Google Arts & Culture has partnered with Carakana, a Kenyan social enterprise and non-profit, to launch an online exhibition for cross stitch and traditional crafts.
Caragana empowers marginalized women from various backgrounds to learn the intricate art of cross-stitch and turn it into a source of livelihood.
Cross-stitching is very intricate and is one of the oldest forms of embroidery. It uses number codes on a grid of squares marked on a piece of cloth to guide thread color and sowing direction, resulting in a pattern of threading that reveals an embedded picture or other artistic representation that would otherwise not be visible to the naked eye.
The Carakana page on Google Arts and Culture features 20 online exhibits, and video narratives by marginalized women and people living with disabilities, who describe their circumstances and the role Carakana has played in their lives. ‘Carakana: Transforming Lives’ is a standalone page on the Google Arts & Culture platform, promoting the activities of the national organization, giving them added visibility, and showcasing them to new markets and potential customers.
Caragana is among seven affiliates of the MAMA Foundation founded and led by Her Excellency Rachel Ruto, who holds the Office of Spouse to the Deputy President, and who is an ardent advocate for women’s economic empowerment.
As part of the partnership with Google Arts Culture, Carakana members will have their cross-stitched art pieces uploaded on the platform along with video testimonials where they describe their lives before and after joining the organization. The enterprise solely benefits women in prison, those living with disabilities, and others recovering from substance abuse.
“Carakana has brought hope and resilience to many vulnerable women in Kenya. The use of technology to curate the stories of these great women, to showcase how creating the beautiful cross-stitched art pieces has touched both their lives and those of their loved ones and to share that with a global audience helps to make this not just a Kenyan story, but a human story,” said Her Excellency Mama Rachel Ruto, the Founder, and Patron of Carakana.
Agnes Gathaiya, the Country Director, Google Kenya, hailed the partnership saying Carakana’s work reflected the mission of Google Arts & Culture of sharing local stories and knowledge to everyone, everywhere. “It’s exciting to be part of a project that is transforming lives. Carakana’s work beautifully reflects the mission of Google Arts and Culture, which is to share local stories and knowledge to everyone everywhere,” she said.
H.E. Rachel Ruto welcomed the development saying her foundation’s purpose was to catalyze socio-economic transformation in communities through spirituality, collective agency, and influence. “Going online means opening up the work of our women who are supported by Carakana to a worldwide audience. Caragana is an agent of transformation for quality, holistic life in the society,” said Ms. Ruto.
A beneficiary, Ms. Lynn Ogonda said the skills learned from Carakana enabled her to work and earn money while incarcerated, funds which she then sent to her family to pay school fees for her son. “I was introduced to cross-stitching in 2017 by Her Excellency in 2027 and we were the first lot of about 15 ladies working on the first piece. This project has enabled me to meet my family’s needs as well as my own,” said Ms. Ogonda,
Another beneficiary, Ms. Caroline Wanjiku, who was released from prison in 2020 commented: “Despite being locked away from my sons, they are my greatest inspiration. I have to keep moving. Being able to take care of them using the income I earned from cross-stitching and the skills learned from Carakana has been a blessing,” said Ms. Wanjiku.
One can discover more stories about cultural heritage ranging from Kenya’s communities and their superheroes, Nigerian food, the creative scene in Lagos, Nelson Mandela, and South Africa’s breathtaking nature.