By Jana-Mari Smith
The Namibia Craft Centre (NCC) is a place where you’ll find countless examples of women who have decided to take their fate into their own hands.
Although it took her a while, Elisabeth Hangara finally set up her own curio outlet at the NCC in 2007. Her shop was then outside in the courtyard, but in 2010 she moved to the upper floor of the NCC. Elisabeth now sources a wide variety of handmade crafts from around Namibia, providing tourists and Namibians a glimpse of the artistic vein of the country.
Before moving to the NCC as a sales person for one of the stalls, Elisabeth worked in a framing shop for 20 years. But after some time, she realised that it was just as feasible for her to earn her living by owning her own curio shop, and she hasn’t looked back since. One of the highlights of running a stall is that she can support others through her enterprise. “I have many crafters from whom I buy merchandise.”
Sometimes, when she hears about new products, she travels to places to have a look at them. She inspects them and if she approves, and thinks they make good business sense, she sets up a marketing relationship. “I’m always looking for new work and better quality.”
Items you’ll find at her stall include fragile yet elegant elephant dung paper, soapstone artefacts, metal and wire creations, postcards, and handmade wooden crafts. And for Christmas, she’s ordered Christmas-themed wire decorations to hang on the Christmas tree – perfect for the holiday spirit.
Elisabeth herself is a crafter. She produces beautiful, African-themed placemats, among other things. “I’ve always been creative. Sometimes I have an idea and simply start making it.”
Running a stall at the Craft Centre has taught her several lessons. One is that “Tourism has seasons. Sometimes it’s good; other times it’s bad. You just have to be patient and go with the flow.”
Elisabeth believes that the Craft Centre is an important hub for art and crafts in Namibia, as it attracts visitors from all over the world. She says she’s inspired by her shop and plans to stay there, so she makes sure she displays the best Namibia has to offer.