Zambia showcases the diverse talents of local artists and crafts people

ZADS Organisers Gillie Lightfoot, Nancy Matambo and Charles Barr

Environment Africa is strengthening its work in Zambia and was honored to be able 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.  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, this year’s event saw more than 1000 people go through its doors.   An exciting range of hand made crafts and artwork, including photography, iron work, leather products, bead work, jewelry, 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 just a few of the many amazing projects.

Magic Hands

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 beaded products and today there are 20 women working and benefiting from the project.  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 now study to become a Doctor.   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 like bed covers, throws, cushions, wall hangings, tablecloths, handbags, and other ethnic products.  Using Kuba fabric, which originates from the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, 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, applique and patchwork.

Christina Makabamba & Donna M'shanga from Kamanga Wear

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 are 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 offcuts being recycled to make bangles and headbands, which complement their outfits.

Ndaba Toys

Little Ndaba, a company started 3 years ago by another talented lady, Charles Barr employs local ladies who produce a colourful and varied range of hand knitted and crocheted African animals.  They also support the Elephant Orphanage Project with a percentage of proceeds from their hand crocheted elephants going to EOP.  The Elephant Orphanage Project was established in 2007 to care for baby elephants that were orphaned, tragic victims of illegal poaching activities and human elephant conflict.  Funded by the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, the EOP Rehabilitation and Release facility was built in South Kafue National Park where there is a 1,000 strong elephant population, increasing the opportunity for the orphans to eventually reintegrate back into the wild.    EOP is part of a conservation initiative developed and operated by Game Rangers International, a Zambian NGO. Using the baby elephants as a focus, GRI developed a Conservation Awareness Programme, which provides education, outreach and teacher support to local schools and remote communities where environmental education is crucial to the conservation of National Parks.

Tribal Textiles

Gillie Lightfoot, an energetic creative entrepreneur started her business, Tribal Textiles 28 years ago in a remote area of Zambia producing 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.   The Zambian Visual Arts Council had a diverse display of eclectic and quirky art alongside contemporary and abstract sculptures, showcasing the talents of local Zambian artists.   ZADS committee is already looking to the 2012 show and is hoping that it’s growth will see corporate sponsors, embassies and other donors coming in and supporting this local initiative which they hope to grow into a regional event.   Environment Africa was inspired by the diverse range of talents and the many projects that support local communities, particularly widows, vulnerable women and orphans.  The Chikumbuso widows and orphans project is a whole story on it’s own, about how women are utilizing waste plastic bags and recycling them into fashionable bags and we will share their story with you in a future article.

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