A friend of mine in Chicago, Karen Muir of Zulu Crafts, used to import these wonderful paper machie bowls from South Africa. I sold them on eBay and carried them in our Chicago gallery. I no longer have them, but Wola Nani, the fair trade organization that made them, continues to produce them through their income generation program. Wola Nani describes their mission:
"As society’s most vulnerable members, HIV is especially cruel to the poor. Khayelitsha, for example, a sprawling township 26km from Cape Town, has an HIV rate of 22%, the highest rate in the Cape Flats. One in three mothers will pass on their infection to their baby – most will die in their first year with few surviving to the age of five. With health services already stretched to the limit and unemployment at nearly 50%, making extreme economic hardship a daily reality, Wola Nani is working to fill the gap that leaves people with HIV & AIDS particularly exposed.
Through a counseling and case management approach, coupled with skills training and income generation opportunities, they can attain the necessary skills to help themselves achieve a better quality of life. Complementary holistic family and community support includes support groups, child health monitoring and day care, plus home based care to help families look after their loved ones living with the disease.
HIV and AIDS does not just touch individuals and families, it is a community issue. Only through education, awareness and understanding of HIV amongst the wider community can the culture of silence surrounding HIV be broken and the discrimination accompanying ignorance be eliminated. Myths and misconceptions surrounding HIV and AIDS not only breed fear of, and stigma against, people living with HIV and their families, but play a fundamental role in accelerating the spread of the virus.
Through Wola Nani’s outreach program of AIDS education workshops and awareness initiatives, staff work within the township communities to raise awareness, provide education and disseminate information. In this way, Wola Nani works towards improving community acceptance of people with HIV and AIDS, combating discrimination and developing community based responses to prevention, support and care.
Wola Nani’s focus on women and their children does not exclude men but has developed in response to where the need for the organization's services is greatest. However, all HIV+ persons regardless of gender, race, age or religious belief are welcome."
The paper machie bowls are made from discarded runs of food product labels commonly found in South Africa: sardine cans, corn, and other foods. They are donated by large factories which are supportive of the project. The bowls are sturdy, well made, light and covered with several layers of a protective lacquer. Perfect for storing dry goods, fruit and knick knacks, they are so attractive that many buy them as folk art. The bowls are one of many other crafts produced by Wola Nani. They also do bead work, make picture frames, and an assortment of other small crafts. Wola Nani does accept orders for corporate gifts or specialized retail designs.
South Africa has been devastated by the AIDS virus. The number of children orphaned by the disease is immeasurable. And, those living with the virus are often ostracized, lose their jobs and face a terrible future of loneliness and sickness. Projects like Wola Nani do help on the financial side, but even more importantly, they offer a community of acceptance where the participants can develop relationships, have the educational resources they need to understand their options, and their self-esteem is improved by feeling like they are contributing back to society with their labor.
Wola Nani does not have a web store, but their products are available through many fair trade stores. A couple of them include Ganesha Fair Trade in the UK and Global Goods in the US. Wola Nani's website does, however, offer much more information on their projects with stories of some of their project participants. "Wola Nani" means "we embrace and develop each other" in Xhosa. You can be certain that in purchasing these bowls, your dollars, pounds, euros, and yen will serve as that much needed wola nani between those of us who have our health and a community who has experienced profound suffering. Wola Nani is a place of hope!