Home Green Energy A return to the ‘jungle way of living’

A return to the ‘jungle way of living’

While some years back houseplants were prized as signs of elite taste only found in rich people’s homes and high-end hotels, nowadays they are mostly seen by many as a relatively cheaper way of enhancing an interior, Ms Namuwaya says

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By Gilbert Mwijuke

As Uganda joined the rest of the world to mark this year’s World Environment Day on June 5, Faith Namuwaya used the day to launch The Jungle, an interior design store that aims to promote “the jungle way of living.”

The World Environment Day offers people a chance to recognise the importance of the environment on their wellbeing, and, in line with this year’s slogan, “Reimagine. Recreate. Restore”, The Jungle’s main goal is to encourage people to return to “the jungle way of living and enjoy the health benefits of living in nature,” Ms Namuwaya says.

As urban populations swell and living spaces tighten, there is an increasingly limited access to nature, and Ms Namuwaya’s interior design style aims to bridge that gap.

“Nowadays people only think of owning houses; they no longer care about nature. Trees have been cut down and now there is limited access to the healthy climate of the jungles our grandfathers enjoyed,” says Ms Namuwaya, whose interior design style relies heavily on houseplants to bring the natural world into her clients’ indoor spaces.

Located in Muyenga on the outskirts of the capital Kampala, Ms Namuwaya’s new undertaking sells a variety of indoor plants, nature-themed art pieces, as well as curtains and coffee tables made out of natural materials, among others.

“We mainly focus on items made from natural materials because they are not only affordable, but also promote healthy living,” she says. “Most things made from artificial materials usually have toxic chemicals that put people’s health in jeopardy.”

More than just décor

Ms Namuwaya says that houseplants are not only decorative and chemicals-free, but also have health benefits such as relieving stress and anxiety, and that she herself is a beneficiary of the anxiety and stress relieving powers of indoor plants.

In 2013, long before she ventured into interior design, Ms Namuwaya suffered from recurring stress and anxiety, which she blamed on the demands of her taxing project planning and management job at the time.

“I chose to stay at home for several months and recharge my batteries,” she says. “And during that time I kept myself busy by decorating my house with a variety of plants.”

And they worked magic.

“The plants in my house took all the stress away and I soon realised that I was happy all the time… They gave me that much-needed positive energy,” she says, adding that the indoor plants also purified the air in her house, which afforded her a healthier interior environment.

Away from stress and anxiety, some of the plants in Ms Namuwaya’s collection, she says, are also used as herbs to treat certain ailments.

Take basil tea (locally known as mujaaja), for example. “It’s good for relieving stress, depression, anxiety, pressure, stomach aches, ulcers and certain allergies,” she says.

Then there is the bottle brush tree, which used to be common in many people’s compounds decades ago. Besides being coveted for its exotically photogenic flowers, it’s also a natural medicine which, “when boiled and mixed with garlic, is very effective in healing cough and even Covid-19-related symptoms,” Ms Namuwaya says.

Pivoting into a new career

Over the years, as Ms Namuwaya’s fascination with indoor plants grew, she began to help some of her friends and family members to bring nature into their living spaces.

“Some of them began to recommend me to other people who needed a blend of plants in their interior designs, and, before I knew it, some people starting referring to me as an interior designer,” she says.

Seeing that her career in project planning and management was responsible for her 2013 bout of stress and anxiety due to its taxing nature, Ms Namuwaya saw a chance to start over and switch to interior design.

“Project planning and management was about making money, and most times I was designing projects that didn’t even make sense to me, giving me a lot of stress. So, I saw interior design as my chance to do something else, something that made me happy as I added value along the way,” she says.

Ms Namuwaya would then spend two years learning the ins and outs of the trade, and, in 2016 after she was satisfied that she had deciphered what leafy interior design was all about, she decided that it was time now to pivot into a new career.

The budding interior designer would soon go from decorating her own home – and those of her friends and family – to working with a slew of both ordinary and famous Ugandans, including people like Jovia Saleh (wife of General Salim Saleh, President Museveni’s young brother) and Professor Ezra Suruma, the chancellor of Makerere University.

A growing phenomenon

Ms Namuwaya says that in the recent past there has been a cultural shift from plastic plants and flowers towards embracing the natural, mostly driven by an increasing apprehension about the devastating impacts of climate change, such as a spike in infectious diseases.

“The advent of the internet helped to bridge the information gap so many people are now aware of the impacts of climate change. Most people are now civilised and understand the need to restore green in their living spaces,” she says before revealing that The Jungle, which is just about two months old, is already getting about 10 houseplants inquiries per day.

The indoor plants phenomenon is also attributed to a change in perceptions, as many are no longer perceiving them to be a luxury indulged by the educated and high-heeled.

While some years back houseplants were prized as signs of elite taste only found in rich people’s homes and high-end hotels, nowadays they are mostly seen by many as a relatively cheaper way of enhancing an interior, Ms Namuwaya says.

On the last note, the 34-year-old interior designer shares more about the impact she hopes to make on Uganda’s interior design landscape: “My ultimate goal is to promote peace, tranquility and healthy and happy living in our homes. Happiness, after all, is what everyone strives to achieve.”

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