Sometime, you might be looking for a thoughtful present to yourself or for someone else. If reading about the silk roads that tied Europe to Africa via the Orient has got you dreaming, window shopping for a few items in Arusha or in Nairobi will get you impassioned even more. Upcycling used paper into beads has become a Ugandan trade mark and a very local speciality. Other beads, unique to East Africa are Kazuri beads form Nairobi made of fired earth and recylcled glass from Kitengela, Athi River, near Nairobi.
There’s Maasai jewellery aplenty in the markets of East Africa and cheaper imitations made of plastic and paste beads as well. The authentic Maasai bead is still Czech made and therefore like many good things in business it is a shared endeveour – imported materials crafted locally.
Here are some lesser known outlets to consider during your trip out in town.
SIDAI DESIGNS – ARUSHA, TANZANIA
Sidai meaning good or beautiful – bring these products to international markets, drive demand that preserves the beading traditions and helps to economically sustain the women and their families. By elevating traditional craftsmanship while preserving indigenous knowledge, partnerships with the women employed enables them to have access to sustainable employment and ownership over their future. The organization is built on strong ethical principles and guiding values, creating hope and pride amongst the Maasai community. Utilizing traditional craftsmanship empowers the women and builds a foundation for continued development. Using recycled materials as the backbone for many of their products whilst also incorporating high quality components to create exclusive pieces of jewellery. The company was started by Eszter Rabin and now run with Rebecca Olivia Moore and Julie Benaim. In 2011, five women began from a dusty street in Arusha and in 2015, they launched their first international collection in New York and London. Their jewellery is created entirely by hand using a combination of ingeniously upcycled products. Traditional glass beads are intricately joined using thread salvaged from old grain bags and enhanced with recycled metal beads, old canisters and yoghurt pots to create the boning. Then it is elegantly finished with luxury soft leather, sterling silver and gold plated beads.
RECYCLED PAPER BEADS FROM UGANDA
Buy Paper beads in Uganda where recycling paper into jewellery is a rampant cottage industry. From homes and social groups, women beaders generate income for food, education and medicines. At Outreach Uganda, the beading groups can choose where the monies from their enterprise will go. In past years, earnings have been used for things such as micro-credit loan funds managed by the women’s groups, agricultural projects to grow cash crops, providing English and literacy classes, computer and tailoring training, tailoring training, purchase of land for a home ownership, assistance to the community’s RECYCLED PAPER BEADS FROM UGANDA parent supported primary school, assistance to the community’s local health clinic. Another organisation, the Uphill Trust, buy similar beads from a woman’s cooperative in Kampala. These are then exported to Scotland, made into ornaments and sold in craft markets. Yet another company, Afribeads, has begun exporting Ugandan paper beads to Australia. www.outreachuganda.org www.uphilltrust.org
BEDUI CRAFTS, NAIROBI, KENYA
Works with Maasai women who have autistic children and would otherwise be house bound, without an income. Under the umbrella of Oldanyatti Women’s Self Help Group the women get together regularly to work and socialise. Oldanyatti means very productive or hard working in Maa. This studio upcycles glass bottles into lamps and candles using locally sourced beeswax, fabric and garments in modern bohemian styles – items that can be enjoyed from one generation BEDUI CRAFTS, NAIROBI, KENYA to another. Heirlooms from other Indian Ocean countries like vintage fabrics made into throws using the Kantha stitch technique are also sourced. But the most endearing crafts like the ancient Japanese sashiko – decorative stitching, shibori tie-dying and sprang bags are also used by the women to produce beautiful, hand crafted items to a high standard. Fair pay and international marketing is also on their agenda. www.beduicrafts.com