The Namibian (Windhoek)

13 December 2012

Namibia: Handmade Dolls Bring Cheer to Cancer Ward

THE Omba Arts Trust handed out dolls to 23 children in the cancer ward at the Windhoek Central Hospital yesterday.

The dolls are hand crafted by !Kung San women living in Ohangwena Region in northern Namibia.

The toys were part of the ‘Buy One Give One’ campaign held earlier this year. Omba has invited the public to support the campaign again this year – not only does the purchase contribute to the livelihoods of the San women but also brings joy to sick and needy children.

A group of seven !Kung San women living on a remote resettlement farm in Ohangwena are crocheting dolls to improve their lives and bring a little Christmas cheer to children in hospitals. For every two dolls sold, one is donated to a child.

The dolls come in two basic designs – Lina is named after one of the first women who joined the project and Fillemon is a common !Kung name.

Lina comes with a skirt, hair and matching bag while Fillemon has a scarf or a sling bag with a handkerchief peeking out of a pocket. They are colourful and very cuddly.

The women have been working in collaboration with the Omba Arts Trust (OAT) to develop the Okongo Crochet Dolls. OAT is an NGO that works exclusively with Namibian craft producers.

They currently have 650 art and craft producers in 11 regions of Namibia whose goods they sell, market and export. OAT, along with its craft purchasing and sales entity called Mud Hut Trading, has been working in the sector for 18 years, providing product development, training and mentoring to rural producers.

Together they have helped to strengthen capacity, empower women and communities and increase the income of hundreds of poor craft producers. About 65% of their producers hail from the very impoverished San communities.

Although each doll is unique they are all made according to strict specifications and they have to meet stringent quality standards as they are sold commercially and also exported to other counties.

“We at Omba do not believe in sympathy buying or selling. All our arts and crafts are of the highest quality,” said Karin le Roux, the director of Omba.

“It is amazing to see the difference in the women. Before they used to spend a lot of time in the cuca shops now they sit and crochet dolls and they light up when they are told how beautiful their dolls are. This gives them a lot of self-worth and confidence,” said le Roux.

Visit Omba at Unit 15A in the Old Brewery Craft Market or at the Namibia Craft Centre.

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