At Kitwe’s Chisokone market, just behind Euro Africa Bus Service Station, is the Kitwe curio market which is managed by Kitwe Curio Traders Association. According to Mr. Lazarus Kiziba, the association’s secretary, the curio market was established around 1973.
The establishment of the curio market has helped to reduce unemployment among the youth of Kitwe. The 1990’s change from state managed enterprise to private ownership led to massive job losses. The impact of the restructuring changes was lessened by the opportunities taken up in the curios market.
Young men and women have learned the art of making handicrafts through apprenticeship. The skills have been handed down family lines. This has helped the youth who cannot further their education through formal education to carve a career for themselves.
Mr. Kiziba says that the curios business has a multiplier effect in terms of creating employment for the youth. While some are engaged in making the handicrafts, others are looking for raw materials. Raw materials include hard wood, ornamental malachite, lime stone, copper, gold, semi precious stones, reed mats, animal skin, paints and fiber etc. The suppliers of raw material are also assured of steady income. Through this chain, unemployment is greatly reduced.
He says the challenge to sustain this chain lies in the ability to market the products in order to have enough resources to continue the cycle. The association manages the market on behalf of its members only in so far as improving infrastructure and mobilization of resources are concerned. The body also represents its members at Trade Fairs and other art exhibitions. The production and selling of curios, however, is done on an individual basis.
Finding markets for their products, is the main challenge for the Curio traders. Their main buyers are foreigners who visit Kitwe’s Chisokone market once in a while to buy some of their handicrafts which they take back to their home countries as souvenirs.
It is the wish of the association that they reach out to international markets through the internet to expand their market. They would like to have a more proactive approach to marketing their products by reaching the ‘doorstep’ of the tourists who are interested in their goods through the web, rather than having to wait until they visit Kitwe.
Mr. Kiziba wonders why Kitwe residents do not appreciate art. He is appealing to Kitwe households to begin to take an interest in appreciating the value and beauty of owning curio items in their homes. He says that there are a lot of handicrafts that depict the rich Zambian and African culture. Zambians must deliberately endeavor to promote and protect this wealth.
At the curio market, there are products such as the much internationally revered African chess set, woven bags, ash trays, traditional stools, miniature elephants, rhinos, and Lechwe carved out of hard wood.
Some products and ornaments such as bangles, ash trays, pen holders serving trays, etc, are carved out of ornamental malachite. All these products are made through African handiwork and creativity which can add to the beauty and artistic merits of Zambian dress and household.