From Bangui to Your Home: The Heartbeat of a Ndara Creation

From Bangui to Your Home: The Heartbeat of a Ndara Creation


Our products are more than just beautiful, handmade crafts. We believe in empowering our artisans in Bangui to share their stories with the world and in bridging the gap between cultures through the power of creativity. We weave stories of resilience with each thread spun from the imagination and the resourcefulness of our artisans. Each unique Ndara product whispers tales of ingenuity, cultural exchange, and the remarkable connection built between the bustling international lives of our customers and our artisan's own reality in Bangui. 

Crafting these stories into tangible products is far from smooth sailing. On positive days, we might say it's an adventure as vibrant and dynamic as the artisans themselves, filled with unexpected detours and bursts of laughter. On other more challenging days, we might just say it's outright incredibly hard. Both angles are true.

Imagine for a minute stepping into the shoes of our artisans. They have mostly never left the city of Bangui, and they live their lives under harsh conditions (no electricity or running water at home, little to no formal schooling or access to basic services, as well as tools such as the internet and social media). Their world stands in stark contrast to the neon-lit cities and jet-set traveling lifestyle of our typical customers – international travelers visiting CAR.

Our customers and our artisans’ realities are oceans apart, and their experiences of life are vastly different. This makes it difficult for our artisans to imagine what our clients want to buy. For our artisans, grasping our clients' preferences becomes a daunting task, especially considering the contrasting differences in fashion and style across cultures, not to mention the language barriers. However challenging it may be, we try to solve this by encouraging our artisans to imagine, observe, and study our customers.  

To give you an idea of the reality behind a Ndara product, we want to take you through what typical product development looks like for us.

Enter Meryse, one of our talented artisans. Meryse doesn't have a TV at home, but in the neighborhoods in Bangui, people will co-fund a TV and put it on the street under a rickety shack. At night (if there is electricity), they will show whatever movie they have been able to scrounge up at a small cost, and it is known as the local “cinema." 

Inspired by a movie she saw at such a cinema, Meryse had an idea for a product. She said, "I have seen it in a very scary movie. It lived in water, it had many arms and legs, and it was very dangerous". Her description sparked a fire. This was to be her "octopus," a creature born from Meryse’s limited exposure but boundless inventiveness. Residing in a landlocked country without ever glimpsing the ocean, Meryse's version of an octopus bore little resemblance to the real marine creature, yet it exuded the essence of her vision.

Here's where the real magic and sometimes challenging chaos unfolds. Bridging the gap between Meryse's unique perspective and our customers' expectations requires an orchestra of collaboration.

Product development at Ndara is more than just translating ideas - it's navigating logistical labyrinths. Our founder, Charlotte, is our main product development lead, with one foot in local culture and the other in our typical client's reality. She travels across Africa for her other jobs, which means our process of product development has had to adapt. 

So, how do we navigate these obstacles? With ingenuity and stubbornness. WhatsApp has become our lifeline, kilometres-long threads of voice messages, photos, and hand-drawn sketches. It's a testament to the human spirit's ability to connect, collaborate, and overcome limitations, even when the odds are against us.

Slowly, Meryse's vision metamorphosed, taking shape through many iterations. The final product? Our very own Ndara octopus. We even had the privilege of the videographer, Warren Smart, of the Oscar-winning "My Octopus Teacher", visiting the Ndara boutique in Bangui, where he bought an octopus to take home to his family, which was the perfect validation for our octopus creation.

Our process is far from perfect, but its imperfections are what make it beautiful. We want you to see the beating heart behind each Ndara product – the laughter shared during creative brainstorming sessions, the challenges overcome with unwavering determination (and some tears of frustration!), and the cultural nuances woven into every stitch.

Our wish for you is to be more than just a customer; we want you to be a storyteller and an active participant in this ongoing journey of cultural bridge-gapping and never-ending resilience.

Do you have any ideas for the next Ndara products? 
We are always on the lookout for new ideas and inspiration! Share your inspirations with us. Who knows, your suggestion might spark the next Ndara conception, a product that carries a piece of your very own story all the way from your home to Bangui and the hands and hearts of our artisans.