Skirball holiday shop benefits women’s cooperatives

This article was originally on a blog post platform and may be missing photos, graphics or links. See About archive blog posts.

It’s the colorful cotton braids hanging off the children’s aprons for sale in the Skirball Cultural Center’s holiday pop-up shop that make them hard to resist. And it’s those braids that make the aprons more than just useful for keeping clothes clean. The aprons made by the women of the Sankofa Center for African Dance and Culture in Ghana have memory braids marking the life of a child lost to HIV-AIDS. There are also aprons for adults and matching potholders. An African proverb in the fabric pattern means: “A single tree cannot stand strong alone.”

Those are among the hand-crafted items in the Skirball pop-up holiday shop; their sale benefits about 80 artisans and cooperatives of women around the globe, including the Downtown Women’s Center in Los Angeles.

The shop accompanies the exhibit “Women Hold Up Half the Sky,” which runs through March 11. The exhibit was inspired by the book “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide,” by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, and looks at the ways oppressed women and girls around the world have changed their lives.

The shop has collages from South Africa, table linens from several places, Mexican ceramic sculptures and sisal and raffia baskets from Rwanda. Leather pillows from Mali are made by Fatim Dialo, who learned the craft as a child from her grandmother and now has hired other women.


From South Africa’s Monkeybiz, featured in the video above, there are fanciful sculpted beaded animals that women make at home and bring periodically to a central market, where they sell them and celebrate with food and music, said Sarah Goldbaum, an assistant for special projects at the Skirball.

There are scarves, hats, ties, bags of many sizes and shapes, toys, children’s clothing and lots of jewelry. Ethiopian women turned items meant for destruction into earrings and necklaces by making beads and charms from melted bullet casings (seen on shopper Kimberly Kandel, above).

Sisters Kadyrkul and Farzana Sharshembieva from Kyrgyzstan support their family making deeply colored silk scarves with felted edges, keeping alive a technique from nomadic cultures used since the 17th century, said Sarah Goldbaum. Jewel-toned bags, scarves and other items were made by women in rural India from discarded vintage saris. Some of those saris would have been burned to recover the precious metals woven into them, Goldbaum said.

Venice-based Anne Driver, who organized women in the Indian state of Rajasthan to recycle the saris, said she was inspired by the “amazing spirit” of the women she encountered on a trip there more than a decade ago to found Kismet, which has since expanded and sells women’s work at museum stores and boutiques around the country.

The museum sought out only items made by women, and in most cases benefiting an organization that only employs women, Goldbaum said. The prices range from $4 to more than $200. The items will be on sale until the end of December; some of them will be incorporated into the museum’s permanent gift shop after that.

-- Mary MacVean

Proceeds from handcrafted iPad cases made in Rwanda support female survivors of rape and other violence.

Rings of Hope necklaces are made in Rwanda using recycled paper beads and fabric made from local grasses.

Handbags from Peru, Laos, India, Indonesia and other countries are part of the Skirball pop-up shop too.

A ceramic Hanukkah lamp, left, and a ceramic doll with an Adam and Eve skirt, right, are made in Mexico.

‘Journey companions’ made in Guatemala represent different strengths and are meant to provide advice throughout life.


There are many opportunities to do some good with holiday shopping, whether that means patronizing companies which donate a portion of their proceeds to charity or giving money to a cause in a loved one’s honor.

For example, there is a French-inspired artist and vintage market held the first Saturday of each month, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., to benefit Hollywood High School. The event is held in the school parking lot. The market organizers pay rent for the space, plus give 50 cents of each $2 admission to the school.

Share information about other charity holiday markets and fairs via comments.