People of the Sun help low-income artisans in Malawi build sustainable businesses, which will raise their income and standard of living. In turn it is hoped that this will preserve their cultural heritage and ensure indigenous skills survive for the next generation.
Malawi's curios markets, like those across much of Africa, are flooded with cheap products such as wood carvings and so People of the Sun focuses on helping local artisans to use their indigenous skills to make the highest-quality furniture and home accessories. To help ensure these products stand out from the competition, international designers are also invited to infuse Malawi’s traditional crafts with contemporary style and function.
You can learn more about the production process behind one of our signature products from Malawi, the Blantyre Jar, in the video below.
When the team at People of the Sun first met Bangwe Club founders Roderick and Dave they were struggling to make ends meet. So they encouraged the men to join forces and helped them develop new products, such as the sleeping animal pots in order to stand out from the crowd and access new markets. The Bangwe Club now employs a team of carvers and has moved from Roderick’s house to a new workshop.
PS: Life has changed a lot for you guys since we first met….
Roderick: Yes! Every month we earn more than double what we used to and we’re employing seven young guys now. I enjoy this part of the work a lot - training them up and seeing them improve. Not everybody has a good work ethic but our guys are good and honest and they work hard.
PS: Tell us about your new workshop.
Roderick: Maria [founder of People of the Sun] encouraged us to find a better place, with electricity, which means we can produce three times as many pieces in one day, using a lathe and drill. Before, we were able to produce three pieces a day and now it’s ten. We have a savings box at People of the Sun for repairs on the workshop and equipment and this has helped us to build a new roof and a shaded area because it’s much nicer working outdoors.
PS: You travelled to Lilongwe with PS to take part in a business skills workshop, with SEED Africa. What did you learn there?
Roderick: The most important thing was learning about quality control. They explained how customers in Europe want every piece to be the same size and quality. And we learned about how to get products to America and Europe and how much it costs. It’s really helpful to understand the whole process.
PS: Has the growth of the business made a difference to your family?
Roderick: Yes! I have two children, a son who is 7 and a daughter who is 10. I can pay for them both to go to school. And I can afford to pay people to work in my field, which is good for the village. Plus I can afford fertiliser to increase our yield. A lot of people will be hungry in Malawi this year but we will have enough maize.