During the holidays we celebrate and renew connections to family, friends, and community. It’s also a perfect time to think about global connections and how even our smallest choices can have a big impact on others.
At the National Geographic Store, we often partner with small workshops and independent artisans, which can provide much-needed income in economically unstable communities. Our Kenyan Olive-wood collection fits that bill, and also represents a unique take on the role of artisans in local and even national economies.
In Kenya, the informal work sector is known as jua kali. Swahili for “hot sun,” jua kali originally referred to artisans who work in wood and metal. Now it describes an increasingly connected group of independent small businesses, which employ more than 70 percent of Kenya’s workforce. In the past decade, the jua kali has become more organized, with greater access to credit and training, an expanded market for finished goods, and more exposure for artisans and their work—that’s where the National Geographic Store comes in.
These charming and inventive gifts are created by members of the Kamba tribe, in the Gikomba area of Nairobi. Lucas runs the shop and Richard is the chief artist. Richard’s brother Kimeu and niece Annastasia are also part of the team, along with Lucas’s cousins Kioko and Nzembi, and many more people who eagerly await a new purchase order. Many of the artisans were too poor to continue beyond primary school, so they’re especially focused on ensuring a better education for their children. Lucas, who runs the workshop, says, “We are so grateful to have the support of our friends at National Geographic. This job helps a lot of Kenyans.” The group has even given itself the nickname Kopotea, which means “doing perfectly.”
Visit our online store to see our decorative giraffe bowl, salad servers, African animal ornaments, and safari animal napkin rings—all of which make great holiday or hostess gifts, and are a small connection to the vibrant and entrepreneurial spirit of Kenya’s jua kali. May the winter holidays and the coming year find you and yours kopotea!