While redwood has long been a coveted material for its durability and striking beauty, efforts to expand global access to more exotic forms of the species have intensified in recent decades. In Africa, redwood forests have been devastated by commercial logging, not only damaging natural ecosystems but the livelihood of local craftspeople as well.
Obakki, a purpose-led brand of handcrafted homewares and lifestyle products, is bringing awareness to the issue with a new collection of wooden bowls and spoons—each carved using the remnants of left-behind timber from deforested areas—in order to emphasize the more sustainable, generational practices of small-scale artisans.
Since 2005, Obakki and founder Treana Peake have worked with craftspeople around the world—from Mexico to Japan—in order to create small-batch, heirloom-worthy products. One of the company's most recent partnerships is with Amadou, a wood-carver in Mali, who spends up to four days turning small pieces of African redwood and African blackwood into a beautiful, hand-finished bowl or spoon.
The Amadou Collection from Obakki currently includes eight-to-twelve-inch bowls perfect for serving, eating, or decorating. Other products range from seasoning to serving spoons—all delicately carved by Amadou using techniques he first learned from the perch of his father's knee.
The global market’s growing demand and seemingly insatiable appetite for these rare materials—which promotes the over-harvesting of forests to create mass-produced consumer products—will make it difficult for Amadou to continue his craft once the remnants he currently works with are gone. The rising interest in furniture made from African redwood and African blackwood is particularly affecting craftspeople throughout Africa, who have rationally harvested these timbers for generations prior to the currently industrialized methods of deforestation.
The fact that each bowl and spoon is upcycled from otherwise discarded pieces of wood—along with Obakki’s commitment to limited edition collections that discourage overconsumption—further highlights the ways in which these scarce natural materials should be thoughtfully considered and treasured.
Like all products from Obakki, the Amadou Collection respects and preserves tradition by placing the artisans at the forefront of each design. In this case, Obakki purchases each bowl and spoon directly from Amadou, with him setting the wholesale price and the company's profits going back into supporting and expanding their artisan programs around the globe. The company's efforts are also further expanded by the Obakki Foundation, which co-leads agriculture, housing, health, and education projects with local communities.
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