Friday, February 24, 2012

BIKES FOR AFRICA


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 www.bicycles-for-humanity.org and www.wheels4life.org



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 info@bundudesigns.com.





Tuesday, February 14, 2012

TRASHY BAGS

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.




Friday, February 10, 2012

GREENPOP - TREES FOR ZAMBIA


For 3 weeks in July 2012, Greenpop is hosting a reforestation and conservation education project in Livingstone, in partnership with Zambezi Nkuku. Zambia has the second highest deforestation rate in the world! In an effort to fight this drastic deforestation, Greenpop is planting 5,000 to 10,000 trees in Livingstone and spreading education. Interested in volunteering?

They have one, two and three week options in July 2012. They fully rely on the support of volunteers. As a volunteer, you will play a vital role in the project by helping plant trees and involving the local community in the conservation of their environment. On top of that, you will be given the opportunity to take part in talks and discussions about issues such as climate change, deforestation and sustainability. These lectures and workshops will be hosted by professionals in the field, local NGOs, community leaders, as well as a member of the UNDP. For more information email zambia@greenpop.org.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

MY AFRICAN HEART


In the wise words of Nelson Mandela, “Money won’t create success, the freedom to make it will.”  We have witnessed firsthand, that when given an opportunity to work and to better themselves, people always rise to the occasion. South Africa in particular is a hotbed of innovation and brave people that recognise that change will only come about through individual commitment to upliftment. Each day as we go to work at Bundu Designs, it is a salute to this belief in Africa and the amazing people on the ground, that through creativity and vision are working to make the African continent the inspiring, innovative and awesome place it really is.
So with that in mind, this piece profiles the “Heart” that goes into every piece of artwork these artisans, upliftment projects and organisations create. We are of course also tagging it onto the fact that Valentine’s Day is almost upon us and giving you 5 reasons to give a gift that really gives.




We’ve featured the embroidery project before, showcasing the remarkable embroidered bears which have quickly become one of the most sort after items that Bundu Designs sells. What we haven’t showed you before are the incredible embroidered heart cushions. Like the teddy bears, each heart is hand embroidered with mystical musings, animals, butterflies and messages of hope in traditional African fabrics. The creative outpouring and inspiration is left up to the individual embroiders. The project now supports over 30 previously unemployed women, each working from their homes in South Africa. For more information or to purchase click here.
One of our favourite artisans is Zimbabwean Right Mukore. He works out of a tiny little corrugated iron house and hand chisels a range of mystical, beautiful sculptures out of alien woods. The Eucalyptus trees that grow all over southern Africa are alien vegetation, slowly smothering the indigenous plant life. Right uses the Eucalyptus wood from these trees to create an amazing collection and his wooden hearts, top our list.

In a small forgotten little town called Makapanstad a remarkable project was started by Martha Letsalo. After her son was wrongly accused and imprisoned and later murdered, she started a sewing project to earn an income to survive and look after her three grandchildren. The Heartfelt Project is her story. It’s about who she is. It’s about her children. It’s about the lives of the women and families in her community and the big difference one small heart can make to the happiness of others. The collection has grown over the years, but we still adore the little felt and beaded hearts.

Lily, Phumzile, Maria, Happiness and Annie are all part of a sewing community in Alexandra Township and work hand in hand with the African Children’s Feeding scheme. Their hand embroidery and beading have become world class and these previously unemployed ladies are now independent and self sustaining through their sewing co-operative. They recently provided a pile of hearts for us for a range of handbags.
Who would of thought that a humble t-bag could be become the inspiration for intricate works of beauty, creating upliftment and self worth. In a small studio in Cape Town, t-bags are emptied, ironed and turned into a range of unique designs from cards to t-lights. The heart range is our favourite.

A selection of all the hearts is available through www.bundudesigns.com