Emmanuel the Alchemist

Whats your name & age :
My name is Emmanuel Simat and I am 28 years of age.

Where do you come from:
I come from Kajiado County Kenya and from the Maasai tribe.

Tell us a bit about your work:
My work is making jewellery using recycled materials like brass, cow bones, cow horns
and wood, I also make leather belts and bangles using processed cow leather merged with Maasai beads.

You are very passionate about your work, what do you love about it:
I am very passionate about my job as I can say jewelry making is a skill I first learned from my mom who raised us.

She made beading belts and other Maasai attires, if I wanted a pair of shoes or a school uniform my mom would make me bead some belts which she would sell and buy me what I wanted, this taught me self reliance from a very early age.

I came to learn more about fine jewelry making and brass casting after working for a UK based jewelry company which had a base here in Kenya. I managed to meet very influential world designers and this encouraged me to go for a jewelry making course and made me a great jewelry maker. I love seeing beautiful pieces coming out of what is deemed to be trash and ugly and no longer usable. The glow on the peoples faces whenever they see the end product always gave me great satisfaction. I have group of eight boys who handle the brass casting and machine work and about 6 ladies who help me with the beadwork and assembling, I manage to give them a consistent and very fair wage, sustainability of my business is very important as my workers and I solely depend on this for our needs and financial support.

Whats the biggest struggle?
My biggest struggle is getting good markets that appreciates and gives value for our work, consistent clients whose orders can give us some sort of stable and dependable supply of work and finance, I also have challenges getting the right tools for fine jewelry making as most of this cannot be found in Kenya and the prices are a bit high. We tend to get held back from making far much better and classic jewelry due to lack of funds to explore better materials, designing costs and initial cost charges that’s paid before venturing into big craft fairs and sales.

Our aim is to support Emmanuel and his group to be able to explore for better material and better tools so we all can keep doing what we LOVE

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Hamadi the Tailor

We think sustainable fashion is timeless fashion. We also think that creating work opportunites were there are less is a good thing.

Malaika Cotton work closely with the production of our items to ensure fair conditions, minimal environmental footprint and happy workers.

Malaika Cottons Daywear is produced in the only WFTO* factory producing garments in Kenya, named Kiboko Leisure Wear.  It’s a small but effective team, currently they have about 80 team members but still focused on efficiency. 10% of the team are working in the management (mainly women)  45 woman and 25 Men.

For all our samples and part of our production is made in our own workshop in Kenya. Our first co-worker and skilled tailor was Hamadi.

Here is his story:

Born in his home in the Kinondo Village in Kenya near us, by mother Zuhura. At that time they did not record dates or years, but he thinks he is soon to turn 50 years old. He was born in the season of the rains.

He started sewing when he was about 15 years old about 1969.His mother took him to their neighbor who was a tailor, Mze Kassim. Kassim thought him how to sew. He stayed with Kassim for 5 years learning and eventually working together as a team. In his 20s he worked for a local dressmaking company for a few years. He meet his wife Asha in his 30s and got 5 children together (Bidja, Asha, Maoa, Saidi, Rashid). He then resumed to work on his own in the village until he joined us 9 years back for several projects and he is now our head tailor for Malaika Cotton workshop

If you ask Hamadi what he thinks about sewing, he smiles and says: Na penda sana (I love it)

*World Fair Trade Organization

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Interview: Mikaela Thimmig Bonde

Interview with Swedish daily news, SVD Magasinet,  with Malaika Cotton co-founder and designer Mikaela Thimmig Bonde regarding our production, philosophy and sustainability.

 

Berätta om vårens och sommarens kollektion från Malaika, vad kännetecknar den? 

Vi försöker jobba så säsongsfritt som möjligt, en del av av Malaikas filosofi, våra produkter skall helst inte vara så trendkänsliga utan kunna fungera och bli vackra med slit och tid oavsett säsong. Till vår hemkollektion adderar vi just nu ”Doom palm” brickor och skålar – ett coolt trä matrerial med grova fibrer och som gör texturen prickig. Användningsområden är många- för kök men även för badrum, för vardagsrum eller för att sortera hemmets olika småsaker i. (skålar & brickor- bilder finns i bildmappen). Fantastiska ullfiltar från får på i kenyanska höglandet- allt vävt på gamla vävstolar för hand. 
Sen har vi även tagit fram kimonos i vår extremt mjuka bomull. De är vändbara och kan användas på många olika sätt- likaså här är tanken att designa för många olika användningsområden och tillfällen. Kimonon kan bli en klänning eller rock eller strandplagg och vändas utochin till ett annat mönster om man vill byta look. Vi tänker att det är det enda plagg du behöver ha med på resan. Armband gjorda av lergods har vi också i produktion just nu. De handrullas och glaseras sedan i våra mönster.
I färg och form, finns det en tråd mellan hemmet och Malaika? 
Ja det gör det nog omedvetet-jag gillar handgjorda saker med känsla som inte är så perfekta där skavankerna blir en del av uttrycket. Sen tycker jag om färg och mönster och oväntade möten. Men det är så svårt att se på sitt hem med objektiva ögon- här finns saker som man samlat på sig genom åren och så har det bara blivit så som det är. Det är inte så genomtänkt och konceptuellt kanske.. men trivsamt och utrymme för alla i familjen att vara kreativa.
Afrika – en stor kontinent förvisso men … – förknippas ofta med starka färger. Hur ser du på färg och form som uttrycksmedel i ditt hem? 
Jag är både och- ibland har jag mönster och färgdille och mixar och matchar hejvilt och ibland vill jag bara ha lugn och ro, enklare färgskalor och mer avskalat så det ändras om en del och jag byter mellan två olika lägen. Generellt kanske heminredning är lite seriöst och allvarligt i de svenska hemmen- färg och mönster är ju kul och det finns mycket humor och oväntade färgkombinationer i vissa delar av afrikansk textildesign som jag älskar.
Malaika förenar estetik och etik, hur har detta utvecklats? T ex med arbetstillfällen. 
Sedan vi startade för några år sedan så har vi producerat lokalt och i vår egen workshop dvs på verandan hos min kompis och Malaika partner Idas hus i Kenya. Där har vi haft våra skräddare syendes på gamla singermaskiner, och när vi sålt mer har vi kunnat ge mer jobb till dem. Vi jobbar även med lokala hantverkare som tex Mama Cosmos som gör alla våra trä produkter. (Läs hennes story här: https://malaikacotton.com/stories/) och har på så sätt kunnat skapa arbetstillfällen som gör att hon kan försörja sina 5 barn. Våra korgar tar vi fram i samarbete med ett kvinnokollektiv där vi betalar kvinnorna som väver direkt utan mellanhänder och pga av det kan vi betala schysta löner som de kan leva och försörja sig på. Nästan allt material vi använder oss av kommer från olika delar i Kenya, många från mindre hantverkskollektiv som ligger långt ifrån allfarsvägar- där blir vår business avgörande för deras försörjning. Vi hämtar mycket inspiration från Kenya, mönster, färger, naturmaterial och människor som vi förenar med vårt skandinaviska design arv.Viktigt när vi började var att göra produkter på ett bra sätt- inte bara producera. Det måste ge något mer än bara fina saker.
Den tanken och inställningen har vi burit med oss genom vårt arbete och kommit att genomsyra det vi gör och vi tittar hela tiden på hur vi kan jobba mer hållbart och därmed utveckla oss som producenter och designers.

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Queen of Wood: Mama Cosmos

Favourite food: Maiz and Beans

Favoutire drink: Any soda.. but not to much..

Favourite book: The Bible

Splurge: Going to the hair salong twice monthly

Dream: To one expand my business and travel, Any country is ok, I just really want to work.

What do you do on your resting day: Go to church and visit friends.

Meet Mama Cosmos, the woman behind all the wooden work we produce for Malaika Cotton. We have known Mama Cosmos since 10 years now. We didn’t meet under the best of circumstance as the story unfolds below. But nowadays we are both very happy we did meet. Thanks to her business, Mama Cosmos has been able to put all her 5 children through school and they are all in good shape. We meet at our Malaika Cotton Workshop in Diani, Kenya.

Mama Cosmos real name is Doris Munwava Cosmos, she was born 1972 in Machakus, north of Nairobi, Kenya. She was nr 8 of 10 siblings. Her mother worked in the Shamba, the vegetable garden and her father was a Policeman.

When she was 17 her father passed away in an accident. She had by then finished form2 and there was no more money for school fees, so she started working with her mum and helping out in the household.

During the school era she had meet a nice boy named Ngei Cosmos. They were young then but she had an eye for him. Years later she travelled to Mombasa, Kenya to work as a maid in a wealthier Kenyan house. And there she meet Ngei again! He was working as a salesman selling souvenirs and artifacts. This time they got together and married later that same year. They would come to have 5 children together.

We did meet Ngei for the first time during the period when we first came to Kenya some 10 years ago, when we were building up our hotel. He came to see us for a meeting to show us what he could do for us. We started working together on a few projects and we were always delighted of his delivery.

But instead I met a strong looking woman with confident. And even if her voice was small and shy her posture said something else.

By the sudden Ngei collapsed and died on the spot. It was never clear exact cause of death but most likely a hart attack. By this time we had not meet Doris (aka Mrs Cosmos). A few days after the tragedy of Ngeis death I received information that Mr Cosmos wife was at the hotel for a meeting. I prepared myself to meet a grieving woman who just lost her husband and might come to ask for help and support for her family. But instead I met a strong looking woman with confident. And even if her voice was small and shy her posture said something else. She was not at all asking for help, she was at the meeting to inform me that the order I placed with her husband was almost ready to deliver. I remember leaving that meeting with a lot of emotions and of course I knew I would try to create as much work for her as possible.

“If my children now sees me weak they will also be weak, so I need to be strong”.

Today when she tells us that we helped her business on track. Thanks to her business she was able to put her kids to school. She tells us with a big smile, I can just smile right back at her.

Mrs Cosmos is a very cool and inspiring person and we are happy to have been able to provide her work throughout the years. She says God gives her strength and she remember when Ngei died and she thought: “If my children now sees me weak they will also be weak, so I need to be strong”.

I ask her about the respect, as a woman, taking over her husband´s business in a male dominated business-world. She says: “Your need to respect yourself to earn the respect from others.”

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Ojai – a boost for the body, mind & soul

The spiritual hub of Ojai is hands down one of my favourite LA getaways. Tucked up in the mountains above Santa Barbara, this gem of a town has everything one wants when escaping the big city; silence, fresh air, beautiful mountains and a spiritually charged energy. Not to mention delicious organic food, accessible hikes, yoga, hot springs, a Meditation mountain and great shopping. Yes, it sounds like a paradox but the town has the perfect balance.

 

A few years back, after having spent a couple of days solo at the Ojai Rancho Inn, I was so happy and recharged that I promised myself to treat myself to at least one solo retreat a year from then on. My experience in Ojai made me wonder why I hadn’t started this brilliant tradition years ago! I’ve kept that promise to myself ever since and can conclude that a place which inspires you to spend time with yourself is definitely a place to hold close to your heart. I recently returned with family and friends and discovered that Ojai is just as great of a getaway whether solo or travelling in a group. Good spa and restaurant experiences abound and the quaint town can easily be explored by foot. A great big park and playground in the center of town will give tired legs a rest and keep toddlers and older kids entertained.

 

Palo Alto: the wood, not the town

Chances are you will smell the fresh scent of burning Palo Alto, aka Holy Wood sticks, when roaming around town. The mystical tree grows on the coast of South America and has become a frequent atmosphere enhancer in many serene places in California. The wood, which comes in many forms (sticks, essential oils, perfume, candles etc) is said to hold healing and relaxing properties and smells heavenly. Don’t shy away from it.  You are in the perfect spot for mixing serenity and adventure so take deep breaths and get down with the Ojai vibes.

Ojai Rancho Inn by night.

STAY

Ojai Rancho Inn
To stay here is like dying and going to Motel Heaven! Down to earth, cosy yet sophisticated and with a great bar to boot.  It’s one of my favourite places to stay in California.  Their bar Chief’s Peak is definitely worth visiting even if you’re staying elsewhere. This is where the coolest locals come to enjoy great music and a superb wine selection.

 

Ojai Valley inn
If you feel like a more glamorous resort experience, Ojai Valley Inn is the place for you. The hotel’s grounds with several restaurants and a well renowned spa is absolutely stunning. This is the I-want-everything-within-my-reach treatment in full effect. If you just want a little taste of it, admiring it while having lunch or dinner is a good option.  You can also book treatments and visit the spa without having to stay at the hotel.

Beacon coffee breakfast yum!

FOOD // DRINK

Farmer and the Cook
An fantastic Organic food haven with a delicious Mexican food style café, grocery store and bakery all in one. Sit outdoors and listen to the locals mingle while getting fresh produce and take out. Keep your eyes open, a little bit down the road there’s great coffee to be had at Coffee Connection.
farmerandcook.com/

 

Beacon Coffee
Serving excellent and responsibly grown coffee that makes my picky coffee brain come back for more several times a day. I really recommend having your breakfast here as well.  Their semi-soft crisp bread with avocado and egg is truly to die for! Beacon coffee also hosts coffee classes where you can learn how to make the most of your coffee at home.
beaconcoffee.com/

instagram: beaconcoffee

 

Chief’s Peak
The great wine and beer bar at Ojai Rancho Inn. See above.
ojairanchoinn.com/chiefspeak/

 

The Nest
Everything I’ve had a the Nest has been absolutely delicious. Healthy but tasty bowls and fun dishes.  A great place for dining in or taking out.  It’s very popular so call in advance to avoid the wait for take out.

instagram: thenestojai

SHOPPING

Cattywampus
The most wonderful store that also runs crafts classes where you can learn how to knit or sew. A very exciting discovery for me was that Cattywampus share the building with the great Beacon Coffee so you can easily take a shopping break and have top notch coffee and other delicious things.  cattywampuscrafts.com/

instagram: cattywampuscraftsojai

 

Summer Camp
Custom framing, vintage, home & lifestyle goods in an old Gas station. It’s hard to beat that combo. shopsummercamp.com/

 

Dekor & CO
A interior design store with lots of beautifully selected things from all over the world. A slight Scandianvian touch. You can also find another Dekor stor in Atwater village in LA.
dekorandco.com/

THINGS TO DO

Hike
Ojai has lots of beautiful hikes. I recommend the “Shelf Road” hike which is easy and includes great views of the Ojai valley along the way.
tripsavvy.com/the-best-hiking-trails-in-ojai-california-4145350

Meditate or Vegitate

Visit meditation Mountain , meditate or bring a picnic and enjoy the view. Just check their opening hours before you go, the hours are limited certain days.
meditationmount.org/visit/

Bathe in hot springs
ojaihotsprings.com/

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