Together with renowned photographer Albert Watson, the Cotton made in Africa Initiative presented a preview of the Albert Watson: Visions feat. Cotton made in Africa exhibition in Hamburg yesterday. In the EAST Hotel, viewers accompanied the artist on his journey through the West African country and enjoyed insights into the Benin way of life.
The presentation given by Albert Watson and Tina Stridde, Managing Director of the Aid by Trade Foundation, took visitors on a trip through Benin. Making-of photos depicted some of the team's experiences and the individual stops along the two-week trip, ranging from their arrival in Cotonou, a visit to a local king and a festival with the Peuhl people, to interactions with the cotton farmers who work with Cotton made in Africa. Watson's impressive photographs show day-to-day life in Africa from the legendary fashion and celebrity photographer's perspective.
Albert Watson was especially moved by the people he met on his travels: "The people were wonderful. I was particularly touched by how much energy the inhabitants of Benin emit - it was truly astonishing since the country and its people are really very poor. Experiencing and photographing their pure joy in life was a wonderful experience for me."
The photographs taken in Benin tell the stories of the Cotton made in Africa farmers who are the heart of the initiative, as curator Ingo Taubhorn emphasised: "With this exhibition, we want to communicate an impression of the initiative's work. I would like visitors to approach the CmiA with a different awareness and recognize the initiative outside the exhibition as well."
Albert Watson travelled through Benin for two weeks in December to portray the smallholder farmers who work with CmiA. The Albert Watson: Visions feat. Cotton made in Africa exhibition will open on September 14, 2012 in the House of Photography in the Deichtorhallen Hamburg. In addition to photos from Benin, some of Watson's unpublished work will also be on display.
For all the press information regarding the event and additional images of Benin by Albert Watson, please visit our project area.
About the exhibition
The Albert Watson: Visions feat. Cotton made in Africa exhibition will take place from September 14, 2012 to January 6, 2013 in the Deichtorhallen Hamburg House of Photography. The exhibition consists of two parts: at its heart are the photographs Albert Watson took during his trip to Benin in December 2011. These depict the smallholder farmers associated with the Cotton made in Africa initiative and the world they live in, portraying the initiative's social impact. The accompanying retrospective includes never before shown vintage and Polaroid material from the renowned fashion and advertising photographer. In addition to Cotton made in Africa demand partners Otto and Tom Tailor, the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) is also an important supporter of the photo project Albert Watson: Visions feat. Cotton made in Africa.
The Aid by Trade Foundation (AbTF) is expanding its network in Great Britain: Baroness Lola Young has come on board as the foundation's ambassador. The parliamentarian from the British Upper House wholeheartedly supports sustainable fashion from Africa. Effective immediately she will promote the foundation's initiative Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) and its work in the British Isles.
Back in December 2011, the Aid by Trade Foundation presented its initiative Cotton made in Africa at an informational meeting chaired by Lola Young in the House of Lords. The foundation'sgoal is to helppeople help themselves through trade. To this end, its initiative Cotton made in Africa creates an international Demand Alliance to buy sustainably produced cotton from currently around 230,000 African smallholder farmers. As ambassador, Baroness Young will advocate for the interests of AbTF and CmiA in future. "The issue of 'ethical fashion' is close to my heart and I see Cotton made in Africa's work as very valuable and most impressive. I am really looking forward to supporting this dynamic initiative in the British markets and I hope I can make a small contribution towards fighting poverty in sub-Saharan Africa," says Baroness Young
In October 2011, the Aid by Trade Foundation invited Lola Young to attend the foundation's annual stakeholder conference in Zambia. She learned about the work of the AbTF and CmiA and visited cotton farmers and a ginnery. "We can talk all we like about fair trade, water usage and ecological impact. When you meet the people who are experiencing change, who raise your awareness of how precious water really is and explain how a dry period with low cotton yield forces a family to live on just one meal a day, your efforts are no longer abstract. They become very concrete. Talking to the people there about the challenges they face was a new and enriching experience for me."
Lola Young has been a crossbench peer in the House of Lords since 2004. She is currently setting up an All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ethical Fashion. Her focal points are art and culture, caring for children and young people, mental health and equality. Baroness Young is a member of the EU Committee for Social Policy and Consumer Protection and in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. Prior to her career in politics, she headed the cultural division of the Greater London Authority. In 2011 she was awarded the Order of the British Empire.
The successful young designer from Hamburg, Julia Starp, has designed an eight-piece spring / summer collection exclusively for OTTO. The collection is made of, amongst other things, the sustainably produced cotton from the Cotton made in Africa initiative, which makes it clear once again: Sustainable fashion is fashionable and stylish.
With the "ECOREPUBLIC by Julia Starp" collection, OTTO kicks off its spring/summer 2012 season with trendy outfits of lasting quality. The collection focuses on the use of sustainable materials that were produced by methods that took environmental and social aspects into account. In addition to organic cotton, cotton from the Cotton made in Africa initiative is used.
The initiative promotes the cultivation of cotton in sub-Saharan Africa by equipping the small farmers with knowledge of modern, efficient farming methods combined with a limited use of pesticides. Thereby it currently helps to improve the living conditions of around 230,000 African small farmers and their families.
Julia Starp has gained widespread recognition with her sustainable creations, which have been worn by German celebrities such as Barbara Meier and Sabine Kaack. In 2012 her collection will once again be on show at the Berlin Fashion Week.
"Exclusivity and sustainability are not opposites for me. To the contrary, my creations will only be complete with sustainable materials," says the 29-year-old. With trend-conscious designs of tops, t-shirts or a jacket, Julia Starp shows that sustainability and fashion can be brought together, stressing: "It's important that my fashion can be worn for more than one season - this is part of my philosophy of sustainable fashion."
Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) welcomes a new project country in Southeast Africa: 75,000 smallholder cotton farmers in Mozambique will join and participate in the initiative. Mozambique, like the other project countries, numbers among the poorest and least developed countries in the world. CmiA's aim is to help people help themselves through trade, breaking the vicious circle of poverty and improving the living conditions of now more than 420,000 African smallholder farmers in six African countries.
Mozambique follows Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Malawi and Zambia to become the sixth project country for Cotton made in Africa. Locally the initiative will collaborate with the cotton company Mozambique Plexus. Overall around 255,000 smallholder farmers and their family members will profit from this partnership. The initiative and its supporting organisation, the Aid by Trade Foundation (AbTF), estimate 13,325 tons of ginned cotton from Mozambique in harvest season 2011/12. Christoph Kaut, Managing Director of the foundation and responsible for the development policy area reports: "Our goal is to fight poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. With the addition of smallholder farmers and their families in Mozambique, our work now reaches a total of over 2.6 million people and will produce an estimated 160,000 tons of ginned cotton this year. This means that around 15 per cent of all cotton produced in sub-Saharan Africa is already being sustainably cultivated in accordance with the CmiA standards."
Around 80 per cent of the population of Mozambique work in agriculture. Cotton, along with cashew nuts, sugar, shrimp and crayfish, numbers among the most important agricultural products. Although Mozambique is by now one of the fastest growing national economies in Africa, the country is still one of the poorest and least developed nations in the world. On the Human Development Index, the United Nation's prosperity indicator, this Southeast African country ranks forth from last. 55 per cent of the population live in absolute poverty; life expectancy is 50.2 years.
In cooperation with the Aid by Trade Foundation, OTTO Austria will support a school project in Burkina Faso starting in March 2012. The program will offer 5,000 African smallholder farmers who work with the Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) initiative basic education in the form of alphabetization courses. The aim is to kick off a sustainable process of development.
In honour of its 20th anniversary, OTTO Austria will be donating 0.50 euros for each item sold from its ECOREPUBLIC collection to the school project for a period of one and a half years. "We also want to excite our customers about this great project and promote the sale of sustainably produced textiles. We anticipate that more than 50,000 euros will go to the alphabetization program," explained Harald Gutschi, spokesperson for OTTO Austria management. The program receives additional support from the Deutschen Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft (DEG) and Welthungerhilfe (WHH).
Illiteracy has a considerable negative impact on the country's socio-economic development, and is a concrete place to start: by summer 2013 around 5,000 men and women will have learned to read and write in a course in the Bazega Region (central south). This program is OTTO Austria's contribution to laying the groundwork for sustainable development for smallholder farmers and their families.
Social and ecological responsibly plays an important role for every member of the Otto Group. OTTO Austria has therefore focused on and sold sustainably produced textiles under the ECOREPUBLIC brand name for a number of years. Cotton produced by the Cotton made in Africa initiative is also used in production.
The Aid by Trade foundation created the CmiA in 2005 to improve the living conditions of African smallholder farmers. The initiative is creating an international demand alliance to purchase sustainably grown African cotton at market price. Additionally smallholder farmers profit from trainings that teach efficient cultivation methods and from public private partnership projects, such as the alphabetization project in Burkina Faso.
The Aid by Trade Foundation yesterday presented its initiative Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) during a round table at the House of Lords in London. The Ethical Fashion Forum had brought together representatives from the textile and fashion industry in order to draw public attention to the issue of African fashion and production.
Besides CmiA about 30 participants had been invited to the British Upper House to present the best fashion business practices in Africa. CSR, sourcing and buying professionals from retailers such as ASOS, Burberry and Roland Mouret, as well as representatives from industry bodies, networks, smaller businesses and entrepreneurs gave vivid insights into their work and experiences.
Stephan Engel, Managing Director at the Aid by Trade Foundation, who presented the approach of Cotton made in Africa said: "Exchanging ideas and practices with all those retailers and organisations was a fantastic opportunity for us to call attention to CmiA in Britain." The initiative intends to take sustainably produced African cotton out of its niche and into the mass market. Abi Rushton, Associate Director to the Aid by Trade Foundation, commented: „The UK market is one of the leaders in ethical consumerism and offers great potential for the initiative and the smallholder farmers who work with it."