Green and Bear It
Art and commerce rarely enjoy an easy partnership. At market, the price assigned to each is a reflection of the value placed on the specialized labor through which it was produced. Outreach’s community partners in DR Congo found a way to derive art from commerce in their search for a sustainable level of income, then turn their art back into something salable.
In the midst of their country’s ongoing political and social upheaval, those living in DR Congo were running out of options. As the country’s infrastructure splintered, work grew increasingly scarce; even the military forces providing muscle for a corrupt regime had difficulty acquiring a day’s rations with their meager pay. With few conventional employment prospects available, it was time to get creative.
Musans, a member of Outreach Congo’s field team, suggested that the men and women of the Katanga community who were unable to find steady work form a partnership to increase their chances of shared success. Calling themselves the “Union Tailors of Malachite of Katanga,” these artisans pooled their resources and experiences to build a communal workshop in the municipality of Ruashi, where each can use the shared tools and generators to increase their collective malachite output, and thus, increase their individual income by selling a higher volume at market. Before their partnership, members all had the experience and ability to craft malachite, but lacked the specialized tools and machinery needed to complete their work.
The malachite, sourced from copper mines near Ruashi using funds contributed by each artisan in the collective, is carefully cut and separated into rough approximation of its final half-ovoid form, then hand-polished to smooth any rough spots before being sanded, cleaned, and shined. Each piece takes around a half-hour to produce, and depending on the complexity of their work, a given artisan can craft up to 20 pieces per day.
The malachite jewelry crafted by the Union Tailors of Katanga in summer, 2016 was purchased by Outreach to offer for sale in this year’s Sustainable Gifts Catalog. Each artisan was paid a fair wage for their efforts— an outcome that demonstrates the efficacy of The Outreach Process, where people work together to forge solutions that serve as sustainable means to increase income and resolve chronic poverty.
The artisans “feel proud of their work, and are proud to be recognized,” said Musans, OI DR Congo facilitator. “Their confidence in their ability to resolve their problems has been reborn! They feel that they are not abandoned and feel as if a force is pushing them to work harder.”
Visit the Outreach Shop today to purchase your own unique piece of malachite*. Wearing this beautiful symbol serves as an opportunity to share stories of Outreach’s work, and also to highlight our lasting impact in communities worldwide.
*Supplies are limited to 200 pieces, though the hope made possible through your support is unlimited.