Zambia sets example of local craftsmanship

Environment Africa is strengthening its work in Zambia and was honoured to help at the recent Zambian Art & Design Show. Now in its fourth year, this annual event which started as a small craft fair on Sugarbush Farm, has evolved into a large event, which gives local artists, and crafts people the opportunity to showcase and sell their products.

A love for traditional Chitenges inspired the founders of Kamanga Wear.
A love for traditional Chitenges inspired the founders of Kamanga Wear.

This year’s Show was successfully coordinated by a team of four talented women: Gillie Lightfoot, Nancy Matambo, Butterfly Bishop and Charles Barr, and was held at the Lusaka showground’s. With around 39 exhibitors, the event saw more than 1,000 people come through its doors. An exciting range of hand-made crafts and artwork, including photography, iron work, leather products, bead work, jewellery, fashion, fresh produce, clothing, pottery, personal care products, candles and much more catered to all tastes and cultures.

Many of the exhibitors have businesses that support local communities, enabling them to uplift their livelihoods through arts and crafts. Below is a brief overview of a few of the many amazing projects that will inspire Zimbabweans countrywide.

Magic Hands of Africa

In 2007, Sandra Kasono, a local Zambian, wanted to empower local women in the Kalikiliki community in Lusaka, a very poor, high-density area with no running water. She started with 10 unskilled vulnerable women, creating a beautiful range of beaded products, and today there are 20 women working and benefiting from the project.

Magic Hands of Africa employs local women to create beautiful beaded projects.
Magic Hands of Africa employs local women to create beautiful beaded projects.

These women have improved their livelihoods and have been able to repair their homes, buy their own food and pay for their children’s school fees. A percentage of the profit from sales of their products goes into a revolving fund that assists girls and orphans with education. Through this initiative, they are proud to have their first sponsored girl graduate from Kabulonga High School whose dream is to study to become a doctor.

African Joy

Joyce Mbenge, founder and director of African Joy, is another local Zambian who has turned her passion for sewing into a business that makes a positive contribution to local communities by training orphans and widows in tailoring, quilting, beadwork and crocheting. Started in 1980, the women create a range of quality products, which include home furnishings and other ethnic products using Kuba fabric, which originates from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Kuba is made from raffia, a grass which is beautifully handcrafted into unique designs by local craftsmen. The fibres are woven into basic cloth which is then dyed and finished with embroidery, appliqué and patchwork.

A passion for fashion

Two local women from Lusaka, Donna M’shanga and Christina Kabamba, have turned their passion for fashion into a burgeoning business. Their love of the traditional Chitenge, brightly coloured traditional fabric worn by the Zambian women as wraps and to carry babies, inspired their name Kamanga Wear. Kamanga means ‘to tie’ and the first dress that they designed and produced is styled around the Chitenge and can be worn in nine different ways. These talented ladies are producing unique looks that are current and trendy, yet undeniably afro-centric and extremely comfortable to wear. There is no wastage in their business with their off-cuts being recycled to make bangles and headbands to complement their outfits.

Little Ndaba

This company was started three years ago by another talented lady, Charles Barr, who employs local ladies to produce a colourful and varied range of hand-knitted and crocheted African animals. They also support the Elephant Orphanage Project which was established in 2007 to care for baby elephants that were orphaned.

Tribal Textiles

Gillie Lightfoot, an energetic creative entrepreneur, started her business, Tribal Textiles, 28 years ago in a remote area of Zambia. They produce an ethnic range of bags, home décor and other products from locally-produced fabrics with ethnic designs. Providing work for more than 100 local people in the Luangwa Valley area, she relocated to Lusaka four years ago and expanded her creativity into leatherwork, producing a much sought after range of unique bags, belts and accessories under the name of Jackal & Hide, creating employment for over 20 additional craftsmen.

Environment Africa was inspired by the diverse range of talents and the many projects that support local communities, particularly widows, vulnerable women and orphans.

Post published in: Environment

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