Wrestling: King of Sports

by Jennifer Dees

Horse racing, camel racing, football, and rugby are among the popular sports in Niger. Nigeriens have medaled twice in the Olympics, winning a bronze medal in light welterweight boxing in 1972 and a silver medal in taekwondo in 2016. As Kate wrote in one of her posts, one man even represented Niger, which is  80% desert, in the Olympics rowing competition. But none of these sports holds the same cultural value as wrestling, which is known in Niger as the “King of Sports.”

Wrestling started out as a spur-of-the-moment game. It eventually became more popular during festivals, when people from different provinces would compete against each other. Sorro wrestling originated during these occasions, and it is practiced only in Niger. The aim is to get any part of the opponent, besides the feet, to make contact with the ground. Competitors play against every other competitor, and the one with the most wins is declared champion.

Nigerien Youth Week, a national youth sport and cultural contest, has made wrestling extremely popular. Prominent leaders began to promote wrestling to encourage national unity, organizing tournaments during harvest festivals.  In 2015, Niger won an African Traditional Wrestling Tournament, triumphing over six other countries.

Each year, 80 wrestlers compete over ten days in the Traditional National Wrestling Saber. Ten representatives come from each region of the country, accompanied by supporters and the spotlight of Nigerien media. Spectators pay not only for the wrestlers, but also the clowns that run about the arena, the music and dancing, and the griots—musician poets who recite praises before the match. The griots honor the wrestlers by performing takes, bold, rhythmic, creative, and sometimes humorous songs about the wrestler’s skills and previous victories. Following is one from the national championship of 1983 in Hausa:


A vast plantation is Kassou Dan Tune!

What belongs to us is ours indeed.

Tomorrow is ours,

And the next day,

If fortune smiles on us.

I saw a whirlwind, a bad omen and a lying one,

The day that Salma got himself trapped.

For a whole hour Salma stood upright

For a whole hour Kassou stood upright.

Suddenly, they charged at each other.

To wrestle with a beginner is a delicate matter

Or indeed with a sorcerer,

Or yet with a marabout.

But the strength of Kassou is not that of one man alone!

The wrestler himself also chants a kirari (self-praise), perhaps wearing a gris-gris talisman for luck and strength. Many competitors strongly believe in charms and incantations, spoken as they enter the arena. A fathia (prayer), is offered, and the Minister of Sports gives a speech, speaking of peace, cultural identity, and friendship. The winner receives a monetary award, a boubou robe and turban, a horse, and the ceremonial saber. Both winners and losers receive kari (gratuities) from the audience. Wrestlers compete more for the game itself rather than the award, and often share money with griots and inexperienced wrestlers. This year’s winner was Tassiou Sani, representing Zinder. The tournament will continue next year,  carrying a cultural tradition reflective of Niger’s unity, strength, and resilience.



Sorro wrestling

Clip from the 2018 Traditional Nigerien Wrestling competition in Zinder this year

Mahaman L. Sériba’s “ Traditional Wrestling in Niger: Between State Voluntarism and

Ancestral Symbolism”

The Tuareg: A Tribe of the Sahara Desert

by Sarah Ravazza

Lack of access to clean water negatively impacts many communities in Niger, including the Tuareg people, a nomadic tribe that inhabits the Sahara Desert. This ancient African tribe has been popping up in the news recently due to their involvement in uprisings and with various rebel groups. Although the reasons behind these rebellions are complicated, an undeniable exacerbating factor is the competition for natural water on their indigenous land. The Tuareg have lived in the water-scarce Sahara Desert for centuries, but a mix of climate change and the increased water resource exploitation has seriously impacted their ability to survive in their indigenous homeland.

A very brief background of the Tuareg: dating back to as early as the 4th century, the history of this tribe is vibrant, complex, and has been influential to modern Africa. Traditionally nomadic, the clans traveled throughout their indigenous home of the Sahara Desert living off of resources and their livestock and were heavily involved in trans-Saharan trade. By the 19th century, there were quite a few clans split throughout their indigenous Sahara region, and these tribes were some of the strongest opponents to French colonialism. Once African countries gained independence in the 1960s and the modern country borders were established, the Sahara Desert (and by extension the Tuareg) had been split between 5 nations, a majority of which (around 2 million people) currently live in Niger.

Niger – Agadez – Young Tuareg girls holding a water bucket on their heads.

One of the major challenges the Tuareg are currently facing is the depletion of water in the already resource-sparse Sahara Desert. In Niger, the Tuareg are a marginalized group and have little economic or political power. Their homeland is also rich in uranium, a prized metal that is sought by many nuclear companies. According to the University of Texas’ Climate Change and African Political Stability research, this uranium has led to serious conflicts between Tuareg tribes, the Niger government and the French company who currently mines the area. As the report states, uranium mining “is water intensive, both in underground and open pit operations, and Niger has both.” This has led to a major depletion of water resources, and access to clean water is becoming increasingly limited. Although the French company has stated they are incorporating water-saving updates that will lessen the amount of water taken from mining, with new mines being developed and other environmental issues involved when extracting uranium, the Tuareg are desperate for autonomy and ways to ensure their continued access to clean water.

With the actions of Wells Bring Hope, vitally important access to water is being brought to Tuareg and others living in the water-sparse areas of the Sahara Desert. As CCAPS research indicates, “adaptation to increasing water scarcity need not be high tech or guided by national-level policy.” Empowerment through access to clean water has a significant impact on individuals and communities. This will help not only the survival of these clans but will also impact relations between the Tuareg, neighboring towns, and the government of Niger through easing the burden and fear of not having access to a clean water.


Included below are links to read further on the subject:

Tuareg Wikipedia

Who are the Tuareg?  

Does Supply Induced Scarcity Drive Violent Conflicts? (Case study of the Tuareg rebellion)

Tuareg Society within a Globalized World

Five West African Visual Artists that You Should Know

by Shayna Watson

Every year, art collectors, admirers, and enthusiasts gather in New York during the first week of March for one of the world’s leading contemporary art fairs, Armory Show. An important event for the art world since 1913, this art fair has become increasingly interested in how technology and culture contribute to the art we view and how it is consumed and revered around the world.

In 2016, Armory Show chose the theme of “African Perspectives”, choosing to focus on a region of the world that is very rich in art and beauty, yet often overlooked by the western art world. Curators for the international art event wanted to showcase artists from the continent of Africa, as well as the African diaspora, in order to examine the very unique and innovative perspectives on art, global connections and identity emerging from these artists. Although the theme of this year’s fair was not centered around African artists, many of the breakout talents of the 24-year running show were of African descent. Below are five emerging artists who stole the attention and interest of art lovers from around the globe:


Omar Ba (Senegal)

Known for his mixed media paintings, Omar has been a student of the arts for most of his life. His work marries reality and surrealism in scenes of violence and fantasy from the present, folklore, and dynasties dating back to ancient Egypt. Ba has moved from his origins of abstract painting and now draws from his multicultural experiences to use figurative art as his storytelling medium.

Sory Sanlé (Burkina Faso)

Sanle’s goal as a photographer was never to become famous. First learning the art of photography from his work as an apprentice, Sory taught himself many of the technical aspects of printing and processing through taking pictures of the culture around him. Later in his career, he worked in a studio in his hometown of Nianiagara where it was said, “Rich people, poor people, religious people, artists, musicians, everyone could become a hero at his Volta studio.”

Lina Iris Viktor (Liberia)

Lina’s art can be distinguished from other artists’ from a mile away, with a very technique and time-consuming process seen through the detail of each painting. Her signature use of resin coated in 24-karat gold leaf on blue, black or white backgrounds has gained the attention of artists across visual and music mediums. The artist has explained that she uses these materials to reference the sacred way that gold was used by ancient cultures, and reaffirm the wealth and richness of African heritage.

Seydou Keïta (Mali)

Keita’s eloquent photography has captured a crucial time of transition for his hometown, Bamako – the capital of Mali. After receiving his first Kodak camera at the age of 14, Seydou spent the rest of his life as an artist teaching himself the techniques of shooting and printing by taking portraits of those in his community. Although Keita passed in 2001, his art is gaining popularity for its insightful storytelling of a country in political transition through imagery that seamlessly blended formality and intimacy.


Jadé Fadojutimi (Nigeria)

Jade is the youngest artist on this list, with her very first solo show happening earlier this year. Using juxtaposing vocabulary to define her artistic style, Jade explains that she aims to create “locations of familiar unfamiliarity, fears, and unknowns, my paintings delve into how we use the sense of place to establish our identity”. To go from her first solo show to a stage as big as Armory Show, this emerging artist has an awesomely bright future ahead.






Why I Stopped Taking Water for Granted

by Britt Lipson

In 2013, I had a unique and life-changing experience. For most of the year, I volunteered at an orphanage school in Buea, Cameroon. No, it was not a mission trip or a study abroad year. No, I did not go with friends or family. No, I did not know anyone there. When I share this experience with people, they look at me in awe. They’re usually appalled that someone would give up their savings and time to travel to a 3rd world country. Most people label me as brave, but I didn’t feel courageous. In fact, if I’m being honest, I felt a certain amount of anxiety run through my body. Although difficult to explain, I will try my best.

I felt a calling since I was a child. Africa was a fascination to me, and I felt compelled to visit. My childhood was by no means easy, but I can’t imagine struggling for food and water. I wanted to assist those who didn’t have access to these basic necessities, and  I felt like this experience would be meaningful. I was going to a place where water was scarce, a cherished rarity. When in Cameroon, it common for the government to turn the water off, and for the community to have to make do with the little they had. When I stayed there for a year, I conserved water in a large bin, not knowing when the water would be turned back on.

In anticipation of this event, we would prepare by trekking to a well under the scorching sun. I needed water because I was often parched and dehydrated thanks to the sweltering African heat. I would trek three miles from the school where I was volunteering with my cherished bottle of water in my bottle in hand. I did my best to conserve my water use each day, but I had a host mother close by. I would often visit, and she would cook her usual meal of rice and beans. It was a difficult meal to cook because water was not always available. There were various buckets for cooking, drinking, and bathing. Warm water was out of the question. I would normally stand in the bathtub and rinse off soap with water, chilling my body. It sounds uncomfortable, but really it was refreshing. To shiver from the frigid water, then to get dressed and go outside to face the angry African sun was an unforgettable feeling, like a tug of war for my body and mind.

I was fortunate enough to be able to afford bottled water, selling at 10 cents each. To people who receive 50 dollars each month to support their entire family, this option is out of the question. As a result, sometimes they would drink stagnant water or water that was contaminated and hope they would not fall ill. If that happened, then they need to get medicine which they cannot afford. As a result, they missed work. If they had access to clean water, none of this would have been an issue.

Residents of Cameroon’s capital Yaounde often queue for hours to fill jerry cans with water during periods of severe shortages. (UNICEF)

Upon completion of my volunteer experience, I returned home with a mix of bliss and joy. My broken heart alternated between sadness and happiness. I felt fortunate not to worry about water. In my hotel, I made a mad dash for the shower where I took a long, boiling shower. The hot water pouring on my back felt foreign after nearly a year. I was also racked with guilt. I stepped out of the shower with the steam enveloping me like a warm blanket, fighting angry tears to stop them from pouring. I knew my perspective on water had changed. My habits changed from then on. When I brush my teeth, I turn the water off. I have a timer in my shower to limit my time to five minutes. These are small changes that don’t solve the global problem, but I know I’m making a difference by conserving water locally.

U.N. Water, which coordinates the annual World Water Day campaign, reports that there are over 663 million people in the world living without a safe water supply close to home, spending countless hours queueing for or trekking to distant sources, and coping with the health impacts that come with using contaminated water. This is according to Water Shortages Plague Major Cameroon Cities. I often read articles like that to remind me how lucky I am. We take accessible water for granted. I am thankful I had the opportunity to experience living with water scarcity. I wish everyone did.


Tracking Malnutrition in Africa

by Lilia Leung

Malnutrition takes many forms. Did you know that you can be both overweight and malnourished? While many children today in both developing and developed countries are malnourished and overweight as a result of fast food culture, Africa is still overwhelmingly plagued by malnutrition in the form of stunting, wasting, and being underweight. Stunting (insufficient height for age), wasting (insufficient weight for height), and being underweight (insufficient weight for age) are the main factors of child growth failure (CGF), which is a fundamental impediment to human capital development.

A study published in a recent issue of Nature collected data from 2000 to 2015 and found that while almost all countries in Africa have made overall progress on improving children’s nutrition and health, there are still many disparities between regions, even those within a single country. In particular, researchers found that CGF was notably prevalent in the Sahel region, which is a semi-arid area that includes southern Niger.

Many worldwide humanitarian organizations recognize the need for action on behalf of children in Africa and have set goals aimed at motivating policy change. In 2012, the World Health Organization (WHO) established the Global Nutrition Targets, which aim to improve nutrition for all children under five by the year 2025. In 2015, the United Nations (UN) adopted the Sustainable Development Goals, which include an objective to end all forms of malnutrition by the year 2030. While the study in Nature projects that all countries in Africa are on course to meet the WHO’s targets for improved nutrition, none of them are expected to reach the UN’s goal to abolish malnutrition completely.

Though some people might consider the goals of the WHO and the UN to be ambitious, both organizations have outlined clear paths toward attainment of these goals. The WHO has come up with a series of five action plans for country officials and policymakers to undertake, most of which include the creation and maintenance of policies, interventions, and programs that support and promote nutrition and healthy eating. Meanwhile, the UN has recommended that countries allocate more funds for social programs and increase investment towards sustainable agriculture and food production.

The issue of malnutrition is, of course, one that is closely tied to water. The most common result of drinking contaminated water is severe diarrhea, which means that even children who have access to sufficient calories and nutrition can become severely malnourished if not provided with clean drinking water. A lack of clean water and hygienic conditions also make children more susceptible to illnesses that result in stunted growth.

The availability of drinking water in many regions of Africa is threatened by the severe droughts, and global warming is exacerbating this already dire situation. Clean water must be prioritized for small children who are the most vulnerable to water-borne diseases. Otherwise, UNICEF warns, as many as 600 million children could face malnutrition, disease, and death by the year 2040.

When we drill a safe water well in a village, child mortality drops by 70% thanks to the combination of clean water, adequate sanitation, and the improved nutrition made possible by vegetable gardens. The answers aren’t complicated; we just need the will to implement them. We can end the world water crisis and child malnutrition in our lifetime.


Saving Money, Sharing Money

by Jennifer Dees

Money adds up. As someone with a sweet tooth, I probably spend about $7 each week on sweets, sometimes planned, usually on a whim. I got curious about how much money that adds up to over a year: $336.

Look, I’m not willing to cut sugar out of my life. I’d fight off anyone who tried to bolt with my ice cream. But for something that lasts a few minutes and really isn’t all that healthy, cutting out a little wouldn’t hurt.

We have a lot of resources that can be easily taken for granted, so much so that we sometimes overindulge. Indulging isn’t a bad thing, but there is a limit to how much pleasure we can get out of something. Once your cup is full, let the rest flow into someone else’s.

One simple way to do this is by keeping a spare change jar. I’m irrationally bothered by stray pennies, so I might as well throw those in. It doesn’t matter how quickly the jar fills, just that, when it is full, I can donate coins that probably would have otherwise continued to sit on my car’s dashboard for eternity. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to make a difference.

I created an infographic to provide a few suggestions for saving money. The biggest way to save is to use public transportation exclusively. For those who live in cities with good public transportation, it frees up time for reading (or sleeping!) during the commute, and according to the American Public Transportation Association, you could save a whopping $9,000 a year when you cut out auto insurance, gas, repairs, and car payments. Even those who want to keep a car can save an average of $1,400 a year by carpooling.

Another easy saving opportunity is switching from bottled water to filtered tap water. It’s better for the environment, and it saves $280 per year. Another option is a small switch from one soda size to another. Ten cents might not seem like much, but added up over a year, that’s $36, and it takes just $30 to give one person safe water for a lifetime.

I’m not suggesting you sell all of your possessions and internal organs, nor that anyone gives up their Saturday night ice cream (again, fight me), but a few cents here and there adds up and can go a long way toward transforming lives in rural villages in Niger. If you think you can find even $5 extra a month, why not sign up to become a recurring donor? With a donation of just $5 a month, you can provide give the gift of a lifetime of safe water to two people by this time next year.



Equal Pay Day

by Stephanie Coles

Tuesday, April 10th is Equal Pay Day in America. The day of the week is significant: it falls on a Tuesday each year because it represents how far into the following workweek a woman must work in order to earn what a man earned the previous week. Though there are laws in place that prohibit gender-based pay discrimination (and there have been since 1963), the average working woman in the United States is still paid approximately 80 cents for every dollar a man earns, amounting to an annual gender wage gap of over $10,000. When you factor in race as well as gender, the disparity is even more staggering. Black women who work full time earn 63 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men. That means that Black women have to work for 19 months to earn as much as white, non-Hispanic men earned in a year.

This pay gap exists in every single state, even those that are typically seen as progressive.

Without the data, many people would also consider the United States to be more progressive in this area than the rest of the world; however, this is also not true:

Pay inequality is a frustration and hardship that women around the world have to deal with on a daily basis. However, in many countries, women’s equality is a secondary concern as they are still struggling in 2018 to meet the basic needs of their citizens: access to food and clean water. In Niger, women and girls walk miles each day to get water. As a result, girls don’t go to school, furthering the disparity between males and females. The average woman in Niger receives just 4 years of education.

At Wells Bring Hope, we are focused on providing access to clean and safe water for the people of Niger. But what makes our organization unique is our continued commitment to the communities where we drill. We focus on improving the quality of life for women and girls. Before a well is drilled, a committee composed of at least half women is established to learn how to maintain it. Once a well is completed, our partner, World Vision, maintains a presence in the village for 15 years to teach basic hygiene, drip farming, and offer women microfinance training. Women are then taught basic financial skills and lead the formation of saving groups that require a small financial contribution in order to participate. Once pooled, the money is loaned out to other group members to help start their own small businesses. Once their business grows, the debt is repaid to then be loaned out to other women, perpetuating the impact women can have on their community.

A great article from World Bank outlines the importance of women having opportunities to earn for their families. “Promoting women’s access to gainful employment can unleash a strong force for innovation, productivity, and economic growth. With income opportunities also comes more control over household resources, and there is evidence that women are more likely than men to invest resources in children’s health and education.”

Educating and encouraging women to participate in income-generating activities perpetuates the advancement of their communities, families, and other women and girls. So this Tuesday while you’re reflecting on the struggles women face in our own backyards, I’d like you to also consider the struggle women around the world are facing, including the women of Niger. Gender inequality is a global issue, and with your support, we can tackle it together.

Volunteerism through Wells Bring Hope

by Kristopher Coulston

It is fascinating to think about the ways that a shared desire to make a difference can have a major impact. The yearning to do something great makes a difference in schools, non-profit organizations, communities, and individual lives around the world every day. Wells Bring Hope is an organization that is run by volunteers, which means this organization would not be able to operate without the cooperative effort of like-minded people. It it is energizing to consider all that can be accomplished in the world by the collective efforts of people demonstrating their basic humanity in a way that is important to them.

Every single day, organizations around the world rely on volunteers to help meet objectives and make progress. The progress that Wells Bring Hope has made in Niger is a great example of what volunteers can accomplish. Wells Bring Hope recently reached their goal of drilling 500 wells. 500 wells drilled means that half a million lives have been radically transformed by the life-changing power of access to clean water. The progress has changed lives and wouldn’t have been possible without the shared determination of Wells Bring Hope volunteers.

Cooperation and shared purpose play a crucial role in meeting objectives and making an impact. When you have a team of volunteers who share a vision for making a difference, they are unstoppable. As an African Proverb states, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Wells Bring Hope will continue to bring hope because of the shared vision and grit of their volunteers.

The inspiration to give back is what made Wells Bring Hope possible, and it is the very essence of what makes Wells Bring Hope great. The founder of this extraordinary organization, Barbara Goldberg, heard about the heartbreaking reality of the water crisis in West Africa, and was inspired to act, to give back and build something bigger than herself. The spirit of giving back continues to write the story and successes of this organization.

The impact that Wells Bring Hope, a primarily volunteer-run organization, has made in Niger overwhelms me with inspiration. The marked progress this organization has made is substantial evidence that volunteering transforms, not just lives but entire countries. Volunteerism will forever change Niger, and it is the very first volunteer who made it all possible, Barbara Goldberg.

My Conversation with Barbara Goldberg

by Christine Clemons

As we celebrate the ten year anniversary of Wells Bring Hope, I had the chance to meet with
Founder and President of Wells Bring Hope, Barbara Goldberg. We talked about Wells Bring
Hope, what inspires her and some of her favorite memories.

One of Barbara’s favorite memories with Wells Bring hope was her very first trip to Niger.
On her first trip to Niger, the very first day, at the first village they visited, Barbara met Halima, a
woman who had lost eleven of her twelve children from contaminated water. This story will live
with Barbara forever, it is the embodiment of what happens when there is no clean water
available and is the worst thing imaginable to a mother. Through her loss, Halima was still
joyful, and a warm person. After drilling a well, and reconnecting three years later, Halima told
Barbara that now no other woman in her village will have to experience what she had
experienced because they now have access to safe water.

One of Barbara’s proudest moments of WBH would be this month, March 2018, and
reaching our goal of drilling 500 wells. Through this, we have transformed the lives of half a
million people in the poorest country in the world. She cannot conceive of anything making her
more proud.

For Barbara, WBHS’ biggest accomplishment would be our ability to expand and do all
we have accomplished, while still remaining an all-volunteer organization and keeping
the model that we had originally set out. The people who have come to our doors, and will
continue to come, are serious professionals, not licking envelopes but doing serious work,
researching corporate partnerships, creating social media, writing blog posts and more.

It’s incredible for an organization run by volunteers to have such a large impact. Here
is what Barbara feels keep us together. Passion for our work. Realizing that what we are
doing is of tremendous value and is needed in the world. All of us realize that to be truly
valuable human beings in the world we have to give back in some way. Barbara feels blessed in
many ways — professionally, financially, family, where she lives— and while there was no
concept to give back in the way she did, she feels that things cross your path and you need to
keep your eyes open and see if it is a new path to walk down. She has always done that, and if
she had not, Wells Bring Hope would not exist. “When you think had I made a different decision,
a half million people might not have clean water, that people would die, kids would die.”

The one thing that keeps Barbara going is the people we serve. These beautiful children
and woman who have suffered so severely, walking for water, pulling up water, the pain of
losing a child and knowing that every time we raise money for a well, we can help a village,
make the lives of the people better, transforming their lives for generations to come. This comes
back to the people we serve, we serve them. They are our motivation for doing the work we do.

I thought it would be fun to ask Barbara her mantra or favorite quote. While she has
many, there are two that she chose to share.
“Surrender to what is.” This is it, accept it. That concept is very different than quitting. It means
to see what is before you, accept it, move on and survive. Don’t let life be desolate.
For her second guiding force, Barbara is a great believer in balance. She teaches her
granddaughters that everything in life is about balance. Many of us strive for balance in our lives
and 99% of the time we are still out of balance. As we observe ourselves, we should step
outside, look in and notice that we are unbalanced, and instead of beating ourselves up over it,
gently make a shift in one small way to try and restore the balance.

Goldberg’s one piece of advice for someone trying to make a difference on their own
would be to not be discouraged because there is always another day. If something doesn’t
happen one day, just keep on going. If you are true to your purpose, and all your energy goes to
achieving your goal, she believes you will get there. Yes, there will be obstacles, but evaluate
and work to get past and around them and just keep on going.

To end our discussion I asked Barbara what would be the one thing she would like to say
to our volunteers and supporters: “THANK YOU!!!!!”
“We truly could not do what we do without our volunteers. This is the reality of who we are and
what we do. I really hope the experience they derive from working with us will be of value to
them, I truly believe it will be, in some way or other in the future. If nothing else, it allows our
volunteers to know what it feels like to help people in the poorest country in the world, to know
how by with us, and you couldn’t do anything more meaningful, how lucky they are, how lucky
we are to have them, to find a cause to enrich their, and our, lives.”

Footnote: Wells Bring Hope is extremely fortunate to be an all-volunteer organization, with 100%
of donations going to drill wells. We could not do this without our corporate sponsor (Panda)
covering the operational costs of our one paid volunteer Kate Cusimano, Director of Operations.
We also could not do this without the support of World Vision who matches our donations and
drills the wells.

Niamey: Capital of Niger, and the Next Fashion Capital of the World?

by Shayna Watson

Most of us have heard about the major fashion industry events that take place in the recognized fashion capitals like New York, Paris, London, and Milan. Emerging fashion designers flock to these cities in hopes of working with renowned designers, and gaining exposure for their art and talents. We have heard about the cities in Europe and the United States that get the attention of the fashion industry; but there is a “forgotten” fashion capital making up-and-coming designers’ dreams come true – Niamey, Niger. The capital city of Niger is home to the International Festival of African Fashion (FIMA), a four-day runway and accompanying trade show that brings the big names and the newbies from around the world for an amazing collaborative event.

The brainchild of UNESCO’s Artist for Peace, Sidahmed Alphadi Seidnaly, the biannual festival invites over 250 fashion designers from all over to collaborate and participate in runway presentations, trade shows, and contests for new designers and models. In addition to the designers, press and influencers from all over the world come to enjoy the festivities. Big names like Jean Paul Gaultier and Oscar de la Renta work alongside up-and-coming local designers at this event. The event boasts over 60,000 visitors and has grown steadily every year since its naissance in 1998. The first edition of FIMA was held in the Sahara, in the open desert air of Agadez, in central Niger. Alphadi wanted to bring together African designers and their peers from around the world to share culture, passion, and expertise and to promote all of the beauty and talent that Niger has to offer. Designers, craftsman and aspiring models from local villages in Niger have been given the opportunity to share their talents, while hopefully breaking into the industry of their dreams. In an interview, Alphadi stated that he wanted to show the world that “Africa is not just poverty, fighting, and disease – Africa is also art and design.”

Unfortunately, due to the increased terror threats to the people of Niger, the last edition of FIMA had to be held in a closed, secure location in the capital city. FIMA 2016 was a two-day event that once again could bring together aspiring designers, artisans and models from all over Africa to connect with international industry players. The motto of the African fashion festival is “Creativity for Peace and Development in Africa.” Through the efforts of Alphadi and all of the contributors to FIMA, The School of Fashion and Arts was opened in Naimey, giving a new generation of African designers the opportunity to learn and pursue their love of fashion and art. Alphadi has done amazing work to bring awareness to the abundance of talent found in Niger, as well as the growing need for education and resources to continue to produce artists. The time for another International Festival of African Fashion is fast approaching. Here’s hoping that the festival can continue to showcase the arts, fashion, and culture coming out of Niger. The country and its residents have so much to offer the world.