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MAKE Africa

Musa Jaward is a carpenter working in Kenema, a large town in Sierra Leone’s eastern province. Musa has been a carpenter since he began training as a teenager and now runs his own workshop, called Bottom Mango. Working six days a week at the age of 76, he is the mentor and employer of almost twenty young apprentices, all boys from the local area, whom he is training to follow in his footsteps. The boys, like many their age, cannot afford an academic education and have to work in order to help support their families.

In May 2014, Orkidstudio led a team of 12 students from the Welsh School of Architecture out to Kenema to help with the construction of the Swawou Project. Alongside involvement on site, the students were set a number of design and build challenges, working directly with other members of the local community. One of these was to design a range of furniture for the new school.

To start, Musa and his team ran a one day workshop, teaching our young recruits how to make traditional Sierra Leonean school desks and benches. Armed with these new skills, the students developed a new design, taking what they felt was successful about the traditional style and, in discussion with the school girls and staff, making a few subtle changes. All drawn up, they returned to Bottom Mango to build a prototype of the new design, followed by a critique from Musa – fortunately he liked the design!

Musa will be commissioned to build sixty pieces of each, enough for 120 pupils at the new school, helping invest in this inspiring small business.

Photography by Peter Didbin

Location: Kenema, Sierra Leone

Year: 2014