Craft Atlas Ethiopia

Research series

Intangible Heritage

Project website

Craft Atlas Ethiopia is an online platform which renders artists specialising in handicraft visible, whose cultural assets come from inside and outside Ethiopia; those artists who were merely visible before will be incorporated online and will be portrayed through photographs and descriptive texts, so that they become more accessible.

Craft Atlas Ethiopia wants to facilitate the dialogue between the north and south
parts of the country, help unique African handicraft artists become more renown, preserve endangered cultural artefacts, and stimulate international cooperation.


In Ethiopia, traditional craftwork plays an important role. Craftwork, such as spinning, weaving or the fabrication of leather, has a long tradition. Weaved fabrics and threaded baskets can be bought from everywhere – traditional craftwork is an economic factor, present in their daily life.

It exists also handcraft in Ethiopia, whose maintenance is sometimes only possible there, like the traditional art of manuscripts on parchment paper. This immaterial cultural heritage, counting also the art of calligraphy, illustration, as well as the binding of books, is especially threatened by the expanding industry, affecting its progression.

Because Ethiopians do not dispose of a fully developed protection of cultural heritage and the current war conflict in Tigray which increases danger, traditional handcraft (including the people who maintain it) undergoes a very difficult situation.

Craft Atlas Ethiopia is a project that aims at reinforcing the support of

regional creative handwork from Ethiopia. Craft Atlas Ethiopia

  • gives an overview of the manufacturing production in Ethiopia
  • categorises factories in relation to their place, trade, and productions
  • presents handworkers who use rare or endangered handworktechniques
  • offers the possibility to collaborate with German partnersCraft Atlas Ethiopia intends to encourage the renewal of traditional handwork into a more modern approach, so that it stays aligned with today’s economic situation.Cultural HeritageCraft Atlas Ethiopia brings together places, particular individuals, and
    their handwork techniques. After the agreement of the UNESCO in 2003, traditional handwork techniques are now part of immaterial cultural heritage. Diverse cultural forms of expression, languages, knowledge, and creative skills apply as example of immaterial cultural heritage, just as artefacts and cultural traditions inside communities and groups of people, which share a connection with cultural spaces. Immaterial cultural heritage is passed-down from one generation to the next, always reshaped, and transmitting a feeling of continuity and identity.Traditional handwork techniques are performed through the processing
    of different materials, such as wood, metal, cloth, and so on, and through the fabrication of diverse objects (households equipments, toys, clothes and jewellery, music instruments, etc.). Concerning the preservation of immaterial cultural heritage, it is not the conservation of the object that stands on the foreground, but its production – that is, the capacity, the skills, and the specialised knowledge necessary to the object’s creation. This requires both the protection of the conditions, from which the production of handcraft is possible, and the transmitting of the experience to the next generation.Currently, it exists in Ethiopia neither a study that regroups economic and cultural facts about the handwork culture, nor does it exist an overview
    of what could count as a contemporary handwork production. Craft Atlas Ethiopia wants to fill that gap.The Process of Craft Atlas

    Craft Atlas Ethiopia is an online platform so configured that its functions can bring support to traditional handwork. In order to promote a long or half-long term consistency in the handcrafts, it is essential to understand its specific characteristics.

    The handcraft artists do not have an impact on the mass market, which will then limit their promotion and their visibility to the public, being either in the marketing sector or the business sector.
    The handcraft artists are not organised in that way. Consequently, they

    lack a concentrated juncture of the manufactures’ economic and political interests, which are different from the ones in the industry. Traditional handworkers are working independently. Particularity and efficiency are responsible for a personality’s singularity. Handworkers manage their business in the way that it will assure their survival. Manufactures that represent a larger unity are usually family businesses.

    Above all, the working ethical positions of the handwork’s businesses is of wider significance and impact for society.
    In none other of the manifestations of economic life are the economic and social tasks as much connected as in traditional handwork.

    The handwork businesses buy most of their raw material from the region, reinforcing the ecological potential of the region.