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Student sells artisan crafts

Charitha Isanaka | Thursday, April 25, 2013

After spending time in Gao, Mali, graduate student Katie Conlon stayed in touch with a group of artisans and will sell their handmade goods at a fundraiser today from noon to 6 p.m. in the Hesburgh Library Main Hall.

Conlon, a first year Master’s student in the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, said she lived in Mali for more than two years and worked with artisans in the northern part of the country.

“When I was in Peace Corps in Gao, Mali [from 2005 to 2007], my post was in Small Business Development and I worked with this group of artisans,” Conlon said. “I have been in contact with them ever since.”  

The Sahara jewelry Conlon is selling, mostly metalwork and beadwork made by Tuareg and Songhai refugees, will benefit approximately 60 artisans and their families in Mali.

Rebels took over Northern Mali in March 2012, and Islamic fundamentalist rebels conquered in April 2012, according to Conlon. More than 400,000 people in northern Mali became refugees, fleeing the repression by going south or into neighboring countries.

“The town was taken over by extremists, buildings were destroyed, the market bombed, and economy has been put in ruin and people have been just barely surviving,” Conlon said.

Conlon said the economic situation has been incredibly difficult as most infrastructure, including the markets, was destroyed in the fighting.  

“This fundraiser is to help people rebuild and make a peaceful transition,” she said. “It is also a way of honoring the culture and traditions of the North.”  

Conlon said she hopes people at the fundraiser will learn more about a part of the world they might be unfamiliar with and walk away with an interest in Mali’s culture.

“Hopefully, … people will find a nice treasure to buy to support the people of Gao in their post-conflict reconstruction,” Conlon said. “Students who are also interested in peace studies and Peace Corps will find this helpful and informational.”

Contact Charitha Isanaka at cisanaka@nd.edu