The story behind Baobab.World
March 2010, I was on my way to a new continent as a volunteer. A completely unexpected change of direction. From the outset, Africa seemed the right environment to turn my fantasy into a reality. The Kenyan economy still relies heavily on tourism and it has organically developed a large workforce of artisans producing tourist-aimed products. A year’s placement in Bombolulu Workshops, just north of Mombasa, as a technical adviser to their textile department had reawakened my dream.
Bombolulu had been set up to create opportunities for physically disabled people and their main focus is the production of products intended for the tourist market in order to provide sustainability to these individuals. As fortune would have it, Bombolulu has a department dedicated to making bags and my parting gift was a bag from the luggage department.
There’s a tradition of bag making in Kenya however, that predates its tourist industry. The ‘kiondo’ (kiswahili for ‘basket’) is a coarse yet soft-sided basket in the shape of a bucket; hand woven in a seamless spiral without the aid of a loom. Its very structure and use of coarse twine makes it extremely durable. Kikuyu and Kamba women have been making these bags for centuries to use as carriers of their produce so they can sell their items at the local markets. They are still a common sight in rural communities. I had purchased of one of these practical and functional bags. Usually only carried by the women, inadvertently I had caused much amusement to the local inhabitants. It was this that inspired me to create a kiondo based courier bag that I believed could potentially eliminate this pre-conception. I envisaged flattening the shape and thus created what would become my first laptop bag. Back in Nairobi I had discovered Kariokor market and tracked down a couple of Kamba ladies; (Alice and Beatrice), who were willing to interpret my idea. From the initial bags, (made of baobab twine, rather than the more typical sisal); the product was born and organically, the name Baobab emerged…