LAGI Kenya

 

The Process

We began the design workshops through discussion on solar energy (facilitated by Elizabeth Kilakoi, an Olorgesailie local who speaks both English and Maa). We talked about what scale of energy generation was possible and what the women would like to see as additions to their homesteads.

 

The women enjoyed looking through the LAGI publications and the imaginative ways that solar power installations can be designed as art. After talking about how the design ideas that they bring to the Idia'Dega design collaboration could be translated to solar designs, Regina began sketching an idea for a solar artwork. Sketching caught on like wildfire and soon all of the artisans were drawing their ideas. The sketches led to conversations about the themes and symbols that were shared amongst many of the women. Representations of the sun, trees, animals, and other geometric shapes flowed forth from the paper.

By the end of the week long workshop multiple designs were chosen to move forward to implementation. They included wearable solutions as well as more infrastructural scales for homesteads.
All designs are deeply reflective of the aesthetic and cultural needs of the women and their families.

We'll return in December 2016 to finish the process.


The NEED

  • Currently there is limited access to electricity, water, and sustainable heating/cooking methods.
  • A lack of access to lighting at night limits in-home learning.
  • The local population is experiencing increasingly difficult economic and social pressures on land and resources.
  • The artisans require the ability to communicate with international partners, which means the need to charge cell phones.
  • This access to communication tools increases creative and revenue building projects.
  • Sustainable financial models that place the Maasai women at the table of the 21st century global economy.

 

The GOAL

Utilizing local materials with renewable energy technologies provided by the partnership as the sculptural media, Maasai women are designing functional art objects that reflect their culture and vision for the future.

 

At scales ranging between 100 Wp and 5 kWp the collective output of the sculptural design-build effort will provide sustainable electricity to power individual homes, a freshwater pump, and even wearable solar power designed to meet the needs of the Maasai culture as a part of the Idia'Dega fashion collaborative. Other potential benefits include providing a solar cooking apparatus as a part of some of the installations.

 

This approach to rural electrification for the Maasai is taken with a long-term vision for generating a sustainable economy for the local community. The design outcomes will not only be implemented locally and build knowledge capacity, but will also be marketed to a global audience, providing a continuous income for the Maasai designers as the prototypes installed in Olorgesailie are produced by OMWA for an expanding global market.

 

 

The story

In the winter of 2015, we were contacted by Tereneh Mosley, the founder of Idia’Dega, who has been working since 2013 with Maasai Women Artisans in Olorgesailie—a remote location in South Rift Valley of Kenya where Maasai are starting to feel the pressures on land use from the outside world. One of those pressures is renewable energy infrastructure for the national grid. With excellent insolation, the land around Oloresailie is already being tapped for solar energy projects, but none of the new energy infrastructure is being planned to serve the modest needs of the local community. Rather it is being installed to serve the national grid for use in cities like Nairobi.

 

The work of Idia’Dega in sustainable fashion has shown that it is possible to design new products collaboratively with the Olorgesailie Maasai Women Artisans (OMWA) and other indigenous groups through processes that elevate local communities and empower them to create their own economic future on the global stage. Through her conversations with OMWA, Tereneh learned that modest electrification is something that is a pressing need—contributing to security, education, communication and creative /revenue building projects.  Nearly everyone goes without light after sunset and the only way to charge cellphones is to walk an hour or more in each direction and pay someone in the nearest grid-tied village.

 

Building on the strong relationships and design model that Tereneh has established, Idia’Dega and LAGI have therefore embarked on a collaboration with OMWA to design culturally and aesthetically relevant solar infrastructure for off-grid Maasai homesteads. On return from our first round of design workshops we are excited to report that the ideas that resulted far exceeded our expectations. Along the translation from fashion to energy infrastructure, the group quickly realized that incorporating modest photovoltaic areas into belts, bags, bracelets, and fabrics that Maasai women and men wear during the daylight hours would be a great way to provide access to electricity at all times. In addition, small-scale solar shade structures and “banda” ornaments will provide immediate access for use within the homestead.

 

Over the next six months we will be fundraising and working on the detailed design drawings for fabrication, with a goal of returning in December 2016 to implement and install the multifaceted project with OMWA. Stay tuned to Idia’Dega and LAGI to see the design results. While it is most important that we provide Olorgesalie with the first products of their design efforts and meet their immediate need for electricity, we will soon thereafter be offering the designs for sale to the general public. We’re certain that everyone will want to own Maasai solar wearables and residential-scale products, and the proceeds from sales will go back to the people of Olorgesailie, helping to pay for student fees and for everyday needs for food, clothing, healthcare, and shelter that often go unmet today. Access to electricity will also help OMWA nurture their creative practice and offer the ability to connect and collaborate with other artisans around the world.

 

 

Maasai Solar

The LAGI, Idia'Dega, Olorgesailie Maasai Women Artisans (OMWA) partnership is bringing aesthetically and culturally relevant renewable energy infrastructure to the Maasai community in Olorgesailie Kenya. The Maasai women who have been working closely with Tereneh Mosley and Idia'Dega: Elegant Ethical Apparel — A Global Eco-Design Collaboration have taken the lead in designing creative installations that have the added benefit of generating clean and renewable energy for their community.

 

The outcome of this participatory community design model is as much about the cultural exchange as it is about the clean energy infrastructure outcome. The goal is to provide a better infrastructure that will help to support the creative process and sustainability of the community into the future.

 

Rather than imposing external engineering aesthetics and the resulting cultural impact of conventional renewable energy infrastructures, the idea is to place the Maasai women in the role of lead designer, and through this agency establish a healthy relationship between renewable energy infrastructure,  indigenous human rights, and cultural & aesthetic needs.

 

 

"There is clearly a large overlap between renewable energy projects and indigenous peoples’ territories in Kenya. As such, the renewable energy corporations have a responsibility to respect the rights of these communities in line with international and national human rights instruments. The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights place the responsibility on business enterprises to respect the rights of communities when undertaking projects on their lands and territories. Renewable energy projects in Kenya must therefore be designed and implemented in ways that protect and advance the rights of indigenous peoples."

Renewable Energy Projects and the Rights of Marginalised/Indigenous Communities in Kenya
IWGIA — Report #21, November 2015

 

aesthetically
& culturally

relevant renewable energy systems

Co-Designed with the

Maasai Women of Olorgesailie Kenya

The ARTISTS

Dikka Emmy

Karaiton Maria

Karura Rebecca

Katano Alice

Kilakoi Elizabeth

Kilenoi Agnes

Kinta Regina

Kitamuas Maria

Lakati Elizabeth

Lanket Marisa

Letei Naomy

Loice Mary

Maato Joiyce

Machipei Rosemary

Mankeni Agnes

Metui Maria

Momery Hellen

Mpuyuk Esther

Mukana Jane

Naiyonte Esther

Nancy Grace

Nasitoi Esther

Nepetia Jemimah

Ntaine Charity

Ntete Peninah

Pilanoi Naomy

Rimas Mary

Rokiya Agnes

Sein Joyce

Sekento Eunice

Sencha Jane

Simpano Jackline

Siyai Ncharucha

Sunkura Agnes

Tale Leah

Tekenet Regina