WORDS Palesa Kgasane
The Lesotho-based artisanal homeware brand encompasses the myriad of possibilities that exist in designing a sustainable future; one that is inclusive and lifestyle oriented.
Although the exciting space of eco-conscious brands is expanding, it is still a niche that is yet to transform when it comes to representation. Barali, a Black-woman owned design duo from Lesotho prides itself on creating sustainable products that are not only stylish but resonate with people beyond the borders of Southern Africa. Bold expertly crafted rugs and throws are only the beginning for this growing brand, which is creating impactful change through their community, by working with Lesotho artisans, sourcing their materials locally and preserving their culture in aesthetic and name.
Barali is a Sesotho word which translates to “daughters”, an ode to who they are and what they come from.
VISI spoke to the duo to find out more about who they are and what has gone in to the process of birthing their inimitable brand in their homeland.
Who are the powerhouses behind the brand?
Barali’s co-founders are Mookho Ntho, Creative Director and Moliehi Mafantiri, Operations Director. Mookho Ntho is an African contemporary artist with surrealist influences and Moliehi Mafantiri is an environmental scientist with an eco-feminism lens.
How did you choose the name for your brand?
We wanted a name that would be simple and memorable. Barali is the Sesotho word for daughters, it seemed apt for us to have a name that represents who we are and where we come from.
Where did the idea of creating an artisanal lifestyle brand come about?
Lesotho has a long and rich design history, and that inspired us to create a brand that would highlight our local artisans’ strengths.
What is your background as individuals in terms of design?
Although we both are passionate about design, Mookho as our creative director is a visual artist by profession. She started by creating fashion illustrations and now her surrealism influenced paintings primarily explore fashion, pop culture, gender expression, and social lives of Black subjects.
You are based in Lesotho, how has that influenced or inspired your brand’s evolution?
We have been conscious to build our brand in a way that will center Basotho. So, we insist on working with local artisans and when we consider increasing our capacity, centering Basotho means that we would like to train more Basotho weavers. It means that we would like to facilitate cultural continuity by keeping our weaving tradition going. As a sustainable brand we also look to use as many locally sourced materials as we can, which is why locally sourced hand spun mohair yarn is used for all our designs. Ideally, we would like to only use locally sourced materials to contribute to our local economies.
Talk us through the creation of your products from concept to final products?
We draw inspiration from memory, natural surroundings and our cultures to create a design. Once the design is finalized, we figure out how it can be most efficiently produced locally. It’s not always as easy as reaching to artisans via cellphone to discuss the design so at times we have to make field trips. These can be short trips within the capital city, or trips to artisan’s workshops in neighbouring districts. The artisans we contact all work with local materials, specifically with locally sourced mohair and sometime wool from South Africa. If we are lucky, the sampling process goes smoothly and we can move onto rolling the product out.
How do you come up with the concepts behind your strikingly beautiful look books?
Because our designs are inspired by Basotho cultures we also like to incorporate the beauty of the natural landscape in our editorials. We are lucky that there is much to choose from here in Lesotho.
What would you say makes your brand ethos stand out from other sustainable homeware brands?
We design for the eco-conscious customer that desires homeware that is both beautiful and ethically produced. One of our central values is cultural continuity, which is why we ensure stories of Basotho cultures are told through our products. That’s sets us apart because our designs are made by Basotho and inspired by Basotho- we’re telling our own story.
What are the challenges of navigating the design space as two young black women based in Lesotho?
Because we are young, we are often undermined when we require services from older service providers. Where funding opportunities are concerned, it seems we are higher risk due to a perceived lack of experience. Being young Black women often means that we have to frequently explain that we are in fact working for ourselves and we do have ownership of our company.
Where do you hope to see your brand in 5 years time?
We see our brand branching out to have more different types of products, in addition to rugs and throws. This also includes us succeeding in our goal to build a workshop where we will be able to train our own young weavers.
For more information on the brand and where you can shop it visit their website here.