Sanjan Handicrafts

Sanjan believes empowering lives and developing handicraft skills, in communities that live on fragile land, can help our environment. If committed to a sustainable future, such projects create a buzz in a community and this excitement is perhaps reward enough, but the vision these communities develop once such a project is successful is quite outstanding. After being involved with a rural community the very affinities that develop between the project coordinators the sponsors and the target group of villagers can be invigorating, enlightening but also highly frustrating. The potential is huge, the progress can be slow but it does lead to a better understanding of just why poor communities have such a difficult time in getting their goods to markets and why they must presently deplete their natural resources to survive. Moves to reverse such trends can be difficult indeed but in understanding a community better and in the case of Maasai Women’s Art, understanding the cultural obstacles these women face, it is realized that this understanding is priority number one. Initially these male dominated societies women live in can be less than helpful, but slowly and surely, as these women create better lives for themselves, their children and therefore their men; and by putting their villages ‘on the map’ the males have come to respect these projects and even assist them. Often the skills to produce high quality goods are already there and traditional handicrafts can be remodeled and promoted to help salability in not only the shops of a nearby city like Arusha but also in Europe or the Americas.

Empowered women help to stop social injustices and the spread of HIV. They can then improve the lives of their children and their men folk. They have always worked harder than the men and been more worthy community members-now they are getting the recognition they deserve!


Marina (Tati) Oliver (above left) has helped such projects in recent years and the target groups have been impoverished Maasai Women communities in Northern Tanzania. These women’s lives have changed; they have formed groups that have invested time and their own money, one of theses groups now owns its own promotional center. They have traveled, some for the first time, away from their rural homesteads and exhibited their jewelry in Dar es Salaam, Arusha and elsewhere in Tanzania. Their goods are on sale in Italy, Switzerland and elsewhere in Europe and Africa.

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Support these initiatives by buying such goods. But also by researching for a better understanding of how hard it is for poor communities, and particularly women, to get such projects off the ground and reap direct benefits from their labors. These women are brave indeed!


Sanjan is committed to promoting handicraft projects for a better environment by connecting with already established and recognized endeavors that are recycling waste items. East Africa faces a massive clean up campaign to rid its’ cities and urban areas of plastic after recent development surges. Some individuals are using used plastic bags, old shoes and plastic water bottles to make practical everyday items such as jackets and wash bags, whilst others are taking used wine bottles and discarded metals to create beautiful jewelry and handicraft items.

These efforts deserve praise and promotion. And Sanjan is doing just that by reusing broken tiles and old tent poles to make tables and other goods. Many ideas are in the pipeline to promote its own handicraft items as well as the pioneering efforts of others. A  Sanjan retail outlet will soon be established in Arusha to sell all these goods as well as the photographic work Sanjan photographers are producing. In Lamu Kenya, Daniela Bateleur, one of our photographers already owns and runs such a shop named; ‘My Eye Gallery’. It is located in Shela- Lamu. Check it out if there.


We can all be more responsible shoppers! Please buy handicrafts that are made from recycled waste items or goods made by local communities that are trying to empower themselves.

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