ONIIPA – A pensioner blinded after battling measles more than 50 years ago has overcome her disability to become one of the finest handicraft artists.
About 56 years ago, 68-year-old Elizabeth Ya Nande lost her eyesight, but never looked back after finding a new purpose through weaving. Housed at the Ileni Mwiitaleleko Centre in Oniipa with a group of other handicraft artists, Ya Nande has been weaving baskets for more than 40 years and has been plying her trade at the centre since 1997. She lost her sight when she was just 12 but despite that, she refused to be drowned
in abject poverty, as she started using her hands to make traditional baskets, which she could sell and make money.
“I was not born blind. I suffered from measles when I was 10. Two years later, my health deteriorated, which led to the loss of eyesight,” said Ya Nande who hails from Okaku constituency in the Oshana region.
“From then, life changed drastically, however, I am glad that could not stop me from going forward as I had to start learning the art of weaving, despite the loss of sight. This kept me going until I found myself at this centre where I have lived since 1997. We have become a family here, assisting one another, while those that can see but can’t walk are doing tailoring. It is not a place for lazy people, we are all here to make a living.”
Sitting next to her is Hilma Angula, who also hails from Okaku. She lost her eyesight at the age of five. “What I am doing here is a result of pure talent. If you are gifted, no matter what circumstances, you will still do it,” briefly explained Angula, when queried how she learned to blindly do the artistic work even though she lost her sight as a toddler.
“People are defying all odds by engaging in different income generating activities by any means possible. The struggle and passion for handwork shaped us to become who we are today, as well as limited choices to circumvent the hardships of life. Therefore, I urge our people to really do something in life no matter how useless it may seem, for as long it puts bread on their table,” advised Angula,
who came to the centre in 1998. The Ileni Mwiitaleleko Centre was upgraded in 2010 by government to make it conducive and improve hygiene. Its purpose is to house individuals with disabilities that are able to contribute meaningfully to their lives. The craft makers sell handmade baskets of different sizes from as little as N$40 to N$180 depending on the size.
“We have families, and when time permits, we go out to visit and come back. They equally also pass by and bring food whenever possible,” they stated. Meanwhile, wheelchair bound Ananias Nuule (46) said they are working tirelessly as they have obligations to meet such as water and electricity bills to settle from the little, they get.
“I am a tailor, and that is how I am surviving, so I call upon fellow individuals who might find themselves in this situation to try and uplift themselves,” he stated.
Oniipa councillor Vilho Nuunyango paid a visit to the centre on Wednesday and donated food parcels.
“There is a challenge here whereby these people are forking out money to pay for water and electricity. These are already disadvantaged individuals, therefore, I will engage the council to subsidise their water.
We will start hosting events here since there is a hall so that they can generate additional income to settle some of their expenses,” he said.