ZAMBEZI DOLL COMPANY
The Zambezi Doll Makers in 2012
Before the Mama Bakhita Cheshire Home came into being in 1996, there were few options for children with handicaps in Livingstone. They stayed at home and many were kept out of sight because of prejudice and shame. When the Mama Bakhita opened, the free services they offered, such as education, physiotherapy and medical attention, gradually made people aware that these children could learn and contribute to their community.
Still, the lack of work and the minimal pay scale for the menial jobs available left their mothers struggling to pay rent and feed their families. Having handicapped children made working that much harder. It was clear that these women needed income.
It seemed to me that a simple, handmade doll could be a valuable product that the mothers of children at the Mama Bakhita Home might be able to produce and sell.
And so, Zambezi Dolls were born....
In 2010 I spent three weeks working with these women to develop a doll that could be made entirely by hand, and could be sold for enough money to make an economic difference in their lives.
Over the months and years, this group of women evolved into a true cooperative. Together they produce beautifully made dolls, entirely sewn by hand. Every detail has been studied and practiced, and the quality of each stitch is evident.
Listen to the harmony of the Zambezi Doll Makers at work
Each doll is unique and no two are alike. This makes them very special indeed and ensures variety and creativity for the doll makers. As each woman advances her skill level, she can take on new and more difficult aspects of the process, like embroidering the faces and designing new hair styles. They are rightly proud of their achievements. And any child anywhere can find the doll that is right for them.