Kavango Carvers Take A Chance In LÜderitz

19 Dec 2015 12:00pm
By Patience Smith

LÜDERITZ, 19 DEC (NAMPA) – Rampant unemployment and the necessity to generate some means of income have forced three men from villages in the Kavango regions to trek all the way to Lüderitz - over 1 300 kilometres away - to sell their hand-carved wares.
Edward Ihemba, 40, visited the southern coastal town in July last year in search of work.
Upon finding no opportunity by August that year, he hitchhiked back home and approached his relatives - Gideon Kaharu, 38, and Marco Haimbili, 36 - to join him in carving enough wood products to sell in Lüderitz.
He figured that the popular Kavango wood designs that include bowls, figurines, chairs and cups would appeal to tourists in the harbour town where the products are not sold on the streets as yet.
“In our part of the country too many people carve wood for a living because there is no employment and lodges buy from foreigners to sell to tourists, so they no longer buy from us on the streets,” explained Ihemba.
The three men took more than a year to work on their craft and returned to Lüderitz, again by hitchhiking, in December this year and now exhibit their products on a platform at the waterfront.
They know about wood craft since childhood.
“We have seen our fathers and uncles do this all their lives,” Edward said.
Business is still slow, but they are hoping to make enough to take back to their families after deducting the costs of the little shack they share in Lüderitz and other basic living expenses.
They all have children. Edward has four; Marco has one child; and Gideon three who all depend on them.
Edward left school in Grade 9, Marco in Grade 6 and Gideon in Grade 5 due to the hardships their families were facing and the cost of school fees at the time.
Last week, Edward was excitedly anticipating the results of his eldest son who wrote his Grade 10 exams this year.
He was relieved that high school fees, just like primary school fees previously, will be scrapped as from next year.
“Now I just hope he has passed so one day he can have a better life than me,” said Edward.
He said life was tough in the Kavango regions.
“Imagine there is no rain. If there is no rain, there is no mahangu, how can we survive,” he said.
As three tourists approach, the men stood together quietly minding, not saying a word but hoping the visitors would find something they like.
“They have to decide what they want, we will not harass them, if they want something they will ask us how much it is and we will talk to them,” Edward gently said.
The three tourists left after inspecting the wares – perhaps they will return.
They just saw the strikingly beautiful merchandise that took three men from Kavango more than a year to carefully but resolutely shape with their hands… patiently, artistically with nothing more in mind than what they gave so generously, they will be able to take something home.
They need to feed themselves and the ones who look up to them for their survival.
It is the one life they lead.