ZO by ZEZE Collective

It's Friday, and we know – WEEKEND! – but first we want to take a time out to bring you a project that is close to our hearts. Our dear friend Anna Haber is partnering with Bailey Hunter, NY-based designer, to collaborate with the San women in Namibia on a collection of bags and jewelry that will become a steady stream of income for the ladies. Here's the deal: The San have very little in the way of employment opportunities as they live in a very remote region in Namibia. However, they are extremely skilled at beading and making jewelry out of ostrich eggshells, so Anna is helping them to monetize the ancient craft through the help of an anthropologist who is creating a sound business structure for longevity. This isn't Anna's first time helping indigenous cultures – she marketed and sold a line called Jewels of the Kalahari to places like Dover Street Market with jeweler Sabine Roemer – and we know it won't be her last. She's currently funding the project here, and we strongly suggest checking it out and considering a donation that will not only do good, but help create some beautiful accessories. Read on to get a visual and to hear Anna's inspiring mission. 

The gorgeous – and giving – Anna Haber

The gorgeous – and giving – Anna Haber

The name ZEZE is actually a San word that means “to start from the beginning…”
— Anna

Click on the images below to enlarge and learn more: 

Helping indigenous cultures create and promote their crafts is a passion of yours. How did you get involved in the first place and what are some of the other projects you've worked on?

I have had a great passion for indigenous cultures and the work of artisans for about 12 years now. I have been lucky enough to travel a lot for work and personally to India, China, across North, South, East and West Africa and South America. Everywhere I go I have sought out artisans to see their work and hear their stories, originally to buy their products for myself, as I love everything that is unique and has soul. As I learned more and met more artisans, their stories, resilience and passion always stayed with me and inspired me to want to share their work, culture and stories. Recently, I set up ZEZE Collective, a craft collective born out of a passion to preserve the artisans' traditional art forms and to provide a voice for emerging and known artisans from around the globe. The aim is to create imaginative collaborations between artisans, designers and storytellers and provide a global platform for the collections to be promoted and sold. The name ZEZE is actually a San word that means “to start from the beginning…"

 

You've spent a lot of time with the San women who are part of this project. Tell us about them and their spirit.


My relationship with the San (bushmen) started in 2010, when I was in London talking to a friend about my passion and she had just come back from a trip to Botswana with an anthropologist who had spent 15 years living with the San of the Kalahari, who are almost as old as time itself. For countless generations the San have been making beautiful jewelry to adorn themselves and their loved ones. Largely isolated from the outside world until the last century, they created intricate pieces using beads painstakingly created from ostrich eggshell. Each bead is hand-made from individual shards of broken eggshell. Ostrich eggshells are a natural resource to the Bushmen, and no part of the egg or shell goes to waste. One egg feeds a whole family, then the ostrich shell is used as a container to carry water before eventually the broken shards are incorporated into unique pieces of jewelry. My friend had bought many pieces back to London and thought I should look at them to see if there was any way we could help to sell them for the San artisans she had met. I thought they were so beautiful and modern, so I decided to help by presenting the collection and the story of the San to Dover Street Market and the owner loved them and bought the whole collection immediately. I then embarked on a journey to the Kalahari with a designer, Sabine Roemer, to do a workshop with the San artisans. After 2 weeks we had all co-collaborated on a new collection that included silver, leather and recycled beads with the traditional designs. These pieces continue to be sold to leading retailers around the world.
  

Can you talk a little about the creative process and how Bailey will work with the artisans?

I am now working on a new project with a different group of San artisans in Namibia and a very talented product, accessories and fashion designer: Bailey Hunter. We are all partnering to create a high-end collection of hand-crafted beaded bags and ostrich egg shell jewellery to launch in early 2016. For these San artisans, this collection will be the first steps in starting a business and generating a steady stream of income allowing them a better quality of life, as the region in which they live is extremely isolated and therefore very little opportunity to find work. Bailey has done some initial bag designs that relate to San culture. The collection focuses on modern life and is all inspired by the popularity of Zo (sugar), including a Marathon Sugar-inspired backpack with a marathon runner and the words WHITE SUGAR, circle bags inspired by Chappie gum flavors and bucket bags all abstracting the wrappers of the most popular candy called Winston’s Champion Toffees. The ladies have started creating the collection and feel very inspired to work on it as they can relate to the theme! I have put together a crowd funding page to raise the money for us to go to Namibia to do a workshop with the ladies so that we can really have an opportunity to work together to evolve and co-create the collection further. 

 

We want to hear about the jewelry! What's the background of the shell pieces and how will they be modernized?  

Bailey has also worked on an initial collection of ostrich egg shell jewelry that will be very quirky, mixing the glass beads with the ostrich egg shells. They are very quirky and fun combining the colours of the glass beads with the beautiful purity of the ostrich egg shells.  

 

GET INVOLVED, PEOPLE! It's good for the soul. 

And of course, get your Friday on! xxFFR