Ensuring a Future
Zinj African Bead and Leather Design, Kenya
|Zinj Workshop, Kilifi|
Zinj African Bead and Leather Design is a small, grassroots organisation based in the rural, coastal village of Takaungu, in Kenya. Dedicated to promoting East African bead and leather-work across the globe and improving the lives of East African craftspeople at home, the business has now trained and supports about 60 fundis, or artisans. Before joining the team at Zinj, everyone was either unemployed or working only very sporadically. The steady income they are now earning means they can settle down with their families and send their children to school. Therefore, the impact of the business in this village has meant real changes in real people’s lives.
Women, in particular, have benefited from the opening of the Zinj workshop in the village as they have been encouraged to come to training sessions and take on what was traditionally a men’s craft. There is virtually no employment for women in the Takaungu area, and few of these women have ever been to school, yet many of them have been left to raise large families alone. The relief on their faces when they first realise they now have enough money to feed their children properly is palpable, as is the pride they show when they are able to open a bank account for the first time and manage their own money.
|Beaders Johnston, Esther, Mohammed and Zena Mdogo hard at work!|
Zinj – a name used by Herodotus to describe the ancient Swahili coast from southern Somalia to northern Mozambique - uses rustic and natural, free range, Kenyan beef leather to make beautiful handbags, sandals, belts and other small accessories, and embellishes them with East African beadwork in both traditional and contemporary patterns and colours. Every piece is hand-stitched, and handbags are lined with traditional Kenyan cotton kikois or sarongs. Almost all of the raw materials used by Zinj originate in Kenya and even the need for solid brass handbag clips and belt buckles has spawned a separate micro-industry in which recycled, scrap brass is melted down and then re-cast by hand. Great attention is paid to all the finishing so that these traditional, hand-made, African products meet the standard demanded by international markets.