We all have days on which we need to withdraw a little from all the hustle and bustle out there. Spoil ourselves and surround ourselves with wholesome, beautiful things. Take away the noise and replace it with sounds like the singing of a bird, leaves rustling in the breeze, the faraway tinkling of coffee cups on a tray and voices murmuring quietly in another room. If I’m having one of those days, I know exactly what to do. I will jump in my car, park it under one of the carports outside of the building, and step through the solid wooden doors of 37d Gallery, tucked away in the Lusaka suburb of Kabulonga. However wound-up I feel driving there, on the other side of these doors, calm and peace come over me like nowhere else in town.
It’s a ritual for me. I wash my hands at the basin just right of the entrance and walk into the building. I greet the receptionist, appreciate the beautiful gemstones which are on show next to Jagoda – the jewellery shop – and take a left into the gallery to admire what’s new on those walls. After a few minutes in awe, I make my way into the Rock Cafe, find a table, order a cappuccino and a fresh-out-of-the-oven chocolate brownie, and start doing some work.
The roots of this beautiful spot lie in a not-so-distant past, when a problem was turned into an opportunity in an intricate and yet simple way. Wildlife poaching was a big problem in Mfuwe at the time. Poverty is an important cause, driving parents, desperate to put food on the table and send their children to school, to go into poaching to make ends meet. Mfuwe’s poachers, knowing the areas in which they operated like the back of their hand, were aware that nature had so much more to offer than wildlife, including what became the seed for everything 37d is today: gemstones as the driver of change.
At the same time, five women had reached a point in life at which they wanted to give back to society. They happened to be lovers of beautiful things, like gemstones and jewellery. Fate linked them to each other and to Mfuwe, and they came up with an idea. Why not teach local poachers how to mine gems, make jewellery and use the profits to help some of Mfuwe’s children meet their basic needs?
The stART Foundation is Born
Today, the stART Foundation is an expanded and diversified version of what it was when it first came into existence. Jagoda is now Zambia’s longest established fine jeweler and its gemstone mining has expanded all over Zambia since it came into existence. Mumbwa, Mkushi, Serenje, Lundazi, Kalomo, the Copperbelt, Nyimba and Rufunsa are all in the game, supplying minerals from the beryl, tourmaline, quartz and garnet families. They are exported all over the world.
If you’re not in the mood for minerals, there is more. The foundation has also become a stepping stone for emerging artists from underprivileged backgrounds, who are offered a training programme to grow their talents with the unwavering support of two of the stART Foundation’s trustees who are trained in fine arts. For those who think their art is ready to go on show, they can apply to hold exhibitions at the gallery and use it as a selling platform. And if you’re on the other side of the coin, wanting to treat yourself to some nice earrings or a piece of Zambian art to put on your living room wall, Rock Café offers you the opportunity to take it all in over a freshly brewed robusta and a choice of mouthwatering, healthy dishes prepared with super fresh ingredients.
To me, 37d is most of all a safe and peaceful space, where I go when my mind and body need to wind down or when I want to catch up with a friend in a quiet environment. I love how the building was designed around an over 100-year-old jasmine bush and a frangipani tree, with delicate white flowers that are sprinkled over the terrace. The space has that airy outdoor feel with the comfort of an inside space, which makes it the perfect environment to get some work done or read a book in an energising and inspiring setting. And when I need a meaningful gift for a friend or a family member, be it small or large, I always find it there.
- 100% of sales of children’s artwork go back to the children and their families.
- A 25% commission from the sales of artwork at 37d Gallery funds the emerging artist programmes, children’s workshops, and helps educate the children under the stART Foundation.
- Today, around 110 children in Mfuwe, including a number of orphans, are supported with education and clothing thanks to the stART Foundation.
- The foundation gives loans to artist residency programmes for emerging and established artists in Zambia.