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Traditional craft-making an essential financial lifeline for San women


Traditional arts and crafts are favourites as souvenirs with tourists when they come to Namibia. One of the key sources of cash for many San Women in Nyae Nyae Conservancy is traditional craft making. During the lockdown there have been precious few tourists, certainly no international guests. While this sector has suffered along with all sectors linked to tourism, Nyae Nyae Development Foundation and Nyae Nyae Conservancy are working together to try and maintain this sector in order to support the craft makers and the many dependents that rely on the income that craft-making generates.

Omba Arts Trust is a major local buyer of Nyae Nyae craft, along with two German and one Dutch buyer. Even during lockdown sales have continued, albeit as a slower pace. Nyae Nyae Foundation has also committed to building up stock during this slow patch, so that orders can be better met in future when tourism takes off again, which it eventually will.

The handicrafts that the women make consists of designs that have been passed on for generations in the San-communities. There are bracelets, earrings, necklaces and rings all made from locally sourced materials such as wood and ostrich shells. Making these arts and crafts ensures that the traditional techniques aren’t lost over time and empowers the women in the community as they can generate their own income.

The craft making women generated nearly N$50,000 from craft sales in October alone and on average around N$ 300,000.-  a year is made from the crafts, a very significant injection of resources in the community. Essential income that pays for food, supplies and even school uniforms.

It is easy to contribute and especially in these challenging times. So, next time you don’t know what to get something for their birthday or for this upcoming holiday season; think local and visit the Namibia Craft Centre on Tal Street, where Nyae Nyae crafts are available at the Omba Arts Trust stand. Give something beautiful, locally made and with generations of stories behind each handmade item.


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