Damascene works in the sculpture department and below is his story…….
I started doing wood carving when I was still a boy of 15 years old. I was born in a poor family and I was not able to study - I never stepped foot in a class. But I loved wood carving. I did this as a job, taking odd jobs, but I used to get paid very badly and it was hard to survive. Life was terrible.
I started working at Kaz’O’zah Art in 2014 after being introduced by a friend of mine who was working there. I learnt to make different kinds of products. I learnt that making high quality products and keeping to timeframe was very important – to me this is key.
I feel very accepted working at Kaz’O’zah Art. The working environment is very impressive. Every person respects each other’s work. It makes it easy for me to concentrate on what I am doing. Before working with Kaz’O’zah Art, the highest amount of money I ever got was 100,000 (Burundian) Francs, but there is a job I did for Kaz’O’zah Art where I was able to get 2 million Francs at once.
I am married and have three children. Having a family is not easy when you cannot afford to feed them, but my life is different now. Two of my children who are in primary school are continuing with their studies and I am able to provide for them. I am happier as a person and more confident as a man.
Since I was young I have dreamt of buying cows and building my own house. Now I have three cows. I haven’t yet, but I am sure that one day soon I will build a house.
I am really glad that I got the opportunity to be recruited in the first Session of the (Art Innovation Incubator) training program. There is so much that I can apply to my skills which I never knew before and though I am not fluent in English, I can give directions, and say and respond to greetings. Finding myself in a class studying gives me a lot of joy, because I never thought in my entire life I would ever go to school.
Damascene has shown a huge attitude shift in his time at Kaz’O’zah Art. He, understandably, was motivated heavily by income when he first started. Now, his focus is on being a team player, putting his utmost in to finishing jobs and his own self development.
Congratulations to Damascene and all the best in his future endeavours.
Victor Ndayishimiye started to work for Kaz’O’zah Art exactly two years ago, in November 2013. At nineteen years old he is one of our younger artisans, but he is already the main artisan in the leather-working department. When Victor started as a seventeen year old, he had no experience in leather-working and had no knowledge of how to design modern fashion products. But through training and with his positive attitude and willingness to learn, Victor is now making products that are highly sought after by his customers – from individuals to large organizations, such as Population Services International and Kenya Commercial Bank (Burundi).
Victor has now progressed to the level where he can work independently and with only minimal guidance, but he also shares his expertise and helps his colleagues whenever they need it. He loves his job and is great at it, but he still aspires for more. Victor hopes that in the future he can further develop his leather-working skills and one day become a professional trainer.
Violette comes from a family of 9 children, and before joining Kaz’O’zah Art, she had no artisan or design skills and was unemployed. Violette had seen the products the artisans at Kaz’O’zah Art made. She fell in love with them and wanted to learn how to make such designs herself. She got the opportunity to join the team of artisans at Kaz’O’zah Art in November 2013 and she has never looked back.
Violette is a highly skilled and passionate jewelry maker who has mastered diverse skills. Through her training at Kaz’O’zah Art, she is now able to make all of the product lines produced by the jewelry department and produces high quality products at great speed. Violette prides herself on always being at work on time and on forming good relationships with her colleagues. Despite having grown continuously in skill and expertise, Violette confesses that she still loves learning new things and she hopes in the future to diversify and develop painting skills to produce hand-made wall hangings.
The opportunity provided by Kaz’O’zah Art to earn a living is something Violette values dearly. As the second oldest child in her family, she uses the income she earns to pay school fees for her 7 younger brothers and sisters, as well as buy school materials for some of her extended family.
Her work has helped Violette in ways other than just money though. She feels her lifestyle and self-esteem have been improved through learning a skill and succeeding at work and she now dreams of producing jewelry for the international market and, eventually, using her skills to secure a job overseas.
In the 3 years that Aloys has worked for Kaz’O’zah Art he has become highly skilled in traditional Burundian weaving techniques, as well as becoming the artisan our creative team turns to in order to test new designs and styles because of his close attention to instructions and clear and knowledgeable questions and suggestions.
At 57, Aloys is one of our older artisans, and he brings a positive, mature and professional attitude to his work. Aloys is never late, despite having to walk 12km (7.5 miles) from his home in rural Bujumbura each day.
Aloys is a father of nine children and prior to joining Kaz’O’zah Art he made ends meet by selling weaved products he had made along the roads into Bujumbura city. He remembers this time as being very tiring and frustrating – sometimes he would not have a single customer in a day. This made it difficult for Aloys to provide for his family. He struggled to send his children to school as he could not afford the materials, and it was difficult for he and his wife to put food on the table each day.
Aloys was introduced to Kaz’O’zah Art by his brother, Emile, who also works here in October 2012. Aloys had a strong desire to provide for his wife and children and to bring an end to their life of poverty - so he was excited to gain employment with Kaz’O’zah Art. Aloys feels proud and happy because of his job at Kaz'O'zah Art as he earns a stable, monthly wage. Gone are the days where he would set out in the morning with no idea of how much he would earn. Aloys’s six school age children now regularly attend school with all the books and pens they need. For Aloys a great development over the last 3 years is that his children no longer worry about having enough food or whether they will be able to finish school. He has also been able to renovate and put a roof on his two bedroom house and hopes to extend it in the future.
The Kaz’O’zah Art production team loves working with Aloys. He takes great pride and responsibility in each piece he produces and consistently provides updates, mid-production, as to his progress, allowing for an efficient production process. He does not like waste, so is extremely economical in the material he uses to produce his weaved products.
When you first meet Nickson you are immediately drawn to him because of his friendly smile and humble manner. Since joining the Kaz’O’zah Art team in January 2014, Nickson has solidified his place as one of the most hard working yet positive artisans in the team.
Nickson’s father died when he was 17 and still at school. Whilst a love of learning meant that Nickson would have liked to continue his studies, his mother could no longer afford his school fees. Nickson stopped school and trained to carve animal ivory in order to earn money to help support his mother and 3 siblings. Nickson soon learned that earning a living carving animal ivory was incredibly difficult – the income was low and as animal ivory was illegal the work was risky.
Realising this, at the end of 2013 Nickson sought out a friend who worked for Kaz’O’zah Art. Nickson’s positive attitude and dedication to learning and working was immediately obvious and he was given a full time position. Through training provided by Kaz’O’zah Keza (the non-profit organisation of Kaz’O’zah Art), Nickson’s skills working with animal ivory were repurposed to allow him to work with vegetable ivory, and create unique jewelry pieces from this much more sustainable and eco-friendly (not to mention legal) material. Nickson’s ever growing skill set also includes leather work, and he is now able to create sandals and shoes.
Whilst Nickson was not able to finish his schooling, he loves that his job at Kaz’O’zah Art allows him to train and study and to constantly learn new skills. Nickson recently undertook a ‘Train the Trainer’ course provided by the Kaz’O’zah Keza Artisan Innovation Incubator (AII) program to learn, and teach others, how to make paper bags. He is also now enrolled in a non-vocational training course under the AII. In this course, Nickson will learn basic business skills, workplace health and sanitation and English.
For Nickson, working at Kaz’O’zah Art is more than providing him an income to help him support his family – “It is allowing me to make my educational dreams come true.”
Nickson’s attitude and dedication to self-improvement is an inspiration to the rest of the Kaz’O’zah Art team.
At Kaz’O’zah Art, Priscilla Nyeretse is called Bibi, the respectful title given to older women in Burundi. Priscilla has lived through many turbulent years; she lost her parents and sister during the civil war in 1995, as well as her niece and nephew. Whilst she had learnt jewelry making skills early in life, she had never earned enough from her skills to support herself or her family. Priscilla would earn only a small amount from what she sold, and orders were never consistent.
Despite this, Priscilla has an incredibly positive attitude, and a lot of her happiness comes from her training and work at Kaz’O’zah Art. “I am happier because I have a full time job and earn a consistent monthly wage. I can pay rent for myself and support my child and my grandchildren.”
Since joining Kaz’O’zah Art, Priscilla has expanded her skill set – originally only able to make simple pieces, she can now make the entire range of Kaz’O’zah Art jewelry – her specialty being the multi-colour Perla Classic necklace that takes 2 to 3 weeks to complete.
Importantly, Priscilla has passed on her training and skills – she has trained 29 artisans in the Bubanza and Buterere regions of Burundi in jewelry making.
Priscilla’s latest achievement has been in the Art Innovation Incubator program run by our non profit arm, Kaz’O’zah Keza. She has been excited to learn basic business skills, as she dreams of one day starting her own jewelry making cooperative. Priscilla loves that she now has the knowledge to write a business plan, which she considers the first step for any business, no matter what the size. She can now also communicate in basic English. “I would not be stuck now if I had a client who could only speak English, though I might not be able to have a long conversation with them just yet.”