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Stitching Unity: Wakrot Chinshaka’s Fabric of Peace in Jos

Stitching Unity: Wakrot Chinshaka’s Fabric of Peace in Jos

Conflict, often defined as a struggle over values, status, power, and resources, is an inevitable part of human society. However, the way we address and resolve these conflicts can transform societies.

Wakrot Chinshaka, an award-winning Nigerian designer based in London, exemplifies this transformative approach.

A recent graduate from the University of the Arts, London – Central Saint Martins, where he earned an MA in Industrial Design, Chinshaka received the prestigious Graduate Award for his project “More Love Less War.” Born and raised in Jos, Plateau State, amid the ethno-religious conflicts that have plagued the region for over two decades, Chinshaka’s personal experiences have fueled his passion for using art and design to address social, cultural, and ethnic issues in Nigeria and across Africa.

“More Love Less War” celebrates the intersection of tradition and modernity. By utilizing rich colors and symbols from his hometown, Jos, Chinshaka aims to promote peace in a city marred by years of violence. Historically, Jos was known as the “Home of Peace and Tourism,” attracting visitors with its temperate climate and cultural heritage. However, its reputation has suffered due to recurrent ethno-religious violence rooted in colonial history.

The conflicts in Jos are deeply connected to the tin mining activities of the 19th century, which brought diverse ethnic groups to the city. This migration laid the foundation for today’s tensions between the majority Christian indigenous tribes (Anaguta, Berom, and Afizere) and the minority Muslim Hausa/Fulani settlers. The ongoing struggle for land ownership and political representation has exacerbated these tensions, compounded by Nigeria’s complex federal structure and colonial-era policies.

Chinshaka’s project employs the unique fashion styles, colors, and cultural patterns of Jos’s ethnic and religious groups to create a unified design. This textile design incorporates elements from both indigenous and settler tribes, symbolizing the entire city’s diverse ethnicity. The aim is to build a robust campaign to end the ethno-religious conflict in Jos.

Personal narratives from residents, including his own, highlight the trauma experienced by those living through these crises. Chinshaka recalls carrying a knife to school as a child, influenced by the pervasive fear and mistrust among different communities, and narrowly escaping a car bomb explosion during his first year at university. These stories underscore the deep psychological scars left by the violence and the urgent need for healing initiatives.

The project leverages radical participatory design, engaging community members from the outset. Workshops and art sessions brought together creatives from various ethnic backgrounds to collaborate on designing patterns that reflect a united Jos. This inclusive process not only produced a meaningful textile design but also facilitated dialogue and understanding among participants.

Key insights from the project include the importance of community involvement for successful peace-building. Engaging local communities ensures that solutions are grounded in their lived experiences and aspirations. The project also demonstrated that ethnic and religious differences can be assets rather than obstacles, enriching the final design and fostering shared ownership. Furthermore, emphasizing non-violent conflict resolution significantly increases the chances of sustainable peace. Non-violent resistance campaigns are nearly twice as likely to achieve success compared to violent counterparts, and countries adopting such strategies are more likely to remain stable democracies.

Looking ahead, the project plans to expand its efforts, advocating for peace through non-violent campaigns and continued community collaboration. The newly designed fabric will be used to create garments for festivals, weddings, and everyday wear, serving as a constant reminder of the potential for unity in diversity. By integrating these symbolic textiles into daily life, the initiative aims to keep the message of peace and unity at the forefront of community consciousness.

Jos stands at a crossroads, where efforts to heal and unite through creative and non-violent means can set a powerful precedent for other conflict-affected regions. By using fashion as a tool for advocacy, this project not only aims to mend the social fabric of Jos but also to inspire broader efforts towards peace and reconciliation in Nigeria and beyond. The journey from crisis to unity is challenging, but with innovative and inclusive approaches like this, there is hope for a brighter, more harmonious future.