Kingston University weaves success with Zimbabwe designers

Talented women from a remote craft centre in Zimbabwe are showcasing their work thanks to Kingston University.


Holly Wilson


The partnership between Kingston’s Design School and the Lupane Women’s Centre has enabled the group of women to present and sell their hand-woven baskets which are an important source of income for their families.


The manager of the Lupane Women’s Centre, Hildegard Mufukare highlights the importance of The Kingston Africa Materials Project and the benefits it brings to the farming community in rural Matabeleland, Zimbabwe where there is widespread poverty.


“The women want to live better lives and, with the help of Kingston University, now have the confidence to achieve that,” said Ms Mufukare.


Raising money


Their success is funded by the British Council. The women also make money from selling their products to tourists in southern Africa and supplying Conran and Anthropologie shops in the United States and Europe with their baskets.


The money raised supports nearly 2,500 families, especially during times of the year when they cannot farm, helping pay for food and sending their children to school.


The materials project


The aim of the project, which began in 2011, is not solely to provide support and information for the women in Zimbabwe, but to form collaborations. Its vision is to raise the profile of African research in the university and to create unity between African creative organisations.


Kingston University professor Catherine McDermott explained that it is not a charity project and that there is a mutual exchange of information between both parties.


Professor McDermott said: “We can’t transform the economy of Zimbabwe, but we do feel that, step-by-step, our impact can help make a difference.”


Showcasing their designs


From February 27 their creations will be shown at Design Indaba in Cape Town, voted the World Design Capital for 2014. The baskets have previously been displayed at the London Design Festival and the National Gallery of Zimbabwe.


Simon Maidment, head of Kingston’s Design School, which collaborates with the centre, offers his expertise on how to make, market, transport and sell their creations.


Mr Maidment said: “We were keen to work with the women to help them realise how skilful they really were and to see the potential value of the items they produce.”

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