Import Shop Kicks off in Berlin

Stefan Grave, Director of Messe Berlin GmbH at the opening press conference/Photo: Messe Berlin
Dubbed, Europe’s largest exotic shopping mall, Import Shop Berlin begins November 9 at the Berlin exhibition grounds with a record participation of 550 exhibitors from 58 countries.

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The Kingdom of Morocco is this year’s partner country at the consumer extravaganza which marks its 50th anniversary.

Products as diverse as their origins will be on display from 9 to 13 November. They include handicrafts, jewellery, clothing, natural products and special Christmas gifts.

From a small beginning called “Partners for Progress” at the German Industries Exhibition in 1962, the Import Shop has today grown into one of the most important and leading exhibitions promoting the handicrafts industry on five continents of the world.

Members of the media at the opening press conference/Photo: Messe Berlin

At the time, exhibitors from 18 African countries took part, launching what is now the Import Shop Berlin. In subsequent years, promoting economic ties with the so-called third world countries was one of the event’s main priorities. Thus one of the sections offered textile quotas for whole salers at very reasonable rates.

“The original slogan was ‘Partners for Progress’, and with todays’s fair we still maintain that spirit”, says Ms Brigitte Hahn, project manager of the Import Shop Berlin.

“For artists, makers of handicrafts and manufacturers from developing countries, the Import Shop opens the door to markets in Germany and Europe. Over the years we have also regularly supported specific development projects in these countries, among them Cairo Fashion Art, which will be introducing itself over the next few days,” says Ms Hahn, at Tuesday’s opening press conference.

Mr R.K. Adjasoo addresses the press conference/Photo: Messe Berlin GmbH
Mr R.K. Adjasoo, Managing Director of All Round Marketing Agency from Ghana, said the Import Shop has over the years provided handicraft producers from his country with opportunities to reach the vast German and European markets.

Mr Adjasoo, who is also the President of the Handicraft Exporters and Producers Association of Ghana, thanked the German Government and Messe Berlin for the assistance offered their members.

The Kingdom of Morocco has great plans for developing domestic handicraft production. By 2015 numerous new companies and jobs are to be created in this important economic sector, significantly boosting sales. Exports will be crucial to achieving this goal. Morocco’s role as the partner country of the Import Shop 2011 is a reflection of this commitment.

Products from this country are on display in an area covering 130 square metres in Hall 9. Designed like an oriental souq, the stand is exhibiting pottery, lamp, glass paintings, clothes, furniture, silver jewellery, ethereal oils and decorative items.

At a second stand visitors can take a glimpse of craftsmen and artists at work. Here coppersmiths and silversmiths, a wood turner and a henna painter will be showing off their skills. A Moroccan music ensemble will be making sure of the right atmosphere for the partner country in Hall 9.

At the cmmon stand of Morocco/Photo: Messe Berlin GmbH

As usual, visitors to the fair will be spoiled for choice, given the countless products on offer from all over the world. Traditionally, the “heart” of the Import Shop has been Halls 8 to 10, where items such as exotic jewellery and fashion jewellery from Indonesia, fashion from Ghana, alpaca pullovers from South America, as well as Kilims and natural cosmetics from Turkey.

The beat of drums draws thousands of visitors to Hall 8 which is christened “Living Africa” where 16 sub-Saharan African countries will be exhibiting their products. They are from Burkina Faso, Ghana, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, Madagascar, Mali, Senegal and the Republic of Congo.

The rest are Namibia, Nigeria, Ruanda,Tanzania, Uganda, Togo and Zimbabwe.

In Hall 12 the emphasis is more on art than on handicrafts. This is where artists and gallery owners are exhibiting their works, along with designers of fashion and jewellery, and of furnishings and decoration for the home.

Making its first appearance here is the Baksi Foundation from Turkey. In addition to contemporary art and traditional Anatolian handicrafts, visitors to this stand can also purchase the latest fashions from Turkey. The clothing is all the work of a Turkish fashion designer and manufactured from traditional canvas.

Visitors to the Import Shop can experience a foretaste of Christmas, with decorative materials, accessories for the home, furniture, fireplaces, conservatories and floral arrangements for winter time. They can also obtain plenty of suggestions for Christmas presents with a difference.

A total of 43,000 visitors attended the fair in 2010 to see, and in many cases buy some of the articles displayed by exhibitors from 54 countries. The Import Shop is organised by Messe Berlin GmbH.

Patsy Lewis, ANA Arts Correspondent, Berlin