Artisans—An In-Depth Look

It’s quite ironic: For centuries Artisans have been central to societies; But did Artisans always get the acknowledgement and recognition they deserved? Not quite.

From the start they provided essential as well as decorative products and services. Therefore they were quite important to cultures, their leaders and the general population. But not everyone valued them as they should. Unfortunately, this still happens today. This is part of the motivation behind ATEAA’s projects to uplift this unique group of workers.

The Artisan’s history shows how vital this work is. And luckily an exciting future lies ahead for those who dream of making it their livelihood.

In the Beginning


Firstly, let’s define what we mean by ‘Artisan’. Most importantly the origin is and Italian word ‘artigiano’ which refers to ‘instructed in the arts’. It’s vital to see it refers to someone who has mastered a certain skill. This is already reason enough to recognise , acknowledge and respect anyone with this title.

The word is used to refer to wide variety of skilled workers involved in tasks that have one or both of these characteristics:

  • Decorative
  • Functional

Where Did it Start?

The position of Artisan can be traced as far back as Ancient Egypt, +/- 3 000BC. Their tasks involved jewellery, pottery and sculptures. Carpenters and stone carvers also fell into this classification. Despite them doing quality work for pharaohs and other leaders, they were still seen as lower middle class. And this perspective didn’t change quickly.

The Artisan Journey

Across the centuries Artisans played prominent roles in most countries and societies, though still not respected for their skills.

Medieval Artisan Guilds Force Change

The first real change happened during Medieval times. The workers gained some respect thanks to the Artisan guilds. This also benefited society as a whole as Artisans were expected to adhere to certain standards.

During this time there also evolved different types of Artisans:

  • Master Artisans: They owned Artisan businesses; these individuals were elevated to the role of nobleman in many scenarios.
  • Apprentices: They weren’t as respected as their employers and teachers (the master Artisans).

Renaissance Artisans Get the Respect They Deserve

It wasn’t until the 1300s during the Renaissance period that societies started realising the genius and skill Artisans possessed. People at last valued creativity and this elevated Artisans from menial labourers (even slaves) to creative workers.

Most Artisan businesses were run from individuals’ homes with both men and women taking part in production of items such as shoes, textiles and more.

In this light it was possible for Artisans such as Da Vinci to obtain the recognition he deserved. This gave him and others the platform to change the world forever with their insight and work.

Challenges During the Industrial Revolution

The Artisan’s role in society kept on evolving however. As with many other aspects of society, industrialisation during the 1700s and 1800s changed everything. Suddenly the Artisans’ skills were less in demand because factories and automation could do many of the tasks they used to perform with lower skilled workers.

But that was not the end of the story.

The Artisan Today and Tomorrow

Modern societies value:

  • Originality
  • Quality

And that’s what Artisans can produce.

Thanks to this there is a new wave of interest in Artisans and more than ever they can play an integral part in society. In addition, with advances in transport and technology they can reach a larger target audience & deliver even better products or services.

But more good news may be on its way.

It’s the Fourth Industrial Revolution (named for the third major change in industry since the first industrial revolution); And AI is the buzz word. Artificial Intelligence (AI) along with robotics, IoT (The internet of things) and VR (Virtual Reality) quickly changed how people lived and worked.

Many fear that this modern technology will rob individuals of work opportunities. For some, this is true, but luckily not for all. As ATEAA, we do not shy away but rather prefer to lead lead the conversation and transformation of the Fourth Industrial Revolution by embracing and consciously integrating the role Digital plays in our environment. .

With Digital and AI impacting other aspects of life and business (such as automating office administration) our Artisans can leverage and benefit from this technology to enable and craft solutions that will benefit businesses more efficiently.


Now it’s up to society to ensure the Artisans keep on receiving the respect they deserve. That’s why ATEAA focuses on developing and advancing skilled Artisans in Africa and sparking new opportunities for them as we embrace and enter the new Fourth Industrial Revolution and beyond.

Do you want to be part of this? Read more about ATEAA’s projects here.

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