The History of our Artisans

It’s important for Obakki to acknowledge the past struggles that many of our artisans have faced. You could never imagine what the people in many of the regions we work in have overcome to simply make a living from their culture, their history, and their ancestry. 

Some of them didn’t even start where they are. Just consider our Bidi Bidi scarf for a moment. What did it take to get there? These women are warriors. The women of the world’s largest refugee camp, in Uganda, fled the brutal civil war in South Sudan and left behind everything they once knew. They survived unspeakable trauma only to start over again from nothing.

These remarkable women are hopeful, strong, and united. Together, they created the art for our Bidi Bidi scarf. It represents their struggles, pain, and journey. These scarves are now part of their history—and part of ours.

We also work with incredibly resilient rug weavers in the Teotitlán del Valle area of Oaxaca. The town had been weaving blankets and sarapes for two millennium but sold only locally—and to tourists occasionally as they ventured from Oaxaca city, 31km away.

In the 1970s, someone from the town went to the United States and saw textiles on the floor and a booming rug weaving industry was created for the town. The same looms and designs now had a different purpose—one that brought a new stream of income to the town.

And for decades, these women who wove spectacular textiles—combining ancient Zapotec and modern designs—were exploited by groups of men, who terrorized, abused, and stole from them. Out of poverty and desperation, they fought against the system of oppression that existed in their small rural Mexican town. The weavers formed a collective and began to export their craft. There aren’t many rugs out there where the opportunity to create them was so hard-fought.

When you look at these rugs and appreciate their design and quality, remember what these women overcame, but also the 2,000 years that their ancestors have been using the same natural dyes and wools. Their craft has been passed down through generations, and it shows.

Our table linens are hand-dyed organic textiles created in partnership with a social enterprise in Mali, Africa. Have you read about Mali, lately? It faces critical political unrest and social disorder. Over 85,000 citizens were forced to flee in 2019. Our artisan partners from Mali are representative of the spirit that keeps creating, and keeps preserving, ancient heritage and culture.

When you put any of these products in your home, that product comes with a long, sometimes challenging, story of perseverance and bravery that deserves to be remembered and respected.

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