It seems unthinkable that a price could be put on one’s culture, and yet, reducing cultural artifacts to mere objects worthy of consumption happens all of the time. Craftsmen in developing countries are often grossly exploited, and once artisanal items are given a price tag, they lose so much of their authentic cultural value. One company that is working to change this harrowing trend is Noble Traders, a group of passionate individuals on a mission to repair a broken consumerist system.
Noble Traders was created to support the local economies in West Africa, where some say that the djembes made there are the best in the world. Embracing these instruments as a jumping-off point, Noble Traders seeks to provide visibility for the local craftsmen who make them, to pay those djembe-makers fair living wages, to break the system that too often exploits these individuals, and to cultivate a global understanding and appreciation of myriad African cultures.
Cultivating Culture recently reached out to the company in hopes of learning more about its cross-cultural trading philosophy. Noble Traders founder Travis Fruge was in Uganda connecting with local craftsmen when we reached out to him. This is how he describes the bourgeoning company:
Noble Traders trades directly with craftsmen in developing countries to create growth where growth really happens: person by person and community by community. We pay our artists well for their products, provide mentorship on business development and reaching foreign markets, and work with them to help them reach their goals.
One aspect that sets us apart from many importers is that we look at our business as a means of blessing rather than exploiting.
With a focus on people and the invaluable cultural richness that envelopes each and every djembe, Noble Traders wants to change the way that goods are imported, and is doing so by shining a spotlight on the craftsman, rather than the profits being made. “So often craftsmen are the most underpaid and exploited parts of the supply chain,” says Fruge. Noble Traders is disrupting trading operations that exploit the craftsmen, while finding a way to link consumers to the very culture that the products come from. Each djembe tells a unique story; each instrument is handcrafted by someone whose own story demands to be told. Noble Traders wants to tell those stories in order to preserve the cultural integrity that is embodied in every djembe sold.
Noble Traders is in its beginning stages of technical development, but with a recently fully funded Kickstarter Campaign, the company will no doubt have a global reach very soon. It is the hope of the company that Noble Traders becomes strong enough to provide loans for further business development, as well as additional benefits for the craftsmen that make trading possible to begin with. It’s companies like Noble Traders that recognize the priceless value of culture that work tirelessly to connect consumers to something greater than themselves.
Learn more at www.nobletraders.co.
Images: via Noble Traders