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fiber craft
Ugandan fiber craft and toys, fiber craft, 2017; Juliet Najjumba; Waltham, Massachusetts; Banana fiber, bark cloth; Photography by Maggie Holtzberg
Ugandan fiber craft and toys, fiber craft, 2017
Juliet Najjumba
Waltham, Massachusetts
Banana fiber, bark cloth
Photography by Maggie Holtzberg
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Juliet Najjumba
Waltham, MA
Juliet Najjumba grew up in a small village in southern Uganda. She credits her grandmother for teaching her most of what she knows about Ugandan folk culture--storytelling, medicinal folk healing, and the making of crafts from locally available materials like banana fiber, gourds, and the inner bark of the Mutaba tree. The latter is sustainably harvested and pounded to make bark cloth. Soft as leather, bark cloth is used for clothing and traditionally to wrap the dead.

The cultural value placed on recycling materials is captured in the Ugandan saying, "Whatever is not useful anymore, find a use for it again." In Uganda, where banana fiber is abundant, Juliet uses it to make children's toys like jump rope, soccer balls, and dolls. Here, she substitutes plastic bags. Juliet also commissions women in her home village to weave baskets and handbags out of banana fiber and bark cloth. The income helps them gain hard-won financial independence and boosts pride in their local heritage. In 2003, Juliet founded African Cultural Services, Inc., an educational organization promoting African cultural awareness. Through hands-on activities, youngsters learn about African cultural traditions.
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