Meet Imogen, who brings the colours of Africa to the United Kingdom
I was born and brought up in Kenya and the Congo (as it was in those days!), and always loved the colours, vibrancy and creativity of the Africans.
Their range of hand made products fascinated me from a young age, and as a child I was encouraged to be creative.
After a career as a school nursing sister, I finally quit and followed my heart. I bought and ran a tea shop, selling African hand-crafted gifts, textiles, beadwork and much much more. All of these products I sourced personally, and they were all fairly traded. (I also bought a house in Somerset West, South Africa at this time!)
Having friends and relatives in Kenya and South Africa, I was privileged enough to be able to visit these countries regularly for holidays and for ‘buying sprees.’ The main objective was not only to enjoy the beauty of the countries and their people, but also to buy these wonderful handmade items, so providing the sellers with a fair and decent wage. I could also bring these hidden gems to a larger audience.
The crafts ranged from beaded animals to ceramic beaded jewellery, batiks to screen printed cushions, aprons, oven mitts. A passion for recycling made the papier maché bowls, recycled bottles and flip flops animals a must have. Ornaments range from wood to soap stone – the list goes on.
Supporting the Makers
Most of my suppliers are either private individuals, or small co-operative set ups. The majority of the crafts are made by women, enabling them to earn a decent wage, whilst running their homes and looking after their children.
Nearly all of the small projects were set up due to some local incentive, that needed to be tackled.
The Kazuri beads of Kenya helps single mothers, others help HIV sufferers, Bombolulu in Kenya helps the disabled, All Women Recycling began by helping abused women, these are just examples of some of my suppliers. These people work so hard producing such wonderfully original pieces, that it is a pleasure and privilege to try and help them by selling them.
France was my next home, for five years, and these crafts proved popular at local markets over there. Mostly, they were new to the French people, who were more familiar with all the French speaking African nations, and their handcrafts – quite different.
Life in the United Kingdom
Now back in Dorset, I have an online shop, and do local craft fairs and county shows with Bazaar-Africa.eu selling wonderful, individually selected hand-crafted items from Kenya, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.