Mud Hut Trading, a wholly Namibian craft enterprise trading in handmade products, is more than just a trading company. As part of the newly formed Omba Arts Trust, Mud Hut Trading aims not only to contribute to the creative development of Namibian handmade products, but also to strengthen skills and build capacity with local groups and crafters. Using materials that are sustainable is also important, and crafters are encouraged to find environmentally friendly materials where possible. Embracing the fair-trade ethos, Mud Hut Trading is a registered member of IFAT, the International Fair Trade Association.
The catchy name is intended to evoke images of rural Africa where local resources are put to good use in the home and where goods are traded with local communities. The trade links spread far and wide, from Caprivi in the north east to Karas in the south, Erongo in the west and Otjozondjupa in the east.
The retail and wholesale operation is based in the Namibia Crafts Centre where small enterprises, groups and individuals from all over Namibia send their quality handcrafts. The retail section is a popular destination for tourists visiting the Namibia Craft Centre, where they will find a large range of quality, well-designed and sometimes unusual products. Mass production and ‘curio’ type crafts are generally avoided. Rather, producers are encouraged to develop products with a distinctly different character from the crafts purchased in the malls and city sidewalks.
Local materials, images and skills are used to develop a diverse range of products. Baskets made from the fronds of the makalani palm, Hyphaene peterisana, are a speciality. Made in the north and north-eastern regions of Namibia, they come in all shapes and sizes. The annual basket exhibition held in the Omba Gallery is an ideal opportunity for the collector to buy the best baskets.
Ostrich eggshell jewellery made by San women from the Otjozondjupa Region is popular as well. San women love to adorn themselves with bead-work, and their response to new ideas and techniques has helped create a unique range of contemporary bracelets and necklaces not found elsewhere in Namibia. The creativity of the San can also be enjoyed in the hand-painted tablecloths alive with brilliant colours and animal motifs. Frames and mirrors using recycled cardboard boxes remain a firm favourite. Acacia thorns, desert sand and ostrich eggshell beads decorate this range from the Erongo Region.
Every year new Christmas decorations are added to the range and the Christmas and greeting cards are a welcome change from the commercial cards found in Independence Avenue.
So next time you are looking for that special gift or home décor item, visit Mud Hut Trading at 40 Tal Street in Windhoek. Buy Namibian, buy local and support local.
This article appeared in the Oct/Nov ‘04 edition of Travel News Namibia.