If you ask any Zambian what their favorite food is most will tell you that no meal is complete without nshima. Maize is the staple diet across the whole of Zambia and many ‘mealie meal’ bags are often left by the wayside. Now, a new ‘Amaizing bag’ project is recycling these iconic sacks into eco-friendly bags and accessories that are not only stylish and long-lasting, but benefit Zambians as well.
Founder and director of Tribal Textiles, Gillie Lightfoot, wanted to give something back to the local community of Mfuwe, on the outskirts of South Luangwa National Park. Seeing how many “mealie” sacks were being discarded, Gillie got in touch with the Zambian National Milling Corporation, who were desperate to dispose of their leftover bags. Gillie and her team are now creatively transforming these used sacks into eye-catching bags, purses, and pencil cases.
All of the profits from these one-of-a-kind bags go directly to local charity Project Luangwa to help educate children in the Luangwa Valley. Designed by Gillie with what she calls a “tribal twist,” Tribal Textiles makes the bags using National Milling maize sacks, with 100% of the income from sales donated to local education initiatives, giving school-aged children in the Mfuwe area, particularly orphans and disabled children, a better chance in life.
The fun and beautifully pieced together range of ‘Amaizing bags’ are truly Zambian, made in the heart of Zambia by local Zambians using Zambian ‘mealie meal’ sacks. So far, three local women, Dorica Phiri, Naomi Sauti, and Adella Mapulanga, have been trained and employed to sew this range of unique bags. These include shopping bags, laptop bags, and handbags that are unlike any other accessories out there.
Owning a bag made from a Zambian ‘mealie meal’ sack is like carrying around with you a small piece of Africa. Everywhere you go in Zambia, families are cooking maize on wood fires, filling the bellies of their children to make them strong and healthy. By buying an ‘Amaizing bag’ you are making a difference for the children of Mfuwe and creating a brighter future for Zambia.
For more information about the ‘Amaizing Bag’ project go to: www.tribaltextiles.co.zm
Find out more about Project Luangwa: www.projectluangwa.org
Text and photos by Marcus and Kate Westberg.