These bracelets are priceless.
You see, they represent and make possible jobs, food on the table, healthy children and confident adults in the country of Namibia in southern Africa.
And, they represent a vision one woman had almost 20 years ago to help those in a small, rural village that has grown and blossomed beautifully on every front and is known globally as OMBA Arts Trust.
First, about the Okavango bracelets — they are made from recycled PVC and are traditionally worn by the Ovahimba people in the Kunene region in northern Namibia, but it is not unusual to see people wearing them in the North Central, Kavango and Zambezi regions as well.
The Ovahimba are semi-nomadic pastoralists, and like semi-nomadic tribes the world over, they love to adorn themselves both for aesthetic purposes and to denote age and marital status.
Fashions change depending on what materials can be sourced and it is not uncommon to find brass (from mortar casings discarded by the military), zippers, thumbtacks and the plastic from shampoo bottles integrated into the jewellery.
One theory suggests that the PVC piping replaced horn and ivory. It is, however, more likely a case of creative recycling when building development increased in this remote region.
The recycled pipe is cut into shape and the design etched into the plastic. Various patinas exist naturally or are added by burying the PVC or coloring the designs with natural ochre and fat or commercial paints.
The PVC is then heated and shaped into the bracelet.
This handcrafted set of Okavango bracelets are rooted in traditional culture with an eye-catching, contemporary twist — as well as a priceless story and mission. Wear them proudly!
THE BACK STORY
OMBA Arts Trust's roots go back to 1991 when founder Karin le Roux developed a range of textiles with a group of unemployed women in a small rural village in the south of Namibia.
From those humble beginnings, OMBA has grown in the largest operation in the country marketing Namibian craft exclusively. OMBA partners with more than 600 artisans in nine regions, and it markets several ranges of unique Namibian handmade craft. It also is a registered member of the World Fair Trade Organization.
OMBA's mission is to support the sustainable livelihoods of marginalised communities through craft development and marketing. Its people develop and test production and supply systems through training in remote villages, under trees, in church halls – wherever some shelter can be found.
OMBA is passionate about the people it works with. In Namibia, a country with over 50% unemployment, its work offers women, in particular (who are largely illiterate) a chance to earn an income. The organization trains them in craft and business, and provides information on healthcare and HIV, nutrition, and women’s rights.
OMBA Arts Trust truly is changing the lives of people, one crafter at a time.