Gifted Hands - Celebrating centuries of craftsmanship and exploring our connection with Nigerian Artisans
Extracted from Our Journal Issue 2 - The Celebration issue
Home, Family and Heritage – three foundations that we were passionate about building our brand on. We asked ourselves how could we authentically represent the craftmanship of the Nigerian artisans whose work we grew up admiring? One day a few months after we launched in 2019, Emmanuel remembered a group of artisans who worked near a market in Abuja, Nigeria, weaving baskets and furniture using raffia fronds. Excitedly, we set the ball rolling to connect with them and find a way to work collaboratively.
Basketry is one of the oldest crafts in the world with roots tracing back thousands of years. In Nigeria, the craft originated in the southern part of the country, spreading up and towards the north. Baskets are called “Kwanduna” in Hausa, “Agbon” in Yoruba, “Nkata” in Anambra State, “Ekete” in Abia and “Ide” in Umuahia. Although there has been a general decline in traditional craft, there are still craftspeople operating in Nigeria who have refused to give up on traditional craft with their methods remaining unchanged.
Raffia is derived from the dried fronds of the palm tree. The basic process involved carefully weaving strands over and under each other. Typically, there is a thick sturdy piece of fibre shaped into a loop while thinner more stretchy fibres are woven around it.
Late 2019, Emmanuel travelled to Nigeria to meet with the artisan community in Abuja, there he met Mr Jorji with whom we shared our vision. We set out to ensure that our work with them is a true collaboration and our aim is to ensure that they are happy with how we are presenting their work as well as with what they are being paid too. Working in this way means that there is a lot of trust in our relationship with them which is hugely important to us as there is often so much exploitation of artisans who create work for brands over here in the UK or US. We were over the moon when Mr Jorji agreed to put together a team and work on our designs.
Over the past few years our range has included items such as placemats, coasters, trays and bowls, baby changing baskets, rattles and more in our endeavour to be as sustainable a business as possible we know that a business is only sustainable if each member of the supply chain is treated fairly, their work valued and they are able to sustain themselves. We love our collaboration with the artisan team and don’t view it as charity – the artisans are an extension of our team and successful business people in their own right. Working with the artisans is a joy and we are honoured to be able to represent their work and share it with our community.
To learn more about our work with the artisans click here to watch our mini documentary