In 1869, Mark Twain wrote "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, … Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime." In 2009, Alicia Wallace learned just how mind-expanding travel can be. The widespread poverty that Wallace saw during a trip to Sierra Leone would become the impetus for Kazi, a company that provides employment to African weavers who make baskets and other woven products out of sustainable materials.
“When I came home, there was a fire ignited in me and I felt like I had to do something to help that wasn’t a temporary band-aid and was empowering to the people I met,” says Wallace, who together with business partner Greg Stone, started Kazi as a solution that provides jobs to men and women who are investing in their future, their children and their livelihoods. “Our mission at Kazi is first and foremost to provide employment opportunities - Kazi translates to ‘employment’ in Swahili,” says Wallace. “We are bringing our customers beautiful pieces that add life to their space and empower artisans to weave a better story for themselves.”
The mission and the products, which are made of natural materials such as sisal, sweet grass, papyrus and banana fibers, and are both on-trend and timeless at the same time, make Kazi an ideal line for Sotre, where sustainability and aesthetics both count. Kazi and Sotre share a focus on the future. Kazi has spent years developing a rapport with the weavers, built on trust and collaboration. As a result, it has an artisan community of more than 4,500 artisans in Rwanda, Uganda and Ghana and is the largest artisan employer in Africa. Sotre supports such companies by providing an inspirational retail environment with a conscience.
Kazi’s range of products includes decor, storage, entertaining and kitchen essentials, toys and even furniture in a variety of colors, patterns and designs that fit every design style. But perhaps the best thing about buying a Kazi piece is the knowledge that by doing so, you are also giving back. Artisan stories like the one below underscore the power of its purpose.
“Weaving has uplifted my life. As a result, I try to uplift the lives of other women. I was elected to serve on a council of women in my sector, where I advocate for the development and advancement of women in my community. In the past, women in Rwanda stayed at home, but now society is encouraging women to develop their own skills. I was also elected to serve as a health advisor to improve community healthcare and wellbeing. Not only has Kazi helped me take care of my children and give them a better life, but it has also inspired me to reach out to the greater community.” -Nyanzira Eugenie