Behind every MADE51 product is someone who has been forced to flee their home because of war, violence or persecution. Someone who is resilient, determined and hopeful for a brighter future.
Artisans are often spending their earnings on essentials: food, healthcare and education for their children. Buying their handcrafted pieces is a clear and impactful act of solidarity.
Meet some of the artisans behind the Holiday Collection ornaments made in Africa.
Meet Denyse, a Congolese refugee artisan living in Rwanda and maker of the Rising Sun ornament.
When did you come to Rwanda? I came to Rwanda in 2011 and lived in Kigeme camp, but UNHCR repatriated me to Mahama.
What is your craft and how did you learn it? I am a weaver, and I learned to weave in 2022 with Indego Africa. I make baskets, and the Rising Sun ornaments.
Why is this work important to you? I learned my skills through this work, I gain money from the orders, and I am friends with my colleagues.
How does working together in a group with other women make you feel? It makes me feel good, because I learn about how to live amongst different cultures and learn new skills, and we all help each other.
How does working together with Indego Africa helped or supported you? Indego Africa has provided me with a lot of training and giving advice, and I have learned through having markets and sourcing different orders.
Has being an artisan empowered you? Being an artisan and earning a living has empowered me and helped me to support my family.
Is there a message you would like to send to the people who purchase the items you are making? I would like to thank them and ask them to keep shopping and placing more orders to keep us busy.
What benefits can you see among your fellow artisans and their families when you have orders? When we have a large order like the ornaments, we benefit because we are working together, sharing ideas, visiting each other, building relationships, helping and lending money to each other.
What is your dream? My dream is to have a good future in making different designs and finding different clients.
Meet Kapya, a Congolese refugee artisan living in Kenya and maker of the Peaceful Dove ornament.
When did you come to Kenya? I came alone to Kenya from Congo in 2000.
What is your craft? When and how did you learn it? I learned my skill of carving back in Congo from my father. I developed my product design skills further through samples from Mifuko, and I also received capacity building training through UNHCR.
What kinds of items do you usually make? The design I have been working is the Peaceful Dove for MADE51’s Holiday Collection. I make other ornaments as well, along with wooden crafts and bowls.
How does working together with Mifuko help or support you? It allows me to maintain my house and buy meals, and pay school fees for my child. I also save part of the money to pay the artisans that I train. I do not earn any money for artisans making products in training, and it can take up to 6 months to train an artisan in wood carving, so I try to give them something to take home.
Why is this work important to you? It’s been great to design the Peaceful Dove with Mifuko. It often reminds me that there is peace. There is not peace everywhere, especially my homeland of Congo. I wish that there is peace in my homeland and peace in my heart, represented through the Dove.
How does working together in a group with other refugees make you feel? It makes me happy that when we're working together we elevate each other. We can help each other to gain a livelihood in Kenya, and when we share work we can support each other financially and emotionally.
Is there a message you would like to send to the people who purchase the items you are making? It makes me happy when people buy these products because it is a way to support refugees gaining a livelihood. I want buyers of the Peaceful Dove to know that their purchase provides me and so many refugees with meaningful work.
What is your dream? My dream is very big. I want my business to grow so I can get more income and save more, so I can also support more people in the community.
Meet Sesile and Viyoletha, Burundian refugee artisans who have returned to Burundi after years in exile, and makers of the Bright Bloom ornament.
When did you leave Burundi and when did you return?
Sesile: I left Burundi in 2015. I stayed in Nyarugusu camp and then shifted to Mtendeli camp, for 3 years before returning home to Burundi in 2018.
Viyoletha: I left in 2017, I was in Nduta camp until 2019 when I returned to Burundi.
When and how did you learn weaving? Who taught you?
Sesile: I started weaving recently, in the beginning of June 2023, after seeing my mother-in-law weaving and earning and income. My mother in law is the one who taught me about weaving.
Viyoletha: I learned weaving in 2021, when I was taught by my mother who was in one of the weaving groups working with WomenCraft.
What do you like about weaving this ornament?
Sesile: I like to weave the Bright Bloom ornament, because it is a source of income for me. Its style is also very attractive to me.
Viyoletha: I like weaving the Bright Bloom ornament because it brings me an income.
How do you plan to use the income that you earned from this order?
Sesile: I plan to buy some necessities for my family, like a new mattress and food.
Viyoletha: I plan to buy a goat and a chicken.
How does your work benefit your children?
Sesile: My work directly benefits my children, because my earnings can enable me to buy school uniforms or other things they may need.
Viyoletha: When I receive my income from weaving, I buy clothes and food for my children.
Is there a message you would like to send to the people who buy this ornament for the holiday season?
Sesile: I would just like to thank them and also hope they will place more new orders.
Viyoletha: I would like first to thank them for placing the order, and I would love them to share with others about our beautiful ornaments.
We hope you enjoyed getting to know some of the artisans behind the MADE51 Holiday Collection ornaments from Africa. Stay tuned for more stories from Syrian, Afghan and Myanmar refugees.