News World News

Thursday 19 September 2019

Snapshots: A craft workshop in one of Africa's poorest regions

Maggie sewing a shopping tote bag in the Khama workshop in Kasungu. Photo: Mark Cocksedge
Maggie sewing a shopping tote bag in the Khama workshop in Kasungu. Photo: Mark Cocksedge
Maggie at the Khama workshop. Photo: Mark Cocksedge
Agogo, the oldest lady in the Khama group, sewing the shopping tote bags using the limited edition Malawian printed cotton fabric. Photo: Mark Cocksedge
Lizzie with her tools - scissors and measuring tape, outside the Khama workshop. Photo: Mark Cocksedge
On the farm - one member of Khama's crochet group working on her small plot of land in a remote village in Malawi where she grows ground nuts using her handmade tools. None of the work is done using machinery. Khama works with people like her around the year to supplement the income in between harvest times by making handmade crochet items. Photo: Mark Cocksedge
The Khama workshop is in the market town of Kasungu. Most women earn extra money from selling their produce at the market. They call the stalls 'money makers' and stalls like this are common in Malawi with the tomatoes piled high. Photo: Mark Cocksedge
One woman from the Khama group showing part of its new range of crochet bags and purses. Crochet is a common skill in Africa and many men and women have been taught how to do this from a very young age and are highly skilled. Photo: Mark Cocksedge
Irish designer Elaine Burke visiting the village to work with the Khama crochet groups. The groups use locally sourced cotton thread to make their products. These are usually used in the tobacco industry to tie the leaves. Tobacco was Malawi's biggest export and some of the Khama producers are ex-tobacco farmers. Photo: Mark Cocksedge
Jacqueline, the youngest member of the Khama workshop outside the Khama workshop in Kasungu, Malawi. Photo: Mark Cocksedge
The Khama sewing group outside the workshop in Kasungu, Malawi. Khama works as a co-operative and its producers have a share in Khama profits. This group have been with Khama since it began. The organisation builds up a long-term relationship with its producers. Photo: Mark Cocksedge
This is Amos, the lead instructor at the Khama workshop. He has been with Khama since the start. The Khama workshop acts as a hub for local craftspeople to come and learn new skills and work on orders to gain some extra income. Photo: Mark Cocksedge
London-based Irish designer Elaine Burke at the fabric market. Khama uses Malawian and Zambian textiles called Chitenge. These are all limited edition prints, the cotton is picked in the south of Malawi by small holder farmers and woven and printed in Blantyre. Photo: Mark Cocksedge
Khama's crochet group sitting outside one of their houses, making the Khama products. Photo: Mark Cocksedge
Khama crochet in the village. Crochet is easy to do for these groups as they only need a simple metal needle and cotton string to make something beautiful. The work can be done at home or in the fields in between working on the farm. Photo: Mark Cocksedge
Foot-powered Singer sewing machines are used to make the Khama products. No electricity is required which is ideal for production. Power cuts are very frequent and the power can be out for days at a time. Photo: Mark Cocksedge
All Khama products are made using foot-powered non-electric Singer sewing machines. People in Malawi experience regular power cuts, so this is the best way of working. Most families do not have access to electricity in their homes. Khama has electricity and better facilities for the group to make products for their local independent business as well as to make Khama orders for export. Photo: Mark Cocksedge

These magical snapshots are from a bag-making workshop in a small village called Kasungu in Malawi.

Here at the Khama workshop, a group of women makes shopping bags to supplement their farming incomes.

The women make everything on foot-powered Singer sewing machines that do not require electricity. Power cuts are a regular occurrence in Malawi and the power can be out for days. Most people don't have electricity in their homes.

Khama - which was set up by Irish designer Elaine Burke - works with micro-enterprise projects to support crafts people with training to work towards setting up their own small business. It operates on the basis of ‘trade not aid’ with its producers.

Khama collaborates with designers to produce "design-led products using locally sourced and recycled materials".

Elaine Burke told "We link up with groups in smaller surrounding villages to make our crochet items."

"All our textiles are traditional Chitenge from Malawi or Zambia," she added.

"These groups are all from farming communities and the Khama work supplements their income while waiting for harvest time."

"This project has been started at ground level reaching remote communities, and we work as a co-operative, making and working with designers to collaborate and make ranges for sale."

Khama's main product, the Chitenge printed shopping bag, has just arrived into Irish stores and it is available in Dublin in Se Si in Temple Bar, Punnet Health store in Glasthule, and Select Stores in Dalkey.

Elaine said: "We work as a co-operative and our producers have a share in Khama business."

"The group we work with have a shareholding in Khama Design Limited and as we grow we hope to help set up a network of small micro enterprises."

"Our main workshop operates as a local tailors too and we support our groups to have their own clients and business."

For enquiries:,

Online Editors

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editors Choice

Also in World News