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Crafted by Refugees • Made51 Project

Crafted by Refugees • Made51 Project - TRIBAL TEXTILES


Creativity & Sustainability

A design collaboration with the Congolese refugees of Mantapala in Zambia


We are proud of our thoughtful collection, inspired by the traditional Congolese Kuba pattern, and that we can confidently label this a sustainable collection.


When it came to designing as part of the Made 51 initiative, years of bush living gave us that awareness we needed to help design alongside the artisans of the Congolese refugee settlement. Being based in the middle of the African bush gives you a heightened sense of your environment, as you are situated far from the ordinary infrastructure found in towns and cities. When rubbish is thrown, you know it won’t just be taken away by a truck, out of sight, out of mind. It stays right where you live and you will probably smell it being burnt during the week or floating past you when the floods come.




A Thoughtful Approach to Materials

Complete sustainability was kept in mind during our design process for this collection, picking materials from the forest that would put a value on the trees, rather than cutting any down. Using plants or bark to dye and harvesting from fast-growing bamboo for carving. Combined with intricate weaving of sun-dried palm leaves. We didn’t want to buy materials mass-produced in another country, instead, we carefully thought out our designs based on the abundance of materials surrounding the refugee settlement. We designed with nature.




Bridging Creativity Across Generations

The designs you see were born out of a creative hive of minds. Traditional skills of weaving from a group of talented Congolese palm weavers, now living in the Zambian refugee settlement. Natural dyeing expertise passed down to the minds of the northern province Zambian elders, and a Western world mind to digitally link uprooted Congolese citizens back to their ancestors' creative past, as noted in old textbooks and displayed in museums.


Products are not just beautifully crafted. They exude a real essence of humanity. They tell the timely and important story about how refugees can rebuild their futures and, in doing so, act as powerful contributors to the world economy.” - MADE51




Crafting Sustainable Livelihoods

Sustainability is an essential part of Tribal Textiles core values and this collection has an exponential impact for the Congolese refugees to create an income. For the first time Mantapala Refugee Settlement will see income, not from donations, charities, aid… but from their hard work, their own hands, and their ideas. The creative artists behind these carefully woven designs do not need to be dependent on aid, they have begun their career path, they are Designers and they are re-establishing their independence.


Refugees have skills and talents that only need a chance to grow and flourish. Within each piece lies a story of history and culture and the chance for a person who has fled war and persecution to offer something of beauty and style to the world. - Filippo Grandi • UN High Commissioner for Refugees



Every person involved with this collection is proud and holding their head high, each piece has passed through the hands of souls ignited with a creative passion and at zero cost to the environment.


For further reading, to learn more about Made51, or to take a look at  the collection go to




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