Working on product production with villagers, I’m confronted with the fact that they are used to produce for their own taste. Since years, villagers made weavings and fabrics only for their own use, thus making things which they liked themselves and considered to be beautiful. Starting to work for someone else demands a new way of thinking to which it is not easy to adapt – especially if they work for clients from foreign countries to whose cultural background villagers have no contact (and vice versa).
Is it desirable that villagers adapt to the taste of foreigners? There is a lot of talking going on about “Quality of Life”. One of the major goals of development work is to improve the “Quality of Life” of poor people in developing countries. In the case of the women who are weaving: will a change from self-determined work to working for someone else improve their Quality of Life? No doubt that it will bring them additional income which they can use for very useful things. But it also means that they become more dependent on others and that they have to do work that they don’t consider to be beautiful. As a designer having experience with working for clients, I know how much I sometimes dislike to adapt to the aesthetic ideas of my client – the work is much more fun and interesting when I can follow my own ideas and taste.
I think that if working for a client will improve the “Quality of Lives” of villagers depends very much on the relationship between the client and villagers. A client should encourage creativity and independent thinking and should order because he/she appreciates the skills and not because he wants to exploit or “use” them for his goals. At the same time, the villagers must learn to understand their clients and eventually need to re-direct their creativity. To establish a relationship of trust, communication and appreciation should therefore be one focus of our work!