Producer Spotlight: Baobab Batik
Lydali is excited to introduce Baobab Batik, a small social enterprise based in Swaziland, Africa that produces handmade batik accessories. Els Hooft, the founder of Baobab, first began experimenting with batik when she arrived in Africa in the 1970’s. A native of the Netherlands, Els, came to West Africa as a volunteer nutritionist working on mother-child health issues. She was captivated by the bright colors and bold patterns of the batik textiles she saw in the local markets and began teaching herself to batik. Soon she was asked to lead batik workshops and share her skill with the local community. Els eventually settled in Swaziland where she launched Baobab in 1991 on a dairy farm surrounded by pineapple fields. What began as a passionate hobby grew into a small business that now supports 25 women in Malkerns, Swaziland.
Hooft is a social entrepreneur who sees her business as having a three-fold mission: to grow a sustainable and profitable business in Swaziland, to foster great design and to support local women artisans. Most of the 25 artisan women who create Baobab's scarves and other small accessories are single mothers, and their work can make a huge difference in their lives.
One Baobab employee who epitomizes the benefits of working at Baobab, is Khanyi, who also happens to be the most experienced artisan of the team. Khanyi has worked at Baobab for over 20 years, she began there when her husband could no longer support their family. She and three of of her female relatives, also Baobab artisans, provide for their extended family. Collectively they have extended their homestead and put six of their children through school, one is at university. Khanyi says that her income has given her family opportunities for better education and healthcare, and the additional training provided by Baobab, like a First Aid course, has empowered her “to look after her diabetic mother and the remaining members of her family.”
But beyond the financial stability, working in a creative environment has other less tangible benefits, as Khanyi beautifully expresses, “The favourite part of my job is when Els gives me a piece of fabric and offers me the opportunity to be creative and do whatever I like. It’s so much fun. My mind is able to escape.”
The creativity in the color choices and designs is found in each hand made Baobab piece. Each artisan has a technical specialty in the creation of a piece, waxing, dyeing or sewing, but they all work as a team in their workshop, which is aptly named “Under the African Skies.” You will find truly beautiful design and the collaborative effort of the Baobab artisans in every scarf Lydali now carries.
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