It is a Monday afternoon at Kanguni village in the Kavango East region, northeast Namibia. Under a tree, with a sharp gouge, long time resident of Kanguni, Petrus Kwitu was perfecting a canoe sculpt out of a tree trunk.

He is carving for one reason- hoping that the piece of art would generate him an income.

In sight are hand-made carvings and pottery on display that he sells on the side of the road, close to his house. He is one of the many wood carvers in the region who makes a living from this craft.

“I am happy I am talented in wood carving. I venture into this trade, hoping to earn a substantial income,” said Kwitu.

According to Kwitu, carving and perfecting the wooden canoe takes him about two weeks.

But trading with canoes and sculpt over the years has not been easy for the artist. The unstable market is thwarting him.

“Selling the product is proving to be a challenge. The customers come in small numbers. If you are lucky, you get a tourist who buys your product,” he said.

Decline in the number of customers has led to the unsustainability of the market and made it difficult for wood carvers to prosper.

Kwitu is not the only artist in the region worried about their future. According to Abel Ngongo, more often, prices have to be negotiated. Negotiating with customers is also a challenge for Ngongo.

“We don’t have customers to buy every day. We get two or three customers per week or even monthly on a bad month. As a result, we usually sell at negotiated prices,” Ngongo said.

Of late, products initially priced at 1,000 Namibian dollars (77 U.S. dollars) can be marked down even up to 500 Namibian dollars (38 U.S. dollars).

“At times, we have to sell the products for as little as 300 Namibian dollars (23 U.S. dollars),” bemoaned Ngongo.

Samuel Mbambo, Governor of the Kavango East Region, said that wood carving is one of the region’s trademarks.

“Wood carving has been an integral part of the culture of the many tribes in the region. And as such, many have turned to it for income generation,” he said.

Mbambo also acknowledged the plight of the wood carvers, especially those trading in rural areas.

To address the plight of the wood carvers, the governor said the region will look into conducting empirical research on the wood carving and crafts trade in the region to find out how much they earn in revenue.

“I would like to see research conducted on this trade, especially the informal market chain and establish how much they generate revenue and its market chain thereof. The end result would be to seek ways and establish stronger markets for them, an alternatively see how this can be accelerated if they can be linked to mainstream markets,” according to Mbambo.

In the meantime, while the governing office seek ways to address their plight, Kwitu said that he would continue carving out of passion.

“I also have to earn the little that I can to sustain my family and livelihood,” he said, as he starts carving a small elephant out of wood which he hopes will sell. Enditem

Source: Johanna Absalom, Xinhua/

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