By Ginger Mauney
Because Namibia recognizes that conservation is about more than just a species or a place, I nominate Omba Arts Trust as my conservation hero. They not only help local artisans keep traditional skills alive, they also change lives.
Omba’s roots go back 20 years 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. Today, Omba Arts Trust partners with over 600 producers in ten regions of Namibia and is the largest operation in the country marketing Namibian craft exclusively.
From stunning pieces of jewelry to baskets, beadwork and textiles, their unique pieces of art are rooted in culture but always with a contemporary twist. The products are developed and produced in remote villages, under trees, in church halls, and are sold at the Namibia Craft Centre in Windhoek and at high-end galleries and shops around the world.
Located in the historic Old Breweries Building in Tal Street, the Namibia Craft Centre is a haven of local creativity. Visitors are able to purchase anything from soap made from wild melon seed and marula oil, to table linen, African-style shirts, unique postcards, candles, jewelry and shoes made from kudu leather, Namibian music and dried mopane worms. The idea behind the Craft Centre is to give a platform to local Namibian businesses and enterprises. It’s about strength in numbers and has become a focal point of development for these community businesses. The craft sector contributes significantly to job creation and poverty alleviation - particularly amongst rural women.
At the recent re-launching of the Omba Arts Trust, Namibia Women's Summit President Anne Gebhardt spoke of the importance of social entrepreneurship. “Just as entrepreneurs change the face of business, social entrepreneurs like the Omba Arts Trust act as the change agents for society, seizing opportunities others miss and improving systems, inventing new approaches, and creating solutions to change society for the better."
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