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Nharo!: Fair Trade Done Right

nharo3Supporting African artisans from the Danforth
By: Nina Ya-Haqqi

In third-world countries, many artisans and farmers working to produce quality foods and products for export are not given the proper compensation for their hard work. This is where fair trade steps in, creating fair terms of trade for workers in developing countries. The types of goods exported from these countries include silver jewelry, organic shea butter, and various types of artwork, from sculptures made of soapstone to small animals made from recycled pop cans. In privileged countries like Canada and the United States, there is a large community of fair trade supporters comprised of activists and business owners.

Located at 543 Danforth Avenue, Nharo! is a small but active business with an emphasis on African indigenous art. The name is inspired by the Nharo San, who are Kalahari Bushmen from Botswana. The owner, 37-year-old Paul Wellhauser, describes fair trade as “giving a fair wage to marginalized artisans in developing countries while respecting the environment, the culture, and the community.” In the store, customers can find Mexican sweaters, bracelets made of recycled water pipes, and sculptures made of carved tree trunks, among many other things.

[pullquote] The owner, 37-year-old Paul Wellhauser, describes fair trade as “giving a fair wage to marginalized artisans in developing countries while respecting the environment, the culture, and the community.” [/pullquote]

nharo 1Wellhauser is a South African native who has been working with craftspeople since he was 26 years old. He opened his store three and a half years ago and runs a kiosk at Yonge and Dundas Square. He goes to Africa annually, visiting the different tribes and bringing back artwork and jewellery through direct trade, which essentially means he meets with the artists face-to-face. When not acquiring artwork through direct trade, Wellhauser places orders through his personal contacts in Africa.

Nharo! works primarily with three different African tribes, and exposes Torontonians to wonderful indigenous art from Africa. The San Tribe, located in South Africa, makes jewelry from ostrich eggshells, tamboti wood, seeds, and porcupine quills. The Tuareg Tribe, whose people reside in Northern and Western Africa and live across the Sahara Desert, create jewelry chronicling their travels and depicting love, family, religion, and astronomy. In this tribe, Nharo! works with silversmiths from Niger and Mali.

Wellhauser also has a close relationship with members of the Himba tribe in Namibia. Artisans from this tribe create jewelry from recycled water pipes, copper, beads, shells, leather, and brass. Paul travels to Namibia to personally collect these pieces. Earlier in 2013, Wellhauser and two artists from the Himba tribe provided the Royal Ontario Museum with over a hundred artifacts brought from Namibia. The two artists, Caroline Tjambiru and Kaisa Ngombe, were in Toronto as part of a trade mission funded by the Namibian government.

nharo2With Nharo!, every person who walks in is given the opportunity to learn about the artists who create the pieces found in the store. Each piece is accompanied by a story; how he came across the artist, how the piece was created, and what the piece means.

When asked about his favourite piece in the store, Wellhauser points to a Hippo sculpture carved from serpentine (or leopard rock). Shingi Chatsama, a Shona carver from Zimbabwe, creates these hippo sculptures. An interview with him can be found on Nharo!’s YouTube channel. In the corner, hanging from the ceiling, are mobiles made from dried banana leaves. These mobiles, from Kenya, are adorned with small human figures, the banana leaves tightly bound to create heads, torsos, arms, and legs.

Working in fair trade is not an easy task, and requires a lot of financial and emotional commitment. For Wellhauser, passion is what drives him to do what he does. He says that some people he has worked with since 2002 and 2003 have “dramatically improved their lives because of fair trade.”

Nharo! is one of the many establishments on the Danforth that highlights the diversity found in Toronto. His dedication to artisans in developing countries and activism towards raising awareness about the importance of fair trade is what keeps people coming back to Nharo!.

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