cultural pride

Zambian Craft Women

The Kabwata Cultural Village is a tourist craft market, where there are 15 traditional huts housing men’s crafts and one for women. It seems that it is very intimidating for women here to compete commercially with men. This women’s shop is a brave first initiative. The ladies insisted I sit in the middle of their hut/shop on a carved stool and I proceeded to describe the quilt project with the help of  photographs of other quilts. I explained that I wanted to create something that women from the US as well as from Zambia could share.

We figured out the size of the cloth panels we needed and proceeded to cut them out as I passed around a book of Haitian quilts to illustrate the kinds of quilts I wanted to make with them. I explained that I would bring the panels back to the US and assemble them there with the help of women interested in this project, and that I would sell it or auction it and send 1/2 of the money to them, the other half going to my non-profit, the AACDP.

Women kept drifting in and soon the room was humming with the peaceful energy of women making art among friends. They are a very chatty group, sometimes squabbling over use of the scissors. There were 25 or so women and only 4 pairs of scissors. I filmed them working and recorded some of their songs, and then left promising to return with more materials, because everyone wanted to make at least two.

Upon my return later that day, I was amazed to find them still sewing furiously, some doing very fine work, some crude. Proudly they displayed the completed panels.

Quilt panels

I have been working with these women thru Peggy Mwamba, my friend, Sydney’s aunt, because it is she with whom I have had some craft dealings over the past two years, after Beauty, the woman who organized for me previously, proved to be dishonest. I sense, from something Sydney said to me, that perhaps the other women are not entirely pleased with her leadership, but I know I can trust her. She is a calm, slightly humorless woman- perhaps not the most popular among them, but she speaks good English, though most of them do, and can manage email, which most of them don’t.

Peggy Mwamba