Mulberry Mongoose: Creative Conservation
Mulberry Mongoose: Creative Conservation
“Graceful and rugged, every accessory is like a little piece of Africa.”
Tucked away among the cathedral Mopani trees on the outskirts of the South Luangwa National Park we found Mulberry Mongoose, a unique boutique creating beautiful jewellery inspired by the Zambian bush – its wildlife, natural materials and culture. Recommended as a project not to be missed on our conservation expedition, we went exploring to find this hidden gem of a place. Bright pink “Mulberry Mongoose” signs wound us through the bush, passing herds of elephants, zebra and impala along the way. An otherwise unobtrusive place, the life size elephant made from recycled material in the garden and tinkering sounds coming from their small workshop inside confirmed we had arrived.
Out the way and surrounded by the wildest wilderness you can find, it is a surreal experience when you step into the world of Mulberry Mongoose. Their handcrafted jewellery is truly stunning, laid out so artistically and invitingly, you could easily be in a fancy London boutique. And yet at the same time, they have captured the magic of Africa so exceptionally that being, or wanting to be, anywhere except Zambia seems impossible.
The story behind Mulberry Mongoose
Mulberry Mongoose is the brainchild of English founder Kate Wilson, a talented artist very clearly passionate about nature and the Zambian culture. “The name combines two parts of my life”, Kate explained, “‘Mulberry’ from the mulberry tree in my old garden in England and ‘Mongoose’ to represent the wildlife I live alongside in Zambia today”. After moving to Zambia, Kate tells us how the “rugged beauty of the South Luangwa, the untamed grace of its wildlife and gentle strength of the Zambian people” inspired her to make jewellery. It is clear to see that her collections reflect these inspirations and include;
- African Bush Collection: Inspired from a land of contrasts, using materials found in the bush; guinea fowl feathers, vegetable ivory and driftwood.
- Zambian Heritage: Celebrates the countries culture and resilience of its people. Jewellery in this collection combines wood, semi precious stones and vintage coins.
- Snare Art Collection: Creating beauty from Brutality. Mixing snare wire with semi precious stones, freshwater pearls and hand carved wooden beads.
Where style combines with social responsibility
Mulberry Mongoose is far more than a jewellery company; they are about empowering women, aspiring change and supporting communities through reinvestment. All of the materials that Mulberry Mongoose use in their jewellery are sourced locally in Zambia, whether it be the Guinea fowl feathers which help support a local livestock farmer, to their ‘chiteng’ material which is sewn and decorated locally by women in the community. In an area where poverty and unemployment is rife, social responsibility to this degree is hugely impactful. It is their commitment to wildlife conservation however, that makes this organisation an incredibly special one.
Creative Conservation: Inspiring Beauty from Brutality
Conservation and the protection of the South Luangwa ecosystem lies at the very core of Mulberry Mongoose, where the desire to protect an area of such natural beauty has been a key driver in the success of this company. Their support for conservation falls under three pillars;
- Community Support and Empowerment: By supporting communities through employment and by buying materials locally, there is less of a need for people to turn to illegal poaching and bushmeat subsistence hunting in desperation for money and food.
- Mulberry Mongooses Snare Wire Collection: Wire snaring is wone of the most devastating forms of poaching in Zambias Luangwa Valley. This collection serves as a stark reminder of the dangers Zambian wildlife face on a daily basis. The wire they use are real snares that have been collected from the bush on anti poaching patrols. Depending on the piece of jewellery, the snare wire is either wound into a tight coil or hammered flat, and combined with semi-precious stones, freshwater pearls and hand carved wooden beads. Their aim is to create awareness, and in doing so “create beauty from brutality”.
- Donations to conservation: For every piece of jewellery sold, Mulberry Mongoose make a donation to anti poaching to support them in their work of wildlife protection and save animals that have been caught in wire snares. In 3 years, they have raised and donated over $60,000.
Be an “aspirational” shopper
One of the things we have learned on our expedition is that conservation comes in many shapes and forms. It is not all about anti poaching and law enforcement, but that sometimes the most significant impact can come from initiatives such as Mulberry Mongoose, that create change from the community level up. Wildlife conservation is most successful when a combination of projects come together – fighting poachers in the bush is vital, but so are education, community empowerment and financial support. The crime fighting teams on the ground can’t do what they do without finance and the threats to wildlife will never be mitigated without a permanent change in believes, understanding and opportunity.
Buying products from environmentally friendly companies or from organisations that make significant contributions to conservation are becoming more and more popular with everyday consumers, to the point where buying power is almost forcing companies to do good in order to grow their businesses successfully.
Shop to support wildlife in Africa
Check out Mulberry Mongooses online store to view their gorgeous jewellery. And the best news ever? They ship globally! Even more wonderful if that for every purchase, you are doing more than buying beautiful jewellery… you are empowering women, helping communities and supporting conservation.