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#AfricanArt: Kenyan entrepreneur creates bags from old dhow sails

Samuel Kisambe, CGTN


Many fishermen in Kenya’s Lamu County still prefer to use dhows to catch their stocks and after every few years, their sails become worn out and have to be replaced.

But for Ali Omar Mohamed, old dhow sails are not to be thrown away because he found an innovative way to give them a new lease of life.

He came up with the idea of making bags out of the old dhow sails a venture that has so far created employment to more than 40 people.

Ali Omar was a local fisherman on the Kenyan island Lamu.

He came to Swiss photographer Daniela Bleattler for a job in 2008 and had no idea that they would soon become the owners of one of Lamu’s most well-known businesses.

“Ali Lamu is a growing family and to feed everyone every day, and send all the children to school, is another, not small challenge,” said Omar.

For Omar and Bleattler, who had sold their first piece of art to tourists visiting Lamu in 2008, their business now relies heavily on exports.

“We would never have survived if we had to depend on tourism in Lamu in these last three years,” explained Omar. “We made it because of exports, and this has been our focus for a few years. We produce everything in Kenya but sell outside of Kenya, so that we can survive through all weather.”

Despite the fall in tourism, Omar said the island still offers opportunities for business, although success will not necessarily come easily.

CCTV’s Maria Galang visited Omar in his workshop. Here is the story…


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100% Heartmade & Handmade bags, paintings and decor from vintage sailcloth to help make you fall in love with the earth and make a difference in Kenya.


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Lamu, Kenya  
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