The first day Ruth Willatt arrived at Shanga in October 2017 she knew she had found a new place to call home. There were many reasons, but the main one was hearing the rhythms of weaving looms.
A swish and a swish, click clack, a swish and a swish, click clack….
Shanga has a very talented weaving team ready to try new designs when time allows, but there was one restriction to potential designs being the number of shafts on their looms. The shafts on a loom hold small wires called heddles that the threads (warp) are passed through that then determine what the finished pattern looks like. The more shafts the more pattern options.
In May 2019 we were approached by Nord, the founder of The Watoto Foundation, to see if we would like a new loom. A master carpenter from Holland, Ben van Tiel was coming to their workshop to do some training and they were looking for a project. With no hesitation and a very big “yes please”, the project took flight. Ben, our weaving team and I discussed loom designs, sizes, prepared wish lists and requested a loom with 8-shaft.
Over the next few months the design was perfected and the construction commenced. Under Ben’s expert and watchful eyes our Jackson and Jeremiah with the team from the Watoto Foundation built our new loom. Jeremiah already a skilled carpenter learnt new techniques and perfected some old ones while Jackson who had never used a hammer before, learnt skills to take him into another career if he ever chooses.
The day arrived for it to be delivered. When the truck arrived, it just looked like a load of timber. Slowly it was assembled with care, every piece interlocking perfectly until it became our beautiful new loom. What stands now in our workshop is a work of art that will outlive all of us.
We are now trying out different designs using all 8 shafts in between producing orders for double bed blankets. Unfortunately we can’t play all the time.
We would like to thank Nord, Ben, all the team at the Watoto Foundation and a donor who covered the cost for all the materials. When I sit at the loom with Maliki, who makes this loom sing, I am reminded how positive collaboration can be and how lucky we are to have been part of this one.
Shanga is a successful social enterprise which employs people with disabilities to create unique, high quality and handmade jewelry, glassware and homewares, incorporating recycled materials into many of our products. Shanga products are sold in Tanzania and around the world, with all profits being reinvested back into the development of new products; researching and implementing additional recycling methods into our activities.
Shanga’s purpose-built, open workshop is located in the grounds of Elewana Arusha Coffee Lodge and is a wonderful experience for visitors to meet the inspirational staff, to view and participate in the creative process behind Shanga products.