PHOTOS Marcii Magson
BELLHAUS Karakulia is a creative textile collaboration between BELLHAUS and Karakulia Weavers which will be presented under the title INTERWOVEN at the BELLHAUS Atelier and Galerie, 18 Bell Street, Windhoek from Thursday, 23 June until Saturday, 23 July 2022.
The first BELLHAUS Atelier & Galerie commissioned artistic collaboration to see the light of day will be BELLHAUS Karakulia. Four bespoke carpet designs by four artists and woven by the well-established Karakulia Weavers situated in Swakopmund will be on display. Invited to submit their designs, which were then meticulously produced to launch a new line of Karakulia carpets, Marcii Magson, Michael Chandler, E-Tunga Studios and Tina Basson each put forward vastly different creative expressions. This resulted in an intriguing and unexpected display that ranges from abstract to a modern take on traditional Oshiwambo handcraft design to pastel proportions and even an enormous serpent!
What makes this project particularly interesting is the fact that none of the artists – all well established in their various mediums – have produced designs for weaving before. Creating a novel approach to the age-old karakul carpet weaving trade, which is nothing short of world-class in craftsmanship, was conceptualized by the co-founder of BELLHAUS Atelier and Galerie, Andrea Behnsen. In complete awe of the craftsmanship of the weavers and her passion for product development as well as equipped with a network of artists, she initiated the BELLHAUS Karakulia project. Product development and value addition initiatives between art and trade lie at the heart of the BELLHAUS’s vision and make this initiative as Andrea rightly notes, more of a product launch than an exhibition – the first of many to follow.
The story of Mr. Moses Helao, who started off as a cleaner for Karakulia Weavers and worked himself up to become the proud owner and manager of the business has been well covered by the media before. What is less known is the fact that this weavery is highly dependent on the tourist market and with the disruption in the travel industry brought about by the Covid pandemic, the business took immense strain.
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Once a year Moses drives to the South of Namibia to buy 50 tons of wool from the farmers in the district. His operation runs like clockwork. Every single part of the process is done by hand. The weavers can produce absolutely any design that they are presented with.
“We want to identify crafters with exceptional skill but who are constrained to break into the current requirements of the market and support them with contemporary design and product development that will appeal to a wider, international audience. At the same time, we would like to give artists the opportunity to explore different mediums from what they are used to and further discover their own potential”, Andrea shares.