our tribe: meet the makers

treaser mbewe

Theresa is in charge of Quality Control in the Dispatch office. This is where all the final goods after the production process go for inspection. Theresa organizes altering, packing and sorting of stock before they are shipped or sold.

Theresa lives in Chikbala village and rides her bike into work every day! She is the breadwinner in her family, providing for her parents and siblings as well as herself – a truly impressive feat. She chose to work at Tribal to pursue her interest in design and because of her love for the patterns and color hues that embody the African wildlife and surroundings in Mfuwe which are reflected in Tribal Textiles’ products.

Theresa has been with us for 19 years, starting work in September 2000. She moved her way through various departments such as painting and washing before she was given the position in the Dispatch department in 2010. Theresa loves her job very much and says that she really enjoys seeing the new designs that are produced every year. Her daily motivation to come to work every day is to support and care for her family.

Treaser Mbewe
Ruth Chipela

ruth chipela

Ruth has worked for Tribal Textiles for 6 years and is our Head of Finishing in the Sewing Department.

Ruth lives 6kms from Tribal Textiles along a palm-fringed, dusty lane. She lives with her nephew Isaac in a small house, surrounded by flower pots and friendly neighbours. As well as Isaac, Ruth also looks after her nephew Emmanuel and niece Sandra. They came to live with her after her sister died in 2005 and Ruth pays their school fees using her Tribal Textiles wages. Ever the entrepreneur, Ruth also runs a small business from her home, selling groceries that she travels 120kms to buy. Her wages from Tribal Textiles also help to fund this enterprise.

Ruth has big plans for the future. Of course, the children’s school fees come first, but as soon as she has saved up enough money she would like to build another 3 rooms onto her house so that the children have their own bedrooms. She is also planning to route an electricity supply to the house so that she can watch the Zambian football team Chipolopolo on her own television! We’re sure that with her fantastic work ethic, great initiative and positive approach, Ruth has a very successful future ahead of her.

Richard Mwanza

Richard is 42 years old and joined Tribal Textiles in 1998. He has risen through the company to become Head of Mixing, and it is his responsibility to mix all of our paint colours.

Richard starts with our water-based emulsion, to which he adds our paint pigments, and then mixes with giant wooden spoons to create a rainbow of vibrant paint colours. This is one of the most skilled jobs at Tribal Textiles. Richard was trained by colleagues Benjamin and Kennedy and it took him tree years to develop the skill he now has. He tells us that he enjoys the physicality of mixing and it is certainly a good workout! However there can be stressful times, especially when there are lots of orders going through production and Richard may have as many as 60 individual colours to mix. Even when things are busy, Richard still has to mix with precision and care to achieve the swatched colours.

Richard is married and has eight children aged 1- 17 as well as four dependents. He is using his Tribal Textiles wages to build a bigger house! Thanks to the regular and reliable income provided by his job with Tribal Textiles he has also been able to support four of his children through school up to Grade 12 (the Zambian government provides free schooling up to Grade 9). Richard’s wife works in the home, looking after the children and tending their crops of maize, rice and cotton. If the family enjoys a good harvest they sell the surplus through the local market.

Richard Mwanza
Mordicai

mordicai

Mordicai is 50 years old and has been working at Tribal Textiles since 2000. Before joining us he worked as a part-time volunteer teacher and then for the national electricity board. During this time he trained for six months as an electrician, which is one of the roles he fills at Tribal Textiles. His first job at Tribal Textiles was as a night watchman, but he soon made himself invaluable as an electrician and oven operator. 

He  enjoys his job very much – it allows him to gain lots of experience and is also very varied so there is never a boring moment. He also finds it very rewarding to have the responsibility for keeping all of Tribal’s equipment running. Mordicai is very aware of the challenges facing Zambia and his community. As well as poor healthcare provision he also worries about the lack of good employment opportunities. He says that Tribal Textiles is so important in the community because it provides stable jobs in a responsible company.

Without these jobs he knows many people would turn to poaching in the neighbouring national park, or illegal woodcutting to get by. He tells me he has seen many of his school friends go down this route and die young due to being trapped in the poverty cycle. In the future Mordicai is hoping to save enough to buy a car. At the moment he isn’t able to take his children to church as it is too far; he would like to own a car so they can attend as a family.

Evans chipampbe

Evans began working with Tribal Textiles in 2007 and was promoted to Head of Painting in 2011. Evans is a fantastic team leader and oversees the training and development of new painters, as well as the day-to-day management of our busy Painting Department. When asked what he gets most job satisfaction from, Evans tells us it’s “working with my team of people to produce good orders fast!”

Evans lives 3kms from Tribal Textiles in a house that he built over the space of 5 years. He tells us that he built the house ‘bit by bit’ using his wages from Tribal Textiles: in the first year he bought the roof, then in year 2 the bricks, in years 3 and 4 he built the walls and finally in year 5 he bought the door! Evans also runs a successful small holding from home, where he raises chickens, guinea fowl, pigs and goats and grows pumpkins, rice and maize amongst many other things! The income that Evans gets from selling these products at market supplements his Tribal Textiles wages and helps to pay school fees for his 6 dependents.

Three of Evans’ children attend Malimba Community School, the nearby primary school established and supported by Tribal Textiles. Dyman, age 13, is top of his class in English and wants to be a pilot so that he can travel to new places and support his parents when they grow old. Like most Zambian boys his age, Dyman loves football, and his dream is to watch the Zambian national football team Chipolopolo play a match live. If anyone can make this dream come true, it is his Dad Evans! With such a determined and positive attitude, we’re privileged to have Evans as part of our Tribal Textiles team, and we wish his family all the success in the world.

Evans Chipampbe
Elias

elias

Elias is a very important (and famous!) member of our starching team as he is our chief animal artist. Elias has worked at Tribal Textiles since 2009., Elias is an incredible, naturally gifted artist. He was talent spotted by Tribal Textiles because of his wonderful artist skills; in fact the only thing we taught Elias was how to use a starching bottle! In contrast, he has given us a master class in drawing the wonderful Zambian wildlife, and he often helps train other artists within the team. Elias tells us that he is delighted to have found a job doing something he loves where he gets the opportunity to use his creative talents every day.

Elias’s artistic talent developed early and he and his brother Tiza always loved to draw. A lack of artistic materials meant that instead of using paper and pencils, the brothers would use sticks to draw images of animals and people in the mud after the rains. As he grew older, Elias’s love of art found expression in decorating the outside of his neighbours’ houses for free! 

Elias is from a big family of five siblings and he himself has five children who keep him very busy when he’s not at work. Elias’s second oldest son attends Malimba School. Elias’s wife Beatrice looks after the day to day running of the house, and she also works in their small market garden growing vegetables and maize. Beatrice and Elias live in a brick house, and as soon as it is plastered they are planning to decorate it with Elias’ beautiful drawings just like in the old days.

stella

Stella is one of Tribal Textiles’ older members of staff; she is 55 and has worked with us for thirteen years. She is Head of our Washing Department, a role she attained in 2006 due to her very hard work and positivity.

When we asked her what she most enjoys about her job she told us that she gets great satisfaction from seeing all the washed pieces blowing on the washing line at the end of the day. Knowing that she is taking home a regular, reliable wage is also a huge bonus to Stella as she has three children still in school. In total Stella has six children – her eldest daughter is 37 and her youngest is 7, so she has spent all her adult life raising children. Stella’s husband passed away in 1998, at which time she began to look for employment to support her family. Happily, one of Stella’s sons passed Grade 12 at school so now works for a local safari lodge and brings in extra income to help the family.

Stella’s wages have supported her family for many years and she has also saved enough to build a small house that they now live in. Stella tells me that her greatest fear is becoming too sick to work as she doesn’t know how they would manage without her wages. She finds the pressure difficult but at the same time she enjoys coming to work to see friends and is very happy to be working.

Stella
Paul

paul

Paul began working with Tribal Textiles as a gardener in 2000, and his positive outlook and fantastic work ethic soon marked him out for promotion to Head Groundsman and Storesman. Paul has 6 children, and he’s proud that his son Jeff also works with Tribal Textiles as a dispatch assistant.

Paul’s favourite part of his job is the variety – one day he finds himself decorating the Tribal Textiles shop, the next plumbing, another tending our vegetable garden, and of course always capably managing the company’s stores. When asked if he ever gets lonely holding the fort during the rains when the workshop is closed, Paul says he doesn’t mind, as after 13 years he’s used to it. We think he also secretly likes being in charge of the Tribal Textiles sound system, where he loves to mix up the Zambian tunes with his favourite – James Brown!