Kenya's Kiondo Ownership

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Meet Mama Rebecca, she started an all female run village in Kenya where she helps young women run away from FMG, abuse and all sorts. Only enlightened men are allowed in. The young women can have relationships outside of the village. They can bring their babies up inside the village and children from outside are welcomed in to be educated.The community survive from making handcrafted accessories to sell to tourist. The first time Mama Rebecca and I spoke she called me 'my daughter' , I was in tears because I needed her the last 6 years - as a young single mother in this sometimes very brutal world (despite the smile and crown I wear), I related, not just to the safety net, but to what Fashion and escaping in creativity meant to me   

Before I became Miss Kenya and Miss East Africa UK. I had a dream to make it in the fashion industry and represent African Luxury. Before that, I was a little girl in Nairobi who got to see,touch and breath the magic sea of rural women who spent hours trailing to the city to sell or deliver accessories and handmade woven baskets. They take weeks to make.

THE KIONDO:  is a social exchange among Kenyan's. We like to compare, compliment, tell stories about our pieces, because no one is the same. Isn't that the very language Luxury speaks?

Current fashion trends are haunting me with woven baskets! 

They originate from Kenya’s Kikuyu tribe. They wove huts in spiral cone shapes, signifying limitless connection in each layer. From the ground representing natural certainty, to the top, symbolic of spiritual and supernatural realities.  Traditionally made from stripping the Sisal plant, an extremely durable material that doesn’t need any pesticides, chemicals or fertilizers to grow. Kikuyu’s would dance and practice community rituals, socially organizing themselves to reflect the same shape as the Kiondo hut. Kikuyu women carry these as a chalice of complex symbolic, spiritual architype. It has kept their craft alive through local trade as Kenya’s national emblem, tailor made by rural women, SO NO ONE IS EVER THE SAME. 

Now In the UK, I walk into high-street shops and pick up luxury handbags at department stores who are duplicating the Kiondo using leather and mass producing. But  I ask the representatives and search for labels hoping a leaflet falls out showing it was locally produced.  I was met with blank stares and  price tag nearly 500% more the price of an authentic Kiondo. The most expensive was approximately £1,700. 

The Kiondo and The Kikoy (a traditional Kenyan cloth) are extremely popular and exported to western markets. My Issue is not brands re-designing the bag. My issue is not including the people, the heritage, the sacred techniques passed on for centuries which happen to be sustainable. 

THIS IS DECIMATING LOCAL TRADE AND EXTREMELY TALENTED KENYAN ARTIST'S ARE HUNGRY! 

The claim that a Japanese company has patented our old- age ancestral cloth the Kikoy is a controversial issue in Kenya. I found a British registered company The Kikoy Company which seems to have offices in Kenya. So many have ripped this cloth out of our hands and we have allowed it, see Louis Vuitton's version  Read this link: https://ipkenya.wordpress.com/2011/07/07/kiondos-kikoys-and-shukas-intellectual-property-protection-in-kenya/

HOPE FOR THE KIONDO. 

Another British company tried to patent our old age basket and failed. But there does seem to be newly registered company 'Kiondo Limited' in April 2017. It is not clear what the company intends to trade. 

That could make 2 of Kenya's national treasures, cultural heritage, possibly not owned by our people. We need to skill Kenyan creatives to compete globally and protect their innovations. Let's bring this conversation to the front, before it is too late. 

Please sign the petition Kenyan's and lovers of Kenya.

I've launched The Rural Retail Challenge: asking Fashion, Art and Luxury to include the stories, sustainable techniques and craftsmanship of native people, in design  Be the resolution. Support The Rural Retail: 

www.theruralretail.com 

Instagram @theruralretail  

Thank you. 

 



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