The Gratitude of Iyaloo Sewing Project
When entering the Soutere Child Care Center in Goreangab, Windhoek, you need to be careful where to step. Rolls and rolls of Geotex are lined up in a well-organized set up, as the industrial sewing machines whiz and hum in the background.
Here, Kornelia Shaulwa and her sister Jovitha Junius, have rallied each one of their respectively five children, to form part of their innovative sewing business. From the oldest son (28), to the youngest daughter (11), they are all responsible for contributing to the family income.
Time is of the essence here, as they are busy with a very big job of producing thousands of fabric bags.
Destined for the swelling rivers in the Zambezi Region in the North of Namibia; the bags need to be sewn rapidly and sent 1500 km North where they will be filled with sand on the banks of the , Chobe-, Zambezi- and most probably also the Kwando Rivers.
This is just one of the many projects that you can entrust the sisters with. Founded in 2003, from Danielle and Rico Bruckert’s Windhoek garage, this family saw the capabilities of their housekeeper Kornelia and decided to help her by teaching her sewing skills. After adequate training, they began producing dog baskets, doggie accessories and took to market locally, trying to sell their products to the Namibian audience. Soon, home ware products such as cushion covers, duvet covers, aprons, placemats and bean bags for children were added to the range.
The breakthrough came when Kornelia started using old 33-inch vinyl records paired with leather and African-print fabrics as well as traditional and modern beads, to create unique handbags. These were subsequently scooped up and exported to Italy to a discerning fashion market. Iyaloo Sewing Project was now well underway to becoming a completely self-sustainable project.
In 2006, a stall became available at the Mezzanine Floor of the Namibia Craft Centre. This enabled the Katutura-based project to cooperate with the Matukondjo Dolls Project, to open a collaborative shop called Out of Katutura. This allowed for much greater reach and international tourists welcomed the variety of products on offer. Tourism grew yearly across the country, which prompted Kornelia and Jovitha to expand the range further, by producing a variety of soft toys for the tiny toddlers as they start their journey, from crawling to taking their very first steps. Crocodiles, giraffes, elephants, and rhinos are among the bestselling toys on offer. Shop The range here Iyaloo Products
Both being mothers, they designed baby backpacks, baby quilts, toiletry, and baby bags from the offcuts of their traditional materials used, a well-known custom in Namibia. These items add to their vast array of products and provide a much-needed diversification of income. They were also one of the first projects to use indigo dyed, printed Shweshwe fabric , which originates from South Africa. It is said that the name “shweshwe” or “shoeshoe” was named after its royal influencer, King Moshoeshoe. With the arrival of German settlers in 1858 to the Eastern Cape, bringing indigo cloth, the Xhosa women working for the Europeans received dresses in this material and soon geometric designs and a variety of colours were printed, calling it the Denim or Tartan of South Africa.
Kornelia’s vision for her family is future- proof and because of her incredibly hard-working nature as well as savvy business skills, she decided to take her profits to acquire a second-hand car to set up a taxi business for her eldest. She also invests into the education of all her children and teaches them that the only way forward in life is by never giving up and continuous willingness to work hard.
Kornelia purposefully chose the word “Iyaloo”, as it translates as “Thank You” in Oshiwambo. Despite struggling with a chronic disease for the last 15 years, Kornelia has an unparalleled determination and resolve. Hence, the concept of thankfulness has always framed her approach to life and the opportunities that have come her way.
Upon meeting the duo in 2005, Gondwana Collection Namibia started to cooperate with them to produce interior design features for their various properties. Since then, their beautifully curated products have made their way through many of the curio stores at their lodges and into the hands of many happy clients. With their latest listing on The Narrative Namibia, we say a grateful “Iyaloo” to the sisters, for their continuous dedication.
Written by: Sonia Noirfalise