Amongst my many travels, I had the pleasure of getting to meet with Hadithi Crafts. It is a program arranged for people living in south-eastern Kenya in the area between Tsavo East National Park and Tsavo West National Park, to utilize their skills by empowering them to find a creative and environmentally sustainable way to make a living.
From beadwork to basket weaving and beyond, women from this region gather to construct immaculate goods which provide income for women living in a vulnerable ecosystem. Buying handicrafts means conserving a threatened forest full of wildlife, as well as helping wonderful and kind people escape poverty in south-eastern Kenya.
Just from each individual piece, you can see the pride and attention to detail. Through that work, women are encouraged and empowered because they are supporting their family, building their self-esteem, and maintaining a tradition of craft that was passed down for generations.
For a limited time, aspire readers can use the discount code VOICESOFAFRICA on www.reeddavisphotography.com/the-shop for 20% off Hadithi baskets!
“Hadithi Hadithi!” is a common phrase said in Swahili, which when translated literally means “story,” but signifies more deeply the tradition of oral and visual storytelling. The name “Hadithi Crafts” was chosen because for every product sold, we tell the unique story behind the people it was made by and the tradition and skill it was made with.
Reed Davis: What’s inspiring you in life (in the industry) right now?
Hadithi Crafts: The growth we are going through now with our business makes every day new and exciting. We are constantly putting new systems in place to streamline orders, we work on new designs, grow our team and connect with other professionals. For the last 6 months, we have been connecting and sharing experiences with other artisanal brands, which has been super inspiring. I love seeing the influx of brands that have emerged in Nairobi that want to work with artisans and their craft. There seems to be so much creativity and eye for detail! And, more than that, there are many people and their brands that care for the planet and the livelihood of the artisans, and it’s fantastic to connect with them. (Check out: Naskia Handmade in Africa, Erregatti, Wildlife Works and Jo Kenia Design). These collaborations also fill me with endless ideas on designing with brass, leather, Maasai beadwork; to keep creating timeless designs that are loved and cared for. We just need more hours in a day!
RD: What is your source of inspiration?
HC: A group of artisans sitting under a huge baobab tree, chatting and laughing. That scene keeps me inspired. On a closer look, you see piles of colorful sisal fiber and sisal baskets, and you see their busy skillful hands tending to a craft that has been handed down through generations. This is the art of weaving and the source of our passion and inspiration. These ladies will take weeks to finish one, unique, basket. Their hard-working attitude, tough life but gentle and positive approach to other people, makes me want to do more every day.
When you buy Hadithi handicrafts, you are actively helping to provide an income for over 1700 women from an agricultural community. Situated in a semi-arid area, harvests often fail due to a lack of rain and consequently, poverty is rife – enforcing the need for an alternative income. Sustainable, supportive, and beautiful!
RD: Where do you find peace?
HC: I’m trying to remember the last times I felt at peace. There are a few moments that come to mind, like sitting in the hills of home in Tsavo, like hearing elephants’ deep rumble, or sailing on the sea, or experiencing that last amazing sunset. Finding peace has been difficult for me to be honest, since my husband suddenly passed away 4 years ago when our two daughters were still babies. I had found peace with him. Now I find it mostly in nature. And when I ride my motorbike, if that makes any sense!
RD: Describe your most recent collection.
HC: With pleasure! It’s a beautiful collection of products that can last a lifetime – contemporary and traditional, simple and unique, handmade and natural, and an inspiring journey of women empowerment. After 7 years of wholesale production for homeware, we are so excited to have launched our own Hadithi line. It’s a collection celebrating the weavers’ creativity and freedom. Every basket is different, and presenting all these single pieces together is a tribute to the skills and uniqueness of the basket weaver’s art. Some baskets are contemporary; colorful, bold and bright, while others are 100% natural colored and traditional in style. Made by hand, each basket bears the fingerprint of the person who made it. Quality and variety are two interwoven features throughout all our collections.
Our fine-weave baskets are unique baskets made out of sisal, which is made from the stiff fibers of the agave plant, which is grown and hand processed by the basket weavers. The twine that these baskets are woven with is extra, extra fine – which is a testament to the skill of these weavers, who hand make every aspect of these beautiful objects.
RD: Why is it important to support local artisans?
HC: Oh, there are so many reasons! But principally to lift hardworking rural people out of poverty. The traditional art of basket weaving, which was previously dying/declining, now provides an alternative source of income. Traditional farming practices are no longer a reliable source of income due to depleted rainfall and alarming climate change. Basket weaving does not disrupt family life, so women can still stay at home and look after the household. It also has no negative impact on the habitat and ecosystems can recover, which allows wildlife to flourish- which is another valuable source of revenue.
Most – if not all – of the money that the ladies receive goes straight to education, health, and nutrition for the entire family. The ladies making the handicrafts get the practice that leads to skills, satisfaction that leads to self-esteem, and encouragement that leads to initiative.
These families live amongst wildlife. Their land borders the Tsavo ecosystem where vast tracts of land and wildlife, like elephants, lions and giraffes are protected in Tsavo East and West National Parks and other conservancies and ranches. The livelihood we create from basket weaving can contribute to the conservation of wildlife and those animal’s habitats, as people have less need to resort to destructive forms of income generation such as charcoal burning.
Photos courtesy of Hadithi Crafts (1-3) and Reed Davis (4-5).
About Hadithi Crafts | Hadithi Crafts sells beautiful baskets and beadwork made by artisan women in a rural area of south-eastern Kenya. The organization was started in 2014 by 24 women’s groups from 14 different villages in the Tsavo ecosystem, representing 520 artisan women. Currently, Hadithi Crafts sells craftwork from 59 women’s groups, empowering over 1700 women from 20 villages. These numbers are still growing.
Hadithi Crafts supports the women’s groups in a number of ways – by building their capacity, improving the quality of their products, boosting sales through joint marketing efforts, sourcing materials for the groups, teaching new techniques and providing workshops in business and other important skills to improve their lives overall. The Hadithi team is currently seven women strong. This team handles all areas of the project, including processing the many orders, sourcing, distributing, purchasing, training, sampling, running the projects and so on.
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