec Company in Cotonou's central square, Ganhi Market, and in the windows of the Hôtel du Port in Boulevard Marina. The exhibit was made possible by the Aid by Trade Foundation in cooperation with the House of Photography, Deichtorhallen Hamburg and organised by the South-North Cultural Forum as part of the Biennale Regard Benin 2012 programme.
Stephan Köhler, responsible for the exhibition in Benin, first saw the photographs at the Deichtorhallen Hamburg in September: "It immediately made perfect sense to me to bring Watson's photographs back to Benin as soon as possible and display them in a public space, perhaps even as part of the Biennale Regard Benin."
Models receive their portraits
The models photographed by Watson in December 2011 received prints of their portraits prior to the exhibit. As part of a celebration all participants were presented their photographs, including 21-year-old Boukari Kaoulatou, whose impressive portrait was one of the most distinctive at the exhibition at the Deichtorhallen Hamburg.
Famous fashion and advertising photographer Albert Watson travelled to Benin in 2011 on behalf of the Aid by Trade Foundation to photograph the living environments of the smallholder cotton farmers there who participate in the Cotton made in Africa initiative. The "Albert Watson: Visions feat. Cotton made in Africa" exhibit was held from 14 September 2012 to 13 January 2013 in the House of Photography at the Deichtorhallen Hamburg. The show attracted around 35,000 visitors.
More information on Biennale Regard Benin 2012: www.regardbenin.net und www.facebook.com/RegardBeninBiennial
Cotton has been traded globally for centuries and, along with coffee, cocoa and tea, numbers among the most important export goods. The Aid by Trade Foundation established the "Cotton made in Africa" (CmiA) initiative to improve the earning potential and sales opportunities for cotton from Africa. real,- recently came on board as a CmiA partner, once again demonstrating the firm's dedication to corporate responsibility.
Starting November 19, the first articles bearing the CmiA seal will go on sale at real,-. Overall 20 different items of women's, men's and children's fashion, home textiles, socks and underwear will be available. "Cotton is a valuable raw material our textile suppliers use in many of their products. We would like to offer the people who produce this raw material for us active support in improving their own living conditions. So we decided to become a 'Cotton made in Africa" partner", explains Dirk Ankenbrand, real,- Textiles Area Manager. Cooperation with the CmiA Initiative is not limited to this one campaign either, and other similar projects will follow in the near future.
The real,- SB Warenhaus GmbH is part of the METRO GROUP. real,-. Under the real,- Group umbrella, the firm operates 316 self-service stores in Germany and another 110 in Poland, Romania, Russia, Ukraine and Turkey. For more information please visit www.real.info and www.metrogroup.de.
The Aid by Trade Foundation (AbTF) and its Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) initiative and the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), have signed an interim partnership agreement that should see increased effectiveness and efficiency in promoting greater sustainability to African smallholder farmers as well as delivering sustainable solutions for the textile and fashion industry in Europe and North America.
CmiA focuses on improving the living conditions of smallholder cotton farmers in Africa, while BCI does the same with both smallholders and large producers globally. As both initiatives have a mandate of improving ecological, social and economic conditions in the cotton industry, and share complementary approaches, collaborating made good sense.
The 18-month interim agreement commits the partners to establish "sound structures on both sides, allowing for an optimum exchange of views, ideas and issues of special interest". Among other things, these special interests cover the fight against child labour, delivering Integrated Pest Management (IPM) more effectively, and developing pragmatic systems to connect supply with demand.
The partnership is already yielding results, as BCI and CmiA are immediately offering an attractive way for BCI members to procure CmiA cotton. As of 1 July 2012, CmiA verified cotton (from the 2012 harvest onwards) can be sold as Better Cotton. Providing an excellent proof of concept, this offer will also appeal to those in the industry who have been seeking greater volumes of Better Cotton from Africa. Christoph Kaut, Managing Director for AbTF, highlighted that this would not only "provide immediate exposure to new markets for CmiA and Better Cotton, but would also lead to greater efficiencies and delivers benefits for the African smallholder cotton farmers".
The collaboration between BCI and CmiA further defines activities that include an exchange on subjects like impact assessment, verification and financing models. The hope on both sides is that these are the first steps on a much longer journey to bring greater sustainability to the cotton industry.
Lise Melvin, Executive Director of BCI, underlining Africa's important role in the goal of making Better Cotton a mainstream commodity, promised that "we will always remain committed to ensuring the future of more sustainable African cotton and improving farmers' lives and their environment".
The Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) Initiative will begin working with around 30,000 smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe starting with the cotton harvest 2012/13. The objective here, as in the other six project countries, is to improve the famers' living conditions. Zimbabwe ranked 173rd of 187 countries on the United Nation's 2011 Human Development Index, making it one of the least developed nations in the world.
On the ground CmiA is working with the Cargill cotton company and the German Investment and Development Society (DEG). The Initiative estimates that the Zimbabwean famers will harvest around 18,700 tonnes of ginned cotton from their on average 1.9 hectare fields in the 2012/13 season. Christoph Kaut, responsible for development policy at the Aid by Trade Foundation, the umbrella organisation for CmiA: "On the whole around 200,000 people -- smallholder farmers and their families -- will profit from this collaboration in Zimbabwe. This is a great success for the people in the project areas and our initiative."
Agriculture accounts for about 19 per cent of Zimbabwe's gross domestic product. Cotton is grown almost exclusively by smallholder farmers and, after tobacco, is the second largest cash crop in the country.
In training seminars, the smallholder famers who work with Cotton made in Africa learn sustainable and efficient methods for cultivating their fields, thus increasing both yield and income. CmiA has built up an international demand alliance to facilitate cotton sales and provide the farmers access to the global market. Partner firms such as Puma, Tchibo, C&A and REWE purchase the sustainably grown cotton and process it further.
Yesterday the Deichtorhallen Hamburg opened the Albert Watson: Visions feat. Cotton made in Africa exhibition in the House of Photography. At its heart are 36 large format photographs taken in Benin that portray the smallholder farmers who work with the Cotton made in Africa initiative and their living environment. The show also includes numerous other photographs taken by legendary photographer Albert Watson of such reknown stars as Mick Jagger, Kate Moss and Clint Eastwood.
Well over 800 guests came to celebrate the photographer and his new show. Watson himself was there, as were numerous representatives from Africa who were in the city attending the Aid by Trade Foundation Stakeholder Conference held the same weekend. Among them was cotton farmer Yaya Arouna who travelled to Hamburg to see for himself where his portrait was placed in the exhibition.
Aid by Trade Foundation founder, Dr Michael Otto, hosted the exclusive preview and was followed by a number of speakers: Dr. Dirk Luckow (Deichtorhallen Artistic Director), Prof. Barbara Kisseler (Senator of Culture), Ingo Taubhorn (Exhibition Curator) and Tina Stridde (Director Aid by Trade Foundation).
Other guests included Hans-Jörg Neumann (German Ambassador to Benin), Hans-Joachim Preuß (Board Member GIZ -- the Society for International Cooperation), Dr Wolfgang Jamann (General Secretary Welthungerhilfe), Dr Michael Bornmann (Executive Board Member DEG - German Investment and Development Society), F.C. Gundlach (Founding Director of the House of Photography) and Barbara and Dr Thomas Mirow (Senator a.D.). Singer Sade Adu flew in privately from London as Albert Watson's special guest.
About the exhibition
The Albert Watson: Visions feat. Cotton made in Africaexhibition will be held from 14 September 2012 to 6 January 2013 in the House of Photography at the Deichtorhallen Hamburg. The exhibit consists of two parts: Albert Watson's newly created photographs of Benin from December 2011 comprise its heart. They depict smallholder farmers who work with the Cotton made in Africa initiative and their living environments in order to visualize the social effects of the initiative. The accompanying exhibition will show never before published vintage and Polaroid works from the famed fashion and commercial photographer. Besides two of the Cotton made in Africa retail partners, OTTO and Tom Tailor, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) is another important sponsor of the project.
For additional photographs taken by Albert Watson in Benin please have a look here.
The Cotton made in Africa Initiative (CmiA) supports 25 women's cooperatives in northern Côte d'Ivoire. Inside one year, 1,250 women and 12,500 family members are set to profit from financial start-up aid in cooperation with the German Investment and Development Company (DEG) and the Ivoire Coton cotton firm. The funds will help the women take a step towards financial independence. A social media campaign organised by the C&A fashion company is the driving force behind this project.
In many parts of Africa, patriarchal social structures in which women are primarily responsible for supplying families with food prevail. Many Ivoirian women are organising into cooperatives independently of their husband in hopes of increasing their financial autonomy and self-reliance. In groups of 50 to 100 members, they plant vegetables and rice, raise livestock and sell their products at the market. This income gives them some economic freedom and ensures their families have access to enough food.
In this new social project, Cotton made in Africa is consciously interfacing with these local structures. To strengthen the role of women, 25 women's cooperatives in the Boundiali region in northern Côte d'Ivoire will receive a financial subsidy. "We will use the money to buy more agricultural equipment, high quality seeds and -- if needed -- fertilisers, and we will produce compost soil", says Karidja Thomas, chairwoman of the cooperative Djiguiya Kabada. Also, training is offered to provide the women with the business knowledge they need in areas such as how to organise a company well and conduct successful negotiations. Currently every woman who is a member of a cooperative earns around 77 euros a year. The new project will add an additional 45 to 70 euros per year in future. This will considerably improve the living conditions of these women and their families.
James Shikwati, a member of the Aid by Trade Foundation Board of Trustees: "80 percent of all agricultural goods in Africa are produced by women, yet they earn only 10 percent of the income. African women are more than just the backbone of food production though; they make a considerable contribution to the cohesion and well-being of entire families. Supporting them makes good socio-economic sense, especially given the fact that they have been largely ignored for a long time."
Cotton made in Africa's participation in this project was made possible by C&A, one of the initiative's demand partners. In a Christmas cam-paign in December 2011, the fashion company called upon its social media community to select from three social organisations. CmiA took the lead with a clear margin and can now use the prize money to support the women's cooperatives in Côte d'Ivoire.
To date Cotton made in Africa has initiated four public private part-nership projects with a focus on promoting the education infrastructure in sub-Saharan Africa. The project in Cote d'Ivoire is the first explicitly directed at strengthening women's rights.