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Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Kenyan Basket Weaving

The Samburu and Rendille peoples of northern Kenya are seminomadic pastoralists whose livestock have long provided them with meat, milk, and other essential products. These pastoralists try to maintain their traditional lifestyles, but face economic and social stress due to an increasingly arid environment and political disenfranchisement.
Working with PEAR Innovations, a non-profit community development organization, Laura Lemunyete noticed the beautiful baskets produced by Rendille women for milking camels, and started marketing the products. With Samburu and Rendille women in the village of Ngurunit, she facilitated the formation of the Ngurunit Basket Weavers Group in 2004 to help relieve the economic pressures they were facing. Laura, a former Peace Corps volunteer in Nepal, enlisted the aid of Grover Ainsworth, a current Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya. Together they are making these baskets a major source of income for the villagers, and maintaining an important tradition within the community.

PARTICIPANTS

Ngaharin Lebitileg, Ngurunit, Kenya
Ngaharin is a master weaver and a member of a local choir. She is very active in the Ngurunit Basket Weavers Group, founded in 2004 by Samburu and Rendille women in the village of Ngurunit, Kenya, with the help of a Peace Corps volunteer. Ngaharin helps teach new basket designs to other weavers.

Lilian Nalilian Lekadaa, Ngurunit, Kenya
Lilian is the manager of the Ngurunit Basket Weavers Group. She helps with translation, has been trained in quality control and management techniques, and mobilizes the women to assist in the implementation of new ideas and concepts. Lilian is also a member of a local choir.

Laura Lemunyete, Maralal, Kenya, Returned Peace Corps Volunteer
Laura is the founder of PEAR (Participatory Education, Awareness and Resources) Innovations, a non-profit, community-based organization that supports the women basket weavers of Ngurunit through locating new and secure markets, giving business advice and consultation, and working to empower the women through entrepreneurial activities. Laura was a Peace Corps volunteer in Nepal and her husband is from Rendille, Kenya. She and her family are very committed to the people of northern Kenya and have done much to bring greatly needed attention and resources to the traditional pastoralists of the north. Laura’s organization PEAR Innovations helped transform basket weaving among the women of this region from a recreational hobby to a vibrant and profitable source of income that contributes to the preservation and expansion of this important traditional art form.

Nkerisapa Lewano, Ngurunit, Kenya
Nkerisapa is a very skilled master weaver and a committed member of the Ngurunit Basket Weavers Group. Nkerisapa is helping to design a new woven line of jewelry.

Ntomulan Loibor, Ngurunit, Kenya
Ntomulan is a dedicated chairlady of the Ngurunit Basket Weavers Group, founded in 2004. Ntomulan helps to organize and mobilize other group members.

click to enlarge and view captions