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Chokwe carvers turn art into corporate gifts

Shane Ikorua, together with three colleagues, has turned their wood carving trade into a more substantial business venture when a local company discovered their works of art are ideal corporate gifts for overseas visitors.

The two Kavango woodcarver encampments on either side of Okahandja, suffer from various business impediments, chief of which is that all the carvers offer more or less the same products.

Secondly, tourists are often affronted by the informal camps doubling as both retail and residential shacks, saying it is not possible to overlook the unhygienic conditions under which the woodcarvers live. However, Walvis Bay ship repair company, Elgin Brown & Hamer (EBH) Namibia has discovered that the woodcarvers’ unique talent can be applied commercially in the form of truly indigenous corporate gifts.”EBH Namibia is committed to supporting local artists and helping to showcase their work, especially in an international forum. Recently, the company discovered the Woodcarvers’ Market in Okahandja, and decided to utilise local Namibian talent to enhance and personalise its brand” the company said when announcing its cooperation with the woodcarvers. “EBH Namibia is now proudly supporting the local woodcarving trade, while at the same time treating its international clients to ‘proudly Namibian’ corporate gifts. We have a large number of international clients whom we value highly for the role they have played, and continue to play, in the success of our company,” said Hannes Uys, Chief Executive Officer of EBH Namibia.  “We were searching for something which would express our deep appreciation to our clients, and yet also embody and typify the very best of ‘grassroots’ Namibian talent. I believe we have found just that, in the form of these beautiful woodcarvings. At the same time, we are providing much-needed support to these dedicated artists and craftsmen and women.” Woodcarvers’ sites are a common phenomenon in Namibia, but few feature as dedicated a craftsman as Shane Ikorua who has been plying his trade for fifteen years. Ikorua leads a group of four carvers, under the ‘Namibian Woodcarvers’ brand, who sell their wares in an informal trade market.  The group’s income from the street market sales averages around N$5,000 a month, before profit-sharing and costs. “The first carvings which we purchased were such a hit with our clients overseas, that we promptly placed another order. Our clients instantly recognised the fine artistry inherent in the work, and appreciated the way in which these pieces embodied our Namibian culture. As a company, we are only too pleased to be able to support the talented people who create this,” said Uys. It is difficult to maintain a stable income from selling curios and wood crafts; and the woodcarvers are generally regarded as officially unemployed, despite the fact that their craft is considered part of Namibia’s thriving tourist industry. “As a proudly Namibian company, EBH Namibia is pleased to have been able to give our local woodcarvers an opportunity to showcase their own special brand of creativity in the international arena. Their woodcarvings – typically Namibian souvenirs – are now proudly displayed in offices across Europe, the UAE and USA, and we are really happy to have our brand associated with them,” Uys concluded.

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