Namibia: Traditional Craft-Making an Essential Financial Lifeline for San Women

21 October 2020

Traditional art and craft are favourites as souvenirs when tourists visit Namibia, where traditional craft making has become one of the key sources of cash for many San Women in the Nyae Nyae Conservancy. However, during the recent Covid-19 lockdown, there were precious few tourists and certainly no international guests, leaving quite a dent in the San's women's revenue generation.

While the conservancy sector suffered severe losses along with all sectors linked to tourism, Nyae Nyae Development Foundation and the Nyae Nyae Conservancy are working together to maintain the sector to support the craft makers and the many dependents, who rely on the income that craft making generates.

Omba Arts Trust is a major local buyer of Nyae Nyae craft, along with two German buyers and one Dutch buyer. Even during lockdown, sales continued through these avenues, albeit at a slower pace. The Nyae Nyae Foundation has also committed to building up stock during this slow patch so that orders can be better met in future when tourism eventually takes off again.

The handicrafts that the women make consists of designs that have been passed on for generations in the San-communities. There are bracelets, earrings, necklaces and rings, which are all made from locally sourced materials, such as wood and ostrich shells. Making these arts and crafts ensures the traditional techniques aren't lost over time and empowers the women in the community as they can generate their income.

The craft making women generated nearly N$50 000 from craft sales in October alone - and on average, around N$300 000 a year is made from the crafts, which is quite a significant injection of resources in the community. This essential income pays for food, supplies and even school uniforms.

It is easy to contribute and especially in these challenging times. So, next time you don't know what to get someone for his or her birthday or this upcoming holiday season, think local and visit the Namibia Craft Centre on Tal Street, where Nyae Nyae crafts are available at the Omba Arts Trust stand. Give something beautiful, locally made and with generations of stories behind each handmade item.

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