Meet the Artisan: Haptamu, Master Weaver at Sabahar
Sabahar is a fair trade company based in Ethiopia producing handmade cotton and silk textiles. All their products are handmade in Ethiopia using natural fibers and they are the only company making products with Ethiopian silk.
Sabahar was founded in 2004 by Kathy Marshall, a Canadian native and twenty-year veteran of Ethiopia, whose goal was to preserve the cultural weaving traditions of Ethiopia while providing fair employment opportunities for marginalized people. Sabahar focuses on supporting and training their artisans in applying traditional techniques to produce new fibers and modern designs. As a member of the World Fair Trade Organization, Sabahar is dedicated to improving the lives of their artisans with positive work opportunities in Ethiopia and providing reliable income to their families.
Not too long ago, the Global Shokunin team, had the chance to learn about the story of Haptamu, one of Sabahar’s Master Weavers. Haptamu has been working for Sabahar for nine years, ever since he was referred to the company by a friend. Originally from Gojam, in northern Ethiopia, Haptamu went to school until 5th grade and grew up as a farmer. Now 46 years old, he has five children, three of whom live in Gojam. He describes himself as quiet, respectful, and a hard worker. On an average, It takes him about an hour to get to work each day.
Haptamu learned the technique of weaving from his relatives who were weavers, unlike most weavers in Ethiopia who learn from their fathers. He moved from northern Ethiopia to Arba Minch located in southern Ethiopia, which is the heart of the weaving community. He fine-tuned his knowledge and skill for almost eight years before moving to Addis Ababa and joining Sabahar.
Haptamu on his personal goals:
“My biggest goal is to fulfill the basic needs of my family, being able to provide food, clothing and shelter for them. Without this security, life becomes really hard. Because I have consistent work with Sabahar, I am assured my family’s needs are taken off. My children don’t want to be weavers and I don’t want that for them either. It requires a lot of hard work and most people don’t understand that.
I am very grateful for my health. I wake up each morning knowing I have work and that I will be able to achieve my dream of a better future for my children.”
Haptamu on challenges he’s overcome:
“Living in Addis Ababa is very hard because it is so expensive. Rent is a huge cost for most families. Because I have consistent work at Sabahar, I have built my own house. I no longer have to worry about paying rent. This is one of my biggest achievements working at Sabahar.”
Haptamu on working at Sabahar and Ethiopian design:
“I really enjoy my work at Sabahar because we are constantly experimenting with new designs. In my past work, we usually made the same things. I am also learning so much about quality, delivery times, design and teamwork.
I love the Ethiopian culture. I admire the handmade textiles, the religion and the hospitality of our people. The Ethiopian textiles we make at Sabahar are always fresh and new. I love that we are always making new designs.”
Sabahar is an example of a company that is not just providing reliable wages to its artisans but also meaningful work. Development for artisans like Haptamu is directly related to their work conditions and the nature of their work, in order for them to have a wholesome creative experience, it is fitting for them to be able to work on an array of designs and products pertaining to their skill set. Haptamu’s love and passion for his work stems from his need for providing for his children but it grows and flourishes into something bigger with him being able to apply his skillset for new ideas and designs.At Global Shokunin, our goal remains to be able to empower artisans like Haptamu by sharing their stories with the world and fostering an appreciation of cultural diversity and sustainable consumption.