Omba works with 450 artisans across Namibia and is focused on supporting the sustainable livelihoods of marginalised communities through craft development. They develop and test production and supply systems through training in remote villages, under trees, in church halls – wherever they can find some shelter.
Omba works with several Bushmen/San communities in the Omaheke, Otjozondjupa, Ohangwena and West Zambezi regions of Namibia. 60% of the 450 or so crafters that Omba supports are Bushmen.
There are about 100,000 San living in Southern Africa and Namibia is home to almost 33 000. Unfortunately, the romantic notion of Bushman living in harmony with nature could not be further from the truth. Only one fifth of Bushmen living in Namibia today have access to their own land. The majority are landless, dependent on food aid, lack access to education, have a life expectancy far below the national average and face discrimination on a daily basis.
However, there is a wealth of creativity and imagery among today's San communities, whose ancestors left a legacy of rock art famous the world over. Images from San artists have been translated onto textiles by textile designer Cheryl Rumbak and these playful images are printed on an array of products and textiles, including aprons, cushion covers, oven gloves and tea towels. Royalties for meterage printed are paid to the artist whose images have been used, providing a valuable source of income.
Women in the north and north-eastern regions of Namibia weave baskets to harvest pearl millet or maize but more recently as an important livelihood option.
The young fronds of the Makalani palm are split into narrow strips and used as is or dyed beforehand by boiling substances like rust from old tins, aloe leaves, berries, roots, bark, leaves, and cow urine. Tree bark and roots from the Pterocarpus angolensis, Guibourtia coleosperma, Baikiaea plurijuga and Peltophorum africanum, among others are used to produce numerous shades of brown, purple and yellow.
Omba has encouraged different techniques to create a variety of shapes and textures for the contemporary market. In the Kavango, North Central and Zambezi regions, the palm is wrapped around an inner coil of grass to create bowl-shaped baskets. The Kavango weavers have taken their weaving into the realm of art – the design of each basket is totally unique and a vehicle for their maker's creativity.