• Donna Collins
Home makers who are getting in touch with their creative side, and need to replace those shabby pieces of old furniture without breaking the bank – should really consider the selection of ‘street furniture’ that is on display in most towns today.
‘Street furniture’ otherwise known as home crafted wood decor, presents the public with an exciting and affordable alternative as a means of sprucing up your current living style, whilst at the same time supporting the livelihood of people who need it the most. Furniture craftspeople are an industrious group of folks who usually hail from the Caprivi, Zimbabwe and other areas outside of the cities, where wood carving skills are being handed down from generation to generation. The far end of the parking area at Game in Windhoek offers a wide selection of such furniture on display, as well as Swakopmund where the municipality allocated a large open paved area running between Home Corp and Food Lovers Market. These pieces of furniture are all laid out for passers-by to see, ranging from attractive bed side tables, coffee tables, cabinets, bed head boards, bar stools, dining tables, dog houses to mention some.
This initiative by the municipality who has provided these vendors with lock up storage facilities, is to encourage the public to support and buy hand craft merchandise. When comparing the price of two bed side tables with cute pull out woven drawers costing around N$400 each, against a similar sets being sold at high end furniture departments for over N$1 300 a-piece, leaves little argument as to why the first option isn’t the better bet. One such seller is Mary Murembe who has been selling her family street furniture in Namibia for the past 15 years, and is from Harare. Her husband honed his furniture making craft from his father, which has passed on through generations, back then using more elaborate indigenous woods of their mother land.
Pine is the wood of choice they mostly work with for the smaller pieces, and unlike major furniture manufacturers, these people have to make do with makeshift ‘kambashu’ style workshops in the township areas where they live.
Pieces of wood are measured and cut by hand, carefully pieced together and styled, which are then either painted white or stained very dark brown. The use of woven reeds into baskets for drawers, or attractive inlays to offset a TV cabinet, is a feature that these Zimbabwean folk tell you is their “trade mark.”
“We are proud to be displaying our furniture to the public, and if we don’t have something you want, we can make it specially for you,” says Mary, adding that they have also taught many Namibians how to make ‘street’ furniture. “We would like it if more people bought handmade furniture from us street manufacturers, as every piece sold goes back into buying more material, and a livelihood to support our families in such hard times.”