Oyetu craft project targets tourist market

When a Japanese fashion designer teams up with the Oyetu Community Development Project in Namibia, great things happen to inspire those ladies living in the outreach areas to work on their creative skills. Ayumi Suzuki came in as a JAICA (Japanese International Cooperative Agency) volunteer on a six month contract, to do product development in the various regions. Using her background as a fashion designer to throw around some amazing ideas, she has been a great mentor for women in the villages, who will be able to eke a living out of producing a host of appealing items. Suzuki was out and about with Samuel Sheyanena, Oyetu co-ordinator, displaying a range of delightful colourful stuffed animal toys, which had been made by a group of outreach community women in Khorixas.

African print material on a collection ranging from elephants, giraffes, zebra and guinea fowl in hues of pink, yellow and vibrant patchwork, was lively enough to put a smile on the face of any child, or grab the attention of a globetrotting tourist on holiday. With their target customer aimed at the international market, these attractive stuffed animals are small and light enough to pack into any suitcase, and would make a perfect curio gift or memorabilia from the Namibian craft scene. Suzuki explains that the animal figurines are cut from a pattern she draws up, and are pieced together on sewing machines provided by the project. The Ministry of Sport, Youth and National Service, has offered workshop training space in Khorixas, for the dozen or so women who have committed to the two year course.

The first batch of stuffed animals which were exhibited at the Tourism Expo in Windhoek recently, and together with other completed items, will soon be in lodges, the COSDEF craft collection shop in Swakopmund and other outlets. The proceeds of the sales go back to the crafters, as a means of providing a much needed income. The first year of the Oyetu course concentrates on training skills for product development. The products vary depending on the regions, and before they embark on training the co-ordinators go into the areas to identify what type of craft will be beneficial to that group, as well as the type of materials available to them. It is no point in doing basket work in an area where there are no palm trees, explains Sheyanena, adding that the Ovahimba in their Opuwo centre are able to produce a lot of leather work such as purses, sandals and other accessories, utilising livestock from the region. The two-year project is supported by a business training and management, programme whereby the trainees are taught how to financially manage and market their products. For now COSDEF Arts and Craft Centre, is assisting the business plan and marketing, but the aim is for each person to operate independently as a means of an income generating scheme.

The Oyetu Project, which is a creative craft training and mentoring project, funded through COSDEF and Bread for the World church organisation, is an outreach programme operating in seven different regions. However, new centres are opening up and this month the project will be in the Omaheka, Karas and Hardab regions.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia