Omba Arts, Khwe weavers celebrate partnership

Omba Arts is excited to announce a new partnership with Khwe San basket weavers from the Bwabwata National Park in the Zambezi region.
This community’s basket-weaving tradition was revived some 20 years ago when an Omba friend working for a NGO in the region at the time, discovered an old and tatty sample in a homestead and within a couple of months, women were producing these rare and unique baskets to support their livelihoods.
What makes these baskets so special is that normally basket-making in Namibia is linked to agricultural or pastoral practices (harvesting, winnowing and storing grain or curdling milk). These are the only baskets from an ancient hunter-gatherer culture where they were used to collect and gather wild fruit or “veldfood” – the handle providing a practical and functional element to the design; the colours all natural dyes.
One would think life for hunter-gathers in a national park surrounded by wildlife and wild edible plants would be idyllic. Sadly, the Khwe face immense challenges on a day-to-day basis; their subsistence has been described as pure “survival”. There are increasing land invasions whilst anti-poaching measures have denied them access to traditional gathering areas in the bush.
Harvesting devil’s claw is a critical livelihood opportunity whilst basket-weaving has provided intermittent income when there has been a reliable market – unfortunately production all but ceased these past few years due to limited access to palm and distrust in the middlemen.
Thanks to collaboration with IRDNC and the Kyaramachan Association, Omba has embarked on, what they hope, will provide a regular and sustainable livelihood opportunity for the weavers in this area. These rare, beautiful, hand-made and culturally authentic baskets are back on Omba’s shelves, and they are looking for buyers and/or collectors.
Taking hands
Working with over 400 rural women throughout the country for the past 30 years, Omba Arts has witnessed first-hand the hardships, abuse, discrimination, isolation, and challenges they so often face. Single mothers raising children with no support, grandmothers feeding orphans, teenage mothers who have had to leave school. They have, however, always been amazed at the tenacity, resilience, and the absolute determination of so many female artisans who make a better life for themselves and their children... whilst sharing much joy and laughter!
Omba has given over 11 rural women artisans and staff the opportunity to travel regionally and internationally - Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Germany, South Africa, Spain, Kuwait, and USA (even a rushed day site-seeing in New York with a basket weaver from a remote village in the north!). Sometimes challenging to get passports and visas when there is no street address for the application form, but always a pleasure seeing the impacts of meeting new people and travelling far away. Many of our artisans have travelled to Windhoek where they have visited Omba HQ and seen the city.
For more info, contact [email protected] for more.