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Held biennially in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso's capital, the International Art and Craft Fair, Ouagadougou--better known by its French name as SIAO (Le Salon International de L Artisanat de Ouagadougou) is one of Africa's most important trade shows for art and handicrafts.
Why the International Art and Craft Fair, Ouagadougou 
The Ouagadougou International Art and Craft fair is a framework promoting African handicrafts. It was initiated by the National Board of Foreign Trade (ONAC) and the Chamber of Commerce of Burkina Faso. The government of Burkina Faso came up with the idea to create the SIAO for two purposes: economical and social advancement. The government of Burkina hoped that the handicrafts would reduce the deficit of the trade balance of the country. Hence, they decided to create a framework for the promotion and the exchange of African handicrafts that would be a mean to facilitate their access to the international market. Moreover, the government wanted to create a medium that would facilitate reflection and consultation on problems related to the development of handicraft in African countries. Finally, the government of Burkina Faso wanted to train and supervise the craftsmen for self-promotion. On the social, intention side, the SIAO mentioned that the International Art and Craft Fair Ouagadougou, is a way to make easy the dissemination and expansion of African handicraft as a mean for expression and culture.
Background of the SIAO 
The potential of the arts and crafts industry is huge. Hence from the 2 to 9 November 1984 the government of Burkina organized a trade show for arts and crafts products named the 'Handicraft 84'. This show permitted the government to measure how huge Burkina Faso handicraft potentialities are and allowed the government to see how important the African handicrafts were to public. As a result the government of Burkina Faso thought it would be wise to hold this show periodically: every two years. This show would allow people from diverse backgrounds to meet, negotiate, discuss, deal and sell their products
SIAO (1988) 
The 1st international meeting of African handicraft took place from the 20 to 27 February in 1988 in Ouagadougou. This first meeting had two major aspects : the fair itself and a colloquy which is an international forum promoting African handicraft.
The fair 
The advertising campaign, made on national and African levels, brought together 244 Burkinabé craftsmen and 20 exhibiting countries such as Algeria, Benin, Burundi, Central African Republic, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Morocco, Mauritania, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Chad, Togo, Tunisia, Guadeloupe, France, Pakistan, Philippines.
The financial assistance of the European Development Fund (EDF) and the implementation in France, Italy and Germany, enabled to show the interest of participating to the SIAO, hence attracted in Ouagadougou dozens of professional visitors and buyers. The atmosphere during the fair allowed to combine what is useful with what is pleasant and turn the first SIAO into a successful event.
The colloquy 
The colloquy, is an international forum, concerned about the African handicraft. The participants to the colloquy used to reflect on, the current situation and prospects of African handicraft. In addition, the colloquy confronted craftsmen with trainers and specialists enabling them to tackle the problems that hamper the development and promotion of African handicraft.
The communications by the different representatives on their respective experiences allowed to reach conclusions among which the most important is the Ouagadougou Declaration of Intention. The participants in the forum recommended that the Ouagadougou International Arts and Craft Fair be institutionalised and held every other year.
SIAO (1990) 
The second meeting of SIAO was held from 27 October to 3 November 1990.
The second meeting was attended by 30 countries in which 24 African countries and about 200 Burkinabé craftsmen who exhibited in various fields like batik, painting, bronze, basket making, sculpting, furniture, textile, shoe making, arms manufacturing, pottery, jewellery, ceramic, traditional medicine, agricultural tools, energy, invention, etc... This second meeting of the SIAO focused on creativity. SIAO 1990 was held in a site of about 41,000 m² in which 5,000 m² were covered. There were 270 exhibiting stands built with a typically African architecture and 187 Burkinabé craftmen exhibiting their products. Furthermore, 15 African countries were exhibiting and 22 countries were participating to the colloquy which had the following theme African Handicraft and Creativity. The second meeting of the SIAO generated CFA 55,000,000 in addition, three creativity awards were given by UNESCO. SIAO 1990 was also attended by several European professionals of handicraft and 120,000 visitors registered. The colloquy on African handicraft and creativity led to the creation of a co-ordinating committee for the development and promotion of African handicraft (CODEPA).
SIAO (1992) 
The 1992 meeting of SIAO was held from 24 October to 1 November. Its theme was : African handicraft in the face of the international market. 11 African countries took part to its activities also 260 Burkinabé craftmen. In addition, 165,720 national visitors were registered and some dozens of professional visitors.
SIAO (1994) 
The 4th meeting of the Ouagadougou International Arts and Craft Fair was held from 29 October to 5 November 1994 and its theme was Handicraft and Design.
This Edition was attended by countries such as Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, China, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea Conakry, Mauritius Island, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Morocco, Mauritania, Mayotte, Niger, Nigeria, Central African Republic, Senegal, Chad, Togo, Tunisia and Zaire. Several companies as well as specialised firms and many professional visitors were present.
SIAO (1996) 
The 5th meeting of the SIAO was held from 26 October to 2 November 1996. Its theme was Handicraft and design.About 23 African countries and non African countries attended this meeting. In addition, 350,000 visitors and 300 professional visitors were officially registered.
SIAO (1998) 
The 6th meeting of the SIAO was held from 30 October to 8 November 1998. Its theme was Handicraft and vocational training. The 6th meeting is considered as a meeting of innovations. In fact, the SIAO has been granted, an exhibition surface of over 8,000 m².
SIAO (2000) 
The 7th meeting of the SIAO was held from 27 October to 5 November 2000. About 400,000 public visitors were registered and 30 countries took part to its activities. The Theme was African handicraft and regional integration.
SIAO (2002) 
The 8th meeting took place from 25 October to 3 November 2002. About 27 countries were represented. The 8th SIAO registered 1440 exhibitors, 95 buyers and professional visitors and 250,000 public visitors. The theme was African handicraft and environment
SIAO (2004) 
The 9th meeting of the SIAO was held from 29 October to 7 November 2004. About 32 countries were represented. The 9th meeting of the SIAO registered 2652 exhibitors, 226 buyers and professional visitors and 352,000 public visitors. The theme was Investing in African handicraft, a promising sector.
SIAO (2006) 
The tenth meeting of the International Art and Craft Fair, Ouagadougou was held from 27 October 2006 through 5 November 2006. More than 30 African countries took part to the fair. The theme was African Handicraft and Fair Trade.
SIAO (2008) 
The eleventh meeting of the International Art and Craft Fair, Ouagadougou was held from 31 October to 9 November 2008. More than 35 African countries are expected to take part to this fair.
SIAO (2010) 
The twelfth meeting of the International Art and Craft Fair, Ouagadougou was held from 29 October 2010 through 7 November 2010. The theme of the fair was African craft industry and creation of jobs for the youth
SIAO (2012) 
The thirteenth meeting of the international Art and Craft Fair, Ouagadougou will be held from 26 October through 4 November 2012. The theme of the fair will be "African craft industry and economic emergence"
Major Products Display 
There are many African art and craft products displayed during each meeting of the International Art and Craft Fair Ouagadougou. The major products displayed during each SIAO are the calabash art products, the Jewellery products, the Bronze and Iron products, the textiles and apparel products, the Musical Instruments, the Toys Leather products, the furniture and home decor products, the painting and batiks, the pottery and ceramics, the recycled crafts, the stone and wood sculpture.
Calabash Art 
The art of the calabash is a new technique whose handling requires dexterity and finesse. Young Burkinabé craftsmen compete with regard to creativity and the products made arouse the admiration of all. Despite the fact that they are fragile, these products can be both useful and decorative.
Jewellery Art 
Jewellery has always been the used by African women. Jewellery is an object of prestige and social rank. The African jewellery left royal courts to celebrate all over the world today the beauty of the African woman. From gold to bronze, from silver to amber, varied materials are used to make amazing jewels of a design that is increasingly refined and elegant. Today, this jewellery is crossing borders to enter into the shops and homes of the Western world.
Pottery and Ceramics 
Pottery is one of the oldest trades in Africa and the world. With increasingly developed tools and technology, the craftsman is able to create a variety of beautiful yet useful objects of unique design. It is hardly a surprise that today, with the introduction of modern equipment and thanks to new cooking, colouring, and moulding techniques, the ceramic crafts are a total success that highlights the know-how and creative genius that existed already.
- SIAO. (2006A). Why SIAO and background. The International Art and Craft Fair Ouagadougou. Retrieved on 20 March 2006 from http://www.siao.bf/english/exhibition.htm
- SIAO. (2006B). SIAO, from 1988 to date…. The International Art and Craft Fair Ouagadougou. Retrieved on 20 March 2006 from http://www.siao.bf/english/retrosiaoang.htm
- name="SIAOC". (2006C). International Art and Craft Fair, Ouagadougou 27 October-5 November 2006. The International Art and Craft Fair Ouagadougou. Retrieved on 20 March 2006 from http://www.siao.bf/english/siao2006/home2006.htm
- name="SIAOD" SIAO. (2006D). SIAO: The shop window of African Handicraft…. The International Art and Craft Fair Ouagadougou. Retrieved on 20 March 2006 from http://www.siao.bf/english/products.htm