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How Ethno Design Project Got Started Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Heather Girling, Canada Feb 1, 2008
Education , Technology , Globalization   Interviews
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How Ethno Design Project Got Started Today, Ethno Design Fashions and Academy is a leader in providing Zimbabwe’s up and coming artists with an opportunity to receive professional training in ethnic and ecological fashion design. By harnessing the power of determination and ICTs, Novell Chikuvanyanga, a recent winner of the Global Youth Social Entrepreneur 2007 Award shares with us the valuable lesson that “it rewards to remain focused and consistent with one’s dream”.

Novell’s interesting life story starts in the capital city of Harare, Zimbabwe. Due to his fathers’ artistic career, Novell experienced a dynamic upbringing in which his family would migrate from one suburb to another, thus labelling Novell the ‘new-comer’ within each area. These experiences most likely helped Novell develop a strong sense of independence and confidence.

After completing his secondary education, Novell was inspired to dive into the IT craze in Zimbabwe. Training within this field was quite expensive and limited to few. Zimbabwe had only become an independent country 14 years prior and the IT industry was one of its many developing industries. Novell achieved acceptance at Dalmicro Training Centre and received a Computer Programming Diploma in 1994. Upon graduating he sought a career in IT but found it extremely difficult to find a job within his field of study. Novell decided to embark on another diploma in Theology. Seeking a job within either the IT or theology professions was unsuccessful. Novell however used this time to start some of his own media initiatives, performing and pursuing his interest in liberal arts which led to winning accolades and prizes including the UN sponsored Artists Against Poverty Awareness Campaign in 1998.

In 1999, Novell hosted a Poetry Competition at his university where winners would receive the Zwangendaba Prize. Novell got involved and volunteered his time as a token of his appreciation for the school and experiences he had had there. Later that year, he co-founded the Music for Peace Foundation (M4PF) with Silence Genti at JIVE Magazine, who is now working at Bantu Media in Canada.

The M4PF played an active role in the Zimbabwe elections of 2000 by advocating peace and non-violence through music and other related forms of art. The following year, the M4PF honored four musicians for their efforts in spreading peace and love through their compositions.

After Genti left Zimbabwe, Novell moved into a new creative realm where he and a long time associate co-founded Black Scissors. Black Scissors became a leader within the Zimbabwe fashion industry as a creative design house for new and upcoming talented designers. Black Scissors not only promoted creative works within Zimbabwe, it also supported several activities and organizations including the Harare International Festival of the Arts, Zimbabwe International Film Festival, Zimbabwe Union of Journalists Awards, Zimbabwe Arts Writers Awards, Zimbabwe Music Awards, National Arts Merit awards and many more. Through these initiatives, festivals and activities, Novell ventured into a new independent project called, Ethno Design Project. This new project was approved to receive the Culture Fund of Zimbabwe, however after reviewing the funding practices, Novell felt the working relationship was misaligned and compromised his beliefs and the main goals of the overall project.

Ethno Design Project strives to address important social issues such as: unemployment, information access, new skill development and knowledge. Due to socio-political and economical difficulties faced by Zimbabwe's youth, Novell offers a creative outlet to address these issues and promote cultural expressions of art. In addition, Novell realizes that enterprises such as Ethno Design have a responsibility to the environment by keeping ecological interests in mind when designing new products.

Novell shared his thoughts regarding production in conjunction with the stability of our environment:
“What we are doing is offering specialized services in environmentally sustainable creativity, and for the fashion industry it is very significant because this is a very big industry, and it is big business for big companies, if designers are not taught to respect nature and the environment, their productions will have a negative impact on us all. My enterprise seeks to engage the creative and cultural industry in making a positive contribution towards the protection and conservation of our environment through practical training and skills sharing.”

The Global Youth Entrepreneur Award of 2007 has provided the expansion of financial opportunity Ethno Design Project Enterprise needed to achieve their future goals to expand into international markets. Some recent accomplishments include: assisting several young designers with a launch of their own fashion labels and developing brand images and awareness through trade exchange. He also recently hosted an inaugural Ethno Design Fashion Week 2007 where various designers exhibit new works and network with others in their industry.

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Heather Girling

I have been fortunate to have experienced a variety of excellent opportunities such as, working at EMI Music Canada, a recording studio, djing in night clubs in Toronto and Tokyo and participating in photography festivals in Tokyo; but, nothing has been as rewarding as working with youth.
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