From a Small Town Beginnings to Big City Dreams
Small Town Beginnings
Farai spent his childhood in Chitungwiza, a small Zimbabwean rural town outside of Harare. His mother raised a large family of five children after his father died of TB in 1996. Farai endeavours to support his mother and sister who still reside in Zimbabwe. Fortunately, each of his siblings is doing what he can towards their family cause.
For Farai, doing wirework was as much part of his childhood as learning to read. He cannot attribute his expertise to exact formal training. Rather, most of his craft training came from making toys such as street cars with found materials.
Farai explains how he and his family became subjected to increasing political harassment and economic hardship in Zimbabwe. The ruling party would exert great coercive pressure on his family to vote for them. His mother was too old to go out and work but he and his two brothers were ready to seek their fortunes and make a difference.
Big City Dreams
Farai thrives in city life. His great people’s skills and savvy business know how make him successful. His confidence and charm made him our perfect representative for World Fair Trade Day 2010. The event was a vibrant market day and Farai’s demonstration of tin can flower making drew many fascinated visitors. Another of his public appearances was during the FIFA 2010 World Cup festivities. Farai could be found along the famous “Fan Walk,” painting the faces of many ecstatic football fans on their way to the stadium.
He dreams of great things both for his craft making and his lifestyle. For Farai, his professional highlights are constructing large scale sculptures such as an impressive 1.2m shark made of wire and bead. Large orders and large products challenge and excite him. He also dreams of travelling to cities far larger than Cape Town. He would love the opportunity of exploring places like Australia, USA and Canada and is delighted when he can produce orders for international clients. He only wishes he could meet these people in person and thank them for supporting him, appreciating his talent and believing in the importance of his craft.
On the flipside, he explains that all too often, people don’t get to see or appreciate the person and story behind the craft. On the street, the industry is tough with much competition and little reward. He explains that for some orders there are heavy time constraints and he would work endless hours, even throughout the night for the business opportunity. He is happy to work on larger orders with African Home, knowing that we try as much as is possible to offer a fair trade wage. He just wishes that craft could be valued in the consumer market for the real time, effort and skill that it entails.
Hopes and Disappointments
South Africa is not an easy place for foreigners, Farai explains. The Xenophobia attacks that swept through the country in 2008 left his workshop ransacked and looted. He lost both artwork and hope. 2010’s World Cup has been a great source of hope for many crafters and sadly, even this world renowned event wasn’t as lucrative as they’d all expected. Moreover, more grumblings of xenophobic action are starting in the wake of post World Cup South Africa.
So what keeps Farai going?
Christmas, is his answer. It’s a time he feels confident can bring in the business he needs to support himself and his family. Christmas is a gift to crafters as much as it is to those who receive the craft. By supporting the craft industry rather than mass produced imported items, consumers celebrate the spirit of Fair Trade. It is a spirit called ‘Local isLekker’ (Local is great) where consumers can be assured that buying something ‘Made in Africa’ means they are making a difference to many talented crafters like Farai Kanyemba.