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making beads from ostrich shell

Omba Arts Trust

Omba Arts is a not-for-profit social enterprise that has been supporting the sustainable livelihoods of hundreds of artisans and artists living in rural communities in Namibia, for over 30 years. We develop and market some of Namibia’s most iconic handicrafts as well as San contemporary art.

Shining new light on ancient traditions
Omba celebrates the cultural diversity of Namibia. All our products reflect traditional skills and ancient techniques merged with contemporary design suited to different markets.

Fair trade and resilience
We believe that craft is a conduit for broader community development. A member of the World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO) since 2007, Omba’s fair trade practices, training and building of trusting relationships have developed skills and promoted resilience, social connectivity, hope and environmental awareness. And as importantly, we have facilitated sustainable livelihoods in communities where there are few opportunities for formal employment.

We partner other key non-governmental bodies in Namibia as well community-based organisations such as Conservancies. Omba is a member of NACSO – the Namibian Association of Community Based Natural Resource Management Support Organisations.

Our Story
Omba Arts’ roots go back to the early 1990s when founding director, Karin le Roux started researching the development of the craft sector for a large NGO. Karin travelled to rural communities around Namibia providing training whilst developing relationships and networks that remain strong still today. These early years laid the foundation for an independent organisation that was to become Omba Arts Trust in 2004.

Omba now supports more than 400 artisans and artists from nine regions in Namibia, 95% of whom are women and 60% San.

Our Artisans and Artists
Our artisans and artists live in rural and sometimes very remote settlements and the beautiful products they make reflect their different agricultural, hunter-gatherer or pastoral livelihoods and traditions.

The craft and contemporary art programmes with San communities in four regions have been recognised as a critical livelihood source for these very marginalised communities. The Ju/’hoan, Hai//om, !Kung and Khwe have retained some of the skills and knowledge their hunter gatherer ancestors developed over thousands of years. We integrate these cultural elements into beautiful jewellery and art ranges.

Recognizing some of the many challenges our artisans and their communities face, we have embarked on other programmes including food security, agricultural support as well as homestead vegetable gardens in remote San communities. Sustainable resource management is a guiding principle which has resulted in support to basket weavers in the Kavango region to plant palm and dye tree homestead and community gardens. In 2019 Omba received the BOTSOC (Botanical Society of Namibia) Award for this work.

The income from crafts has supported the education of our artisans’ children and the health and well-being of their families. As importantly, we have seen women grow in confidence and skills. Many have become community leaders where they play an important role in the well-being of their communities. In this way relatively small interventions with just a few score people at a time, can have broader and significant impacts at society level.

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