Interview: Asia Clarke on her time with Gone Rural in Swaziland

Asia Clarke, one of our most influential volunteers and talented jewelry designer, facilitated jewelry-making and entrepreneurship workshops for the Obrapa Women’s Group in Ghana for 8 months earlier this year.

The success of the workshops influenced a South-South exchange with Gone Rural, a handcraft company and design brand that uses creativity to ignite change in the community and to economically empower the women and youth of Swaziland.

Now, she is back in Canada and preparing to begin her master’s program in Strategic Foresight and Innovation this September, she took some time out of her busy schedule to speak with us about her experience in Swaziland.

M: Tell us a little about yourself, Asia.

A: I am a Toronto-based jewelry designer, artist facilitator, and creator of Wild Moon Jewelry. Since 2010, I have managed my own arts-based jewelry business and I have released 7 independent bodies of work around jewelry as new cultural artifacts. I am the 2015 Ontario Council for International Co-Operation’s Global Youth Changemaker Ambassador, and I have worked as a Women and Youth Economic Empowerment Advisor with several international organizations including Crossroads International and Pro-Link Ghana. I am passionate about building community through the arts as a global movement.

 

“I am passionate about building community
through the arts as a global movement.

 

M: What was your mission in Swaziland?

A: As part of a South-South exchange between Gone Rural and Pro-Link, myself and the Obrapa Women’s Group leader, Vida Mensah, traveled to Swaziland for specialized knowledge training in entrepreneurship development and specific training in jewelry/accessory production. We also visited Women’s groups in Swaziland and studied the method and reason on how to operate cooperatives such as the women’s cooperatives connected to Gone Rural, and how to relate that knowledge to women’s cooperatives in Ghana.

 

Women of Gone Rural assembling clay jewelry pieces.

M: What were the results?

A: As a result of the exchange, I was able to help a group of women to develop their own jewelry line, Sibusiso, and I am now currently working on the Women’s Economic Empowerment manual – an easy to read, step-by-step booklet that Pro-Link can use to support women’s groups to start their own fair-trade initiatives; with feedback given on the best way to communicate this information in the Ghanaian context.

 

 

“I was able to help a group of women
to develop their own jewelry line, Sibusiso…”

 

M: Please, share some of your favorite takeaways from your time spent in Swaziland

A: I think the best part of my experience was working with the potters group to develop their new jewelry line called Sibusiso Jewelry. The women have given me a Swazi name called “Thambalethu” (pronounced TAMBA LETU) which means We Trust You. That moment made me really happy and proud to be doing the work I am doing.

 

M: Anything additional you’d like to share?

A: The women in potters group connected to Gone Rural had a median age of 65; so it was great to work with older women as I have been used to working with youth and middle-aged women in my career so far. We created fresh and exciting products with the traditional pottery techniques knowledge that have been passed on for generations.

To learn more about Gone Rural, click here to visit the website.

For more information on The Obrapa Women’s Group and their jewelry line “Biakoye” or to shop Asia’s personal jewelry line “Wild Moon” click here.

Interview by Mecha Clarke | Photography provided by Asia Clarke

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