Weaving With Dignity:
The Basket Makers from Kitui
Think about this—do you know where the products in your home come from? Do you know who actually made them? The items that you see in your home every day, the items that give you pleasure—did they also bring pleasure and a little self-esteem to the maker? I’m going to venture a big no in a lot of cases. I just returned from Kenya where I visited the makers of our handmade African baskets. I’d like to tell you Margaret’s story—which is the story of thousands of men and women like her around the world.
Margaret has incredible strength and resilience and incredible talent but has always felt invisible. She’s been a (magnificent) basket weaver her entire life and has sold her baskets to companies who fly in and negotiate the best prices and fly home. Their relationship with the artist ends right then and there. Nobody knows who Margaret is. It’s the capitalist way.
But on this day when the sun was shining, I sat with her and asked her about her craft so I could share her stories with you. And she told me that she finally felt like a real person. Margaret cried as we sat together because she finally knew that she and her work mattered. She cried because someone from Canada came and saw her as a person, not as a basket (and money) making machine.
Mass consumerism is killing the planet and it’s also erasing our ability as a species to connect with one another in an authentic way.
But we can change that. You. Me. All of us.
We can live intentionally. We can buy purposefully. We can purchase only from outlets who use ethical sourcing and who actually support their makers. We can pledge to buy products that benefit the creator, not the corporation. And we can lift up the hearts of artists like Margaret around the world. We can all be connected. This is why Obakki exists. This is what we are about. Every product on our website was created by a human with a story and a purpose. I feel a duty to meet with every single artisan we work with. I want to make sure that they know they are worthy. I want to make sure that you, our customer, know their stories and understand where your purchases come from. What drives and motivates the creator… and, what their dreams are. Hint: they’re no different from yours or mine.
As the holiday season approaches we want to inspire sustainable gift-giving. Instead of manic gift purchasing, you’ve still got time to make sure that your gifts are ethical and sustainable. But how do you do that? By asking a few important questions before you buy.
With our new focus on sustainable, ethical homewares, we are proud to say we are working with partners in 11 different countries. It encompasses 65 different artisan groups and thousands of incredible individuals. Many in African countries. I’m back out on the road to meet them again. And it feels amazing.