Swahili offers a variety of quality handcrafted serving utensils hand carved from beautifully grained wild olive wood and creamy jacaranda. Most of our wild olive wood and jacaranda items are hand carved by Akamba, or Kamba, wood carvers who live in the Machakos district of Kenya.
African wild olive is a rich, warm wood native to Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe. The hardy evergreen tree's fruit is foraged by monkeys, birds and grazing animals. Heavy, dense and beautifully grained, wild olive wood carves into durable natural serving pieces that are approved for food safety by the FDA.
In compliance with Kenyan regulations, the Kamba carvers who craft our wild olive wood and jacaranda creations for export register with cooperatives. The cooperative then applies for necessary legal permits to fell trees. Once permits are in hand, carvers travel into the bush in groups for safety and set up a makeshift camp at the site of the felled tree.
Together, the carvers sit down and rough in the basic carving for items on their respective orders. Having a variety of items to work on allows the carvers to better utilize the tree. From large items like wild olive wood salad bowls down to small pieces like earrings, the carvers hew a collection of beautiful shapes from the wood. The carvers return to their homes to finish the carving, sanding and finishing on their items before delivering them to our export agent in Nairobi.
Through the Swahili network, artisans gain incomes through the work of their hands, while continuing to practice craft forms handed down through the generations or learned in response to an environmental surplus. Swahili introduces modern, creative designs and materials to skilled weavers, carvers, sculptors and textile workers. In doing so, we hope to increase both the flow of fairly traded African products into the United States and the export of income, ideas and accord to talented artisans across Africa.