Friday, September 21, 2012

BUNDUBAGS - changing lives a bag at a time

Bundubags is a bag company with a difference. They make beautiful, innovative,
totally recycled bags, with a core belief that lives can be changed by design.
Bundubags began with a creative idea, a love of contemporary African design and
a heart for African women.

From strips of recycled cargo strapping, that Bundubags collects from airline and cargo companies in South Africa, a range of exciting bags are created using traditional African basket weaving techniques. For the ordinary cargo strapping this means a new life. Now, instead of poisoning the earth in an ugly landfill somewhere, thousands of metres are queing up in a storeroom, eagerly awaiting their extreme make over into official Bundubags.

Adding to the commitment of creating a 100% African designed end product, each bag is lined with authentic Shwe Shwe fabric.  The fabric which still uses the traditional process of printing fabric through copper rollers, has the patterns etched onto the surface of the fabric. The popsicle colour range of Shwe Shwe lining gives each bag a funky, Afro cool, contemporary feel.

Bundubags commitment to sustainability goes beyond recycling waste-bound materials. They currently consist of 40 women all from the township of Alexandra on the outskirts of Johannesburg, South Africa. Bundubags is run as efficiently and as profitably as a company, with a strong belief in trade not aid. Each women forms part of a for profit business model and therefore
is paid a fair wage and is a shareholder in the business.

The range currently consists of a beach, messenger and tote bag with surfboard bag, kids backpack and laundry baskets all in production.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


If you’re a South African, then you probably grew up with Velskoens (pronounced: fell-skoon) but known affectionately as “vellies”. I never actually owned a pair and they pretty much remained “platteland” or farm shoes for a long time.  Ancestors of the modern-day desert boot, Vellies were first made in the 1600s, inspired by the footwear of the Khoikhoi tribe and crafted using raw materials. Later, vellies were adapted by British travellers, packaged and renamed to be what we now know as desert boots. Over the past decade or so however, Vellies have been enjoying somewhat of a fashion revival, popping up in trendy stores and being worn by hipster surfers.

The latest in producers of hip Vellies is Namibian based Herbert Schier shoes. They are handmade by a small group of eight Damara gentlemen at the Swakopmund workshop, who assemble every shoe by hand, turning out just 20 pairs an afternoon. The shoes are made of vegetable-dyed Kudu leather. The Namibian government mandates the culling of these large native antelope to control their population. Kudu skin yields amazingly durable leather and suede that ages exceptionally well. Because these hides are taken from wild animals they often show scars or other "imperfections" that domesticated hides do not.

The range of shoes is pretty amazing and is accompanied by a striking lookbook shot by photographer Jason Hardwick.

Monday, June 4, 2012


We don’t often get to write about projects in North Africa, purely because Bundu Designs, our social venture enterprise, has been very focused on artisans in Southern Africa, but this project caught our attention recently.

Few of us would believe that the intricate and delicate “Plastic Gold” jewellery, created by Saharawi refugees who live in a remote corner of the Algerian desert, is made from recycled plastic bottles using only hot sand, a knife and a drawing nail board. What started as an experiment in social design with a group of women in an Algerian refugee camp, has moved beyond this to create value and reinvigorate traditions of craftsmanship, in a very poor territory.

The technique and the tools were designed by Florie Salnot, a product designer and graduate from the Royal College of Arts in London, who has always aimed to employ design to solve social issues in her work. She has done just that in her “Plastic Bottle Project”, where waste from plastic bottles are shredded and twisted around metal nails on a board of wood – resulting in the beautiful series of jewellery that not only will enable the Saharawi refugees less dependency on humanitarian help but also give them a medium for self expression in a place where resources are scarce.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Nelson Mandela Digital Archive Project

One of Nelson Mandela's journals from his time in Robben Island prison. Photograph: Nelson Mandela Digital Archive Project

Following a year-long effort, the Nelson Mandela Digital Archive Project is now available online. The new interactive multimedia archive documents the South African leader’s life, personal memories and commitment to social justice.
The project is an initiative of the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory (NMCM) and the Google Cultural Institute, which aims to help preserve and promote culture on the Internet. Google received a $1.25 million grant to collaborate with NMCM on the project last March. The digital archive project is a completely interactive experience. Users can navigate through pictures, video and text to learn more about Nelson Mandela and the different aspects of his life.
Everything is set up to link to even more information, so audiences can see, for example, the source of a quotation, or even learn more about the process Mandela went through in writing his autobiography, A Long Walk to Freedom. It is truly a digital treasure trove of  more than 1,900 documents, photographs and films, which allows readers to literally zoom in on his life.

On a recent trip to South we were once again reminded of what a proud and powerful presence Madiba still holds in the heart of South Africans and indeed all over the world. His smiling face is displayed across all sorts of fun, quirky and as always, innovative crafts. We've selected a few of our favourites to share with you.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


Nelson Mandela said that if HIV suffering would have a face, it would be the face of a woman. This reality is played out with all of its human tragedy in Hillbrow, South Africa where 1 out of 3 families is affected.  People who live in the greater Johannesburg area perceive Hillbrow  ( a once thriving, bustling centre of the city) as a ghetto, largely run by slumlords. Many families living here, live in appaling conditions and suffer under tyrant partners where woman/child abuse is a reality. In the midst of this bleak place, a small sewing cooperative, called Boitumelo, offers a safe space and alternatives to create a defense, even if it is just a collective sharing of pain expressed through embroidery. The aims of the Boitumelo Project are to create hope of finding inner healing and facilitate communication within the group of women who are mostly unemployed mothers with several dependants. The project is trying to use the arts in a process of growing self worth, one of which have lead to a range of beautiful hand embroidered bags, that offers some form of income to the families, so that they can exercise economic independence. We love the simplicity of their latest range of ‘Tree Bags’ which are now available through

Friday, March 30, 2012


Idyllic beaches, rain forests and parched deserts, lemurs and chameleons, the woodcarvers of Zafimaniry villages, the relaxed tropical ambience of Anjouan, the bustling flower market of Antananarivo, pirogues cruising the Tsiribihina River – our new favourite African destination of fascination is Madagascar. It also just happens to produce some of the most beautiful and orginal crafts we’ve seen for a long time. One of the most unique is the art of modelling recycled tin cans which is called "kapoaka". The cars, bicycles, planes and scooters are made from discarded pop, beer and air freshner cans. They are skillfully constructed with each little piece of tin being carefully soldered with precision in tiny workshops, throughout Madagascar, creating sustainable employment for hundreds of crafters. Bundu Designs has been working with a co-operative based in Antananarivo for some time, that was established to unite disparate workshops working with artisans. It provides Fair Trade employment to formerly impoverished artisans in crafts. With the profits generated by the workshops, the Kapoaka artisans have been able to build houses establish small subsistence farms. 

On our recent African trip, we were able to view some new designs. We especially loved the little Vespa scooters. Madagascar has had a fascination with the Vespa for decades and you can hire one on the island, plus helmet and lock for less than $35 per day!

All new stock is available from for more info email us at

Friday, February 24, 2012


A few years back I was sent a beautiful handmade wooden bicycle by an artisan from Malawi, who crafted the most amazing wooden toys. He spurred an interest in me for handmade bicycles from different African countries. In different shapes and sizes from recycled pop and beer cans, to galvanised beaded wire, you find these little gems on street corners and in markets from Dakar to Cape Town. The unique little details make these pieces of African art really quite ingenious and delightful to own. At the Pan African market in Cape Town, there used to be an artisan from Kenya who had filled a little 5x5 room from floor to ceiling with colourful wire “boda-boda” (the brightly coloured padded bikes used for transport across the border between Uganda and Kenya).

We recently had our interest reminded and retweaked while working with two great grass roots ventures who provide bicycles to countries in Africa for basic transport needs. To millions in Africa who walk for water, medical help or go to school, a bicycle is empowering and the first mode of transportation on their journey from poverty to a better life. Bicycles For Humanity and Wheels 4 Life are two organisations supporting communities in Africa and they form the foundation for change in Africa, driven by the simple belief that a bicycle can make a difference. 

Bicycles For Humanity now has 30 Chapters across the world who collect donated bicycles and then send them by the container load to be distributed to people who need them the most. It is entirely volunteer-run with 100% of donations going toward transportation and in-country project implementation costs of Bicycle Empowerment Centres (BEC). A BEC is a bicycle shop-in-a-box delivered to a community in a developing country. A 40 ft shipping container, stocked with about 400 bicycles, tools, spare parts and accompanied by comprehensive training in bicycle mechanics, it is designed to empower communities with their own transport and their own means of maintaining it. The container remains at its destination and becomes a “building” in the community. Doors and windows are cut out and a heat-shielding roof is placed on top. In this way, the shipping container is converted into a community-based bike shop.

Wheels 4 Life was founded by former world mountain bike champion Hans Rey. Following his World Championship mountain bike career, Hans took to filming documentaries of trips taken to the farthest corners of the earth. The Hans Rey Adventure Team uses extreme mountain biking skills to discover remote cultures and historical mysteries. As these adventures have taken Hans across the continents, he has seen people in need of the freedom and reliability of the bicycle. Hans founded the non-profit charity Wheels4Life to reconnect with the places he visited and to leave a lasting impact.They have now delivered 3172 bikes in 20 countries around the world (as of February 02, 2012) and currently have 24 projects in progress. They buy the bikes in the country where the bikes are given away. That not only supports the local economy, but it also makes it easier to find replacement parts, when needed.

For more information on these great organisations visit and

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

FACT (Faces Around Cape Town): BAGS FOR AFRICA

We have always had a bit of a fetish for bags fromAfrica at Bundu Designs. Largely because it has been really easy to fall in love with so many of the amazing totes, shoppers, shoulder and messenger bags, that have been produced by a variety of very talented African designers. We think it has a lot to do with the ingenious and innovativeness of the materials used, combined with an Afrocentric eye for astounding fabrics. Most of the bags in our collection have also been produced with a community at the heart of the project. A brand new collection has recently caught our eye, not only because they are so striking, but because they were created to help raise funds to enable a better education for children from less advantaged communities, specifically the children from Rooidakke, an informal settlement some 65km from Cape Town. Part photographic expression, part community project, Faces Around Cape Town (FACT) sees a variety of subjects in and around Cape Town interpreted on a range of exclusive canvas bags.

Under the leadership of Jo Elkin, FACT prints colourful images of the features and characters of the Mother City onto a variety of high quality canvas bags. They take great care to ensure that both the quality of the bag and the printing is of the highest quality. From coach bags to handbags, sling bags and everyday bags, each bag is produced in a limited-edition of 100.
For more information on the bags please email us at

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


We have featured Trashy Bags once before on our blog, and in that time they have become one of our favourite products, not only because of their cool range of bags but also because they are a project creating real change in their community. Trashy Bags was started 2 years ago by British entrepreneur Stuart Gold in Accra, Ghana, after seeing the pollution caused by discarded drinking water sachets. Drinking water in Ghana comes in sachets that cost a few cents. Cheap and convenient, they are sold in shops and by street hawkers, but once they have been drunk they are often simply dropped on the ground. Stuart had an idea to collect these discarded plastic sachets, clean them up and stitch them together to make brightly coloured, fashionable bags. Trashy Bags now makes around 250 items a week and produces 350 different designs of bags, wallets and raincoats. Its network of collectors has gathered some 15 million plastic sachets that might otherwise be on the streets of Accra.

Trashy Bags now encourages people to bring the empty sachets directly to them, paying about 20 cents for each kilogram of water sachets (about 100 sachets) they deliver. It pays more for ice cream, fruit drink and yogurt sachets, which are harder to come by. The sachets are sorted, hand washed, disinfected and dried in the sun, before being flattened by hand and stitched into sheets. The sheets are then cut according to templates and assembled as finished bags, wallets and even rain jackets.

We are very excited to have our first shipment of bags arrive and be able to include Trashy Bags in the Bundu Designs portfolio of products. For more information on the product or to purchase a bag click here.