"SAORI is a contemporary hand weaving program founded by Ms. Misao Jo about 40 years ago, in which everyone can express oneself freely regardless of age, gender, disability or intellectual aptitude.
In SAORI, people can enjoy hand weaving as an art form not only as a handicraft. Over the past 40 years, SAORI has been introduced all over Japan, and there are more than 40,000 SAORI weavers in Japan. SAORI has also been introduced overseas, in more than 40 countries. SAORI is now practiced across Asia, the Middle East, North America, Central America, South America, Europe, Australia and Africa at nearly one thousand institutions including special education schools, shelter workshops, high schools, adult education centers, and rehabilitation centers for people with disabilities." Paraphrased from saoriglobal.com
I visited a shelter in Ishinomaki that is used as a common area to weave and sell saori products. What is notable about this business is that it specifically employs handicapped people who were displaced by the Tohoku tsunami to give them a sense of purpose and a means to support themselves with dignity. The work and creativity these women produce is nothing short of flawless and it is a marvel to see what people are truly capable of regardless of physical or mental ability. All proceeds from the sales of the saori products from this shelter go towards helping the women employed in this shelter to rebuild their lives one day at a time. My visit to this shelter has taught me that the handicapped do not need to be placed in a box and waited on by care givers. They have the same aspirations as all of us and want only to be able to self sufficient with dignity. Perhaps saori can be introduced in Singapore to give our own a means to express themselves creatively just as these women have been enabled to. As a manufacturing process, saori is not energy intensive and only requires small workspaces where looms can housed. Imagine the possibilities of what our own people could be capable of creating if they were given a chance to do with through hand weaving.
To see more saori products from this particular shelter please visit http://www15.plala.or.jp/kokorosaori/4placei.html
Note: Relief2.0 will also be helping to sell saori products overseas via their market for hope platform.
Photos by Shawn Danker with additional photography by Robin Low.
Click on the pictures below for a larger view of the photographs.