The !Ikhoba Textile Project was started in 1983 by sisters Heide, Karin and Ute Lacheiner on their family farm outside Otjiwarongo, in northern Namibia. !Ikhoba is the San word for the riveting Namibian antelope generally known as ‘gemsbok’ or ‘oryx’, or collectively as ‘wild animals of Africa’. The wives of the farmworkers on the farm produced unique, distinctively African embroidery, frequently inspired by African wildlife, which were in great demand and sold quickly.
The Lacheiner sisters decided to create a sustainable market for the women’s embroidery products via the !Ikhoba Textile Project and collected embroidery from as many as 400 women, at one time. Each embroiderer worked at her own pace, in the comfort of her own home and produced unique, embroidery pieces which were then washed and sewn into beautiful bedspreads, T-shirts, tablecloths, wall-hangings, cushion covers and table mats to name but a few. The surface fabrics are 100% cotton and machine-washable.
The finished, embroidered products are marketed to the public through several outlets in Namibia, including the Namibia Craft Centre. In 2006, the !Ikhoba project headquarters relocated to Swakopmund where Heide Lacheiner-Kuhn and Mildred Kehrmann continue to manage, market and innovate around the !Ikhoba brand of products, an impressive range that currently includes 300 line items. Women in the Otjiwarongo area now send their embroidery to Swakopmund for finishing.
!Ikhoba won several awards over the course of its thirty-year existence, including international awards in Germany for the empowerment of rural women in Namibia. Changing priorities in international tourist trends have recently brought about an increased focus on the domestic market to sustain the project in the long-term.
!Ikhoba Textile Project continues to produce bright, unique and highly sought-after embroidered products for the home, as gifts, Christmas decorations and various handmade designer craft objects, made from recycled material.