Omba Arts Trust continues to empower rural Namibia

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Staff Writer

The Omba Arts Trust continues to empower rural communities in some of the most remote regions of Namibia through art. 

This is in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as set out by the United Nations. It is a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and can prosper. 

Omba Art Trust is one of Namibia’s largest non-profit organisations that are committed to support the sustainable livelihoods of marginalised communities through craft development and marketing.  

Based in Windhoek, the organisation assists rural communities by providing them with a platform to generate revenue from their traditional handicrafts. 

The organisation has its roots from 1991, when the Rössing Foundation’s Craft Development Programme was initiated by Omba Arts Trust’s director, Karin le Roux. The programme later evolved into the Omba Arts Trust that was registered in 2004. 

Le Roux embarked on considerable research into the sector in those early years. As a result, the marketing side of the work began when it became evident that artisans living in remote communities needed an outlet for the products that were being developed and this market-driven approach has contributed to the increase in livelihoods for many artisans.

Today, Omba Arts Trust supports 400 producers in over 15 communities in eight regions countrywide. Ninety-five percent of the total number of producers is women and 60 percent are San from Omaheke, Ohangwena and Otjozondjupa regions.

“Omba Arts Trust supports local artisans through training, product development and sourcing materials and then channels their handicrafts to markets that would otherwise not be exposed to unique quality Namibian products. 

By adding commercial value to their craft, not only are traditional skills being maintained but the lives of marginalised communities are also improved.  This income contributes to poverty alleviation,” says Le Roux.

Although their crafts are rooted in Namibian culture, a modern twist is added to the final product appealing to a different market. For example, several new ranges of ostrich eggshell bead jewellery made by Ju’/hoansi women have been introduced to the market, but the same centuries-old bead-making technique used in the making of this range remains the same.  

The trust markets its handicraft and art ranges to wholesale customers and individuals through their two stores in Windhoek.

These include ostrich eggshell beads, a 40,000-year-old craft that is still practised by the San people. Others include traditional baskets, textiles, bracelets, jewellery and Bushmen art.

The organisation works with other like-minded organization including the Desert Research Foundation of Namibia, Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation and Nyae Nyae Development Foundation of Namibia.

 

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