01.05.2020. In the North of Congo, the Kwele forest people use heart-shaped masks for their rites. Through these masks, the Kwele worship earth spirits, chase the soul-eating spirits away, celebrate the passage of seasons and heal the sick. The masks have stylized human faces surmounted by large openwork arching horns. These masks - carved from a lightweight wood - are emblems of high-ranking men and hunters, whose rites mobilise the magic forces of the community.
Aware of the threat posed by COVID-19, IFO is supplying 18’500 reusable masks, artisanally crafted by local tailors. With demand for masks soaring and export bans making it difficult to source them, IFO identified a group of local tailors, motivating them to work together in a cooperative, in order to cope with the high local needs. “It all began with IFO ordering 2’500 masks. Then, African Parks added a request for 10’000 masks, which allowed IFO to fund 6’000 more. A total of 18’500 masks were thus crafted to meet the needs of the population,” affirmed Patrick Geffroy, IFO Director General.
These masks are being distributed to forest inhabitants belonging to more than 30 villages, especially those villages located along state highway RN2. Drivers from Brazzaville or Ouesso often stop by the villages to buy local food or fresh fruits. Even limited contact may result in someone in the village being infected. “As long as local and indigenous people wear masks,” added Mr. Geffroy, “they will shield each other from the risk of propagating the virus.”
This way, the modern masks against COVID-19 inherit the same Kwelé tradition of the mask-which-protects. The masks are 100% cotton, hand-made according to a tutorial offered by AFNOR, the French Standardization Institute, and may be washed only a few times. IFO accompanies the delivery of masks with a leaflet, explaining how to correctly wear a mask and giving examples of whenever a mask should be worn.
The shortage of masks and the difficulties of importing protective equipment leaves communities worldwide vulnerable to the virus.
The Congo basin rainforests, the second largest in the world, are essential for oxygen production and thus, humanity’s ability to breathe. However, still too little thought is given to the threat faced by forest inhabitants.
Through its solidarity campaign, INTERHOLCO wishes to bridge the gap.
Please, DONATE NOW and help us protect forest people against the threat of COVID-19!
Special account: COVID-19-Congo-donation
Bank CIC (Schweiz) AG, 4001 Basel
Account holder: INTERHOLCO AG
To be continued...
INTERHOLCO offers Sustainable Hardwood 'Made in Africa' as a responsible solution to promote better living conditions (construction with wood), reduce climate change, and increase social justice. As FSC-certified producer specialized in producing and trading logs, sawn timber, glued laminated scantlings and other products, INTERHOLCO manages the entire chain, from forest to customers since 1962. Harvesting wood selectively, INTERHOLCO protects 1.1 million hectares of natural forest from permanent conversion to agricultural land, giving 16’000 local inhabitants access to quality basic services and keeping the habitat of thousands of gorillas and elephants.
Communications contact INTERHOLCO
Tullia Baldassarri Höger von Högersthal
INTERHOLCO AG, Schutzengelstr. 36, 6340 Baar, Switzerland
Tel.: +41 (0)41 767 03 82