In January 2013 I sat in the airport with my heart racing. I was about to fly to Cairo, Egypt for the first time in my life, and I knew nobody and nothing about the country besides news of the recent revolution and the stereotypical images of Pyramids. Little did I know how my life was about to change completely. What was supposed to be a one-month intense Arabic study, turned into a 4 year love affair with the culture, people and eventually, my husband!
During this time I worked as a documentary photographer and filmmaker, creating an award winning documentary on sexual harassment, documenting stories of FGM, and founding a photography collective, Everyday Egypt with my colleagues and friends to document the richness of daily life in the country.
When my husband Jimmy and I moved to the United States to look for more opportunities and stability, we were equally excited for our future and heartbroken to leave his homeland behind. We wanted to find a way to keep a strong connection to Egypt and its heritage so our future children could also feel proud to be Egyptian and connected to their roots.
I thought about all the artisan products we wanted to take with us, and started talking about what a shame it is that these craftsmen face such obstacles to sell their goods. We quickly realized this move was a rare opportunity to use my experience with design and storytelling to create a social enterprise supporting the artisans I often photographed, by connecting them to a global marketplace. We were inspired to give back to the country that gave so much to us. After a few months of strategizing, we flew back to Egypt to meet with artisans to collaborate with for our first collection. It was then that Baladi Home was born.
Tinne Van Loon