With Mother’s Day right around the corner, we thought we’d highlight one of the most unique jewelry lines carried in Hope Artisan Collective. Like all of our products, this jewelry is handcrafted in Africa - in this case, from Namibia - but it is the material used that makes these pieces so unique. Each item is painstakingly carved from the shells of ostrich eggs.
I mean…isn’t that AMAZING?
The artisans carve each individual disc from ostrich shells (which come in a variety of shades, much like chicken eggs…who knew?) then string them in geometric patterns. When customers see this jewelry at trade shows, they often assume it is made from some type of pottery or ceramic at first touch. But the shells are surprisingly lightweight and feel very organic…so natural against the skin.
This jewelry is created by talented artisans working for Omba Arts Trust, an organization established in 1991 to support the livelihood of marginalized communities in Nambia, where half of the country’s population is unemployed. Omba is also dedicated to preserving the artistic culture of Namibia while offering dignified employment - something we at Handspun Hope are proud to support.
If you are looking for that unique, one-of-a-kind gift for the moms or mom figures in your life. Look no further. I guarantee she’s never seen anything like this. You can buy her something beautiful that supports a beautiful organization in Nambia and the ladies of Handspun Hope in Rwanda.
Talk about a win/win!
We wanted to know more about the organization behind the stunning jewelry, so we asked Karin le Roux, founder of Omba Art Institute to tell us more about the artisans and the history of their craft. Please welcome Karin!
Hello friends of Handspun Hope!
It is hard to be believe that a 75,000 year old craft tradition has all but ceased - in a matter of weeks! With Namibia into its sixth week of COVID 19 lockdown and our borders closed to tourists, production of ostrich eggshell jewelry made by some 150 San artisans who Omba Arts Trust supports, has come to a grinding halt – literally speaking! (Each bead is individually shaped from ostrich egg shards, the hole pierced by rolling a stick with a sharp metal pin between the palms of the hands, the beads threaded on a string and the edges smoothed on a grinding stone.)
Archaeological evidence indicates that the ancestors of the San adorned themselves with ostrich eggshell beads for thousands of years. Today, besides wearing the jewelry during cultural celebrations, San gift various items of glass and ostrich eggshell beads to each other to maintain good relationships with family and friends.
In the Introduction to a book I recently authored, ‘Roots of the First Tree’, well-know archaeologist James Suzman describes the hunter-gatherers of southern Africa as the most enduring population in all of human history – and the largest human group anywhere on earth until 20,000 years ago. He goes on to describe the San in Namibia today as ‘the worst off population group in southern Africa,’ due to the loss of land and the resources that supported their hunter-gatherer culture for so many thousands of years.
With the introduction of commercial ostrich farms in the region in the early 1990’s, ostrich eggs became a sustainable resource again for the San and hand crafted jewellery became a viable livelihood option. Omba Arts Trust has supported some 150 Ju/’hoansi San living on 3 resettlement farms, and a conservancy, with product development, training and marketing for some twenty years. We travel to remote settlements where they live, sometimes driving on 4 x 4 tracks and sleeping in tents in the bush.
It was a fortuitous meeting with Diana Wiley from Handspun Hope in 2018 at the Dallas Total Home and Gift Market – an American selling hand-crafted knitwear made in Rwanda, Africa and an African selling hand-crafted Namibian jewelery in the USA.
There was an immediate connection between us – I adored the oh-so-stylish and authentic Handspun Hope knitwear with its raw, organic feel and Diana immediately noticed the ostrich eggshell necklace I was wearing! She also recognized the perfect ‘pairing’ of our respective products as well as a potential business partnership - we were delighted to freight our first order to Handspun Hope in 2019!
With the craft sector under serious threat world wide due to the impacts of the COVID 19 pandemic and the total collapse of tourism– collaboration is critical for our future. For supporters of Handspun Hope – you have the added assurance that when you purchase one of our jewelery pieces - not only will you help us place orders with our San artisans again, but that we share the same values with Handspun Hope; the well-being of our artisans first and foremost as well as a quality product with a quiet uniqueness that sets you aside from the crowd.
Stay safe and love from Namibia!
Karin le Roux
Director, Omba Arts Trust
Thank you, Karin…for your work in Namibia and for sharing the stories of the people you empower.
Friends, get thee to the online store and pick up a piece…or two… for you and the mom in your life. You’ll be doing so much good and helping so many. What’s not to love about that?
Cheers to shopping for good!