I don't really know anyone else who cooks nonpareil meals with native organic plants, medicinal herbs, and top drawer culinary training ... by headlamp ... in a tent ... in the bush. But Antonia Stogdale does, when not teaching at the Bush Cookery School she founded, or hosting guests at her Lodge, or leading safaris all over Kenya with her husband.
In all of this travel through Kenya, Antonia has gotten to know more than local plants. She's gotten to know Mokogodo Masaai women in the north - women with remarkable beading skills who had no market for them. So, in all of her spare time, Chef Antonia began Antassia, designing bags for her Masaai friends to bead - staying true to the Masaai sensibility, with one eye toward a receptive European market.
First-hand from one of her Safari fans, I hear about Antonia and reach out immediately. Days later, after returning from a trip into the wild, Antonia climbs a tree to get phone reception and calls back, answering Yes, of course, in her lilting English accent - she'd love to work with Ibu- but, you see, Vogue has just run an article on these Masai bags and we are overwhelmed with orders.
We can help, I tell her. Ever since our first shipment came in from the bush, we've not been able to keep these one-of-a-kind bags in stock. Do yourself a favor and watch this video of Antonia and the beading women of Kenya gathering for a day at work. It's joy.
So much of what happens in the world of Ibu is this: women reaching out to women to pass sandbags down the line when it floods - or buckets of water to put out the fire. Or bags to ship, or materials to send. Don't we know now, more than ever, we are all at home on this small planet together and had better learn to pass along a face mask or a loan or a kindness. Because if we don't make it through this crisis all together, what's the point of making it through at all?
That's really what we are trying to offer at Ibu. Not a clutch. A connection.
Not just a pillow, but a clear and certain pride in one another, in our beautiful differences, our overwhelming commonalties.
Not just a bag, though it is a thing of beauty. But a bond. Thank you, Antonia, for sharing with us your bond to the Mokodogo Masaai women. We celebrate them, and you, and the party that is all of us together.
Until we're on safari with you one day, savoring your fresh picks from the wild ~
Stay the course. Keep the hope alive.
Susan Hull Walker