Corporate Social Investment

Rural and urban meet at the IDC

Crafters travelled from KwaZulu-Natal to introduce their works to guests at the IDC's gallery. Some of the items are bound for the American Folklife Festival in Washington.

September 28, 2012

Crafters from KwaZulu-Natal are exhibiting their work at the IDC art galleryCrafters from KwaZulu-Natal are exhibiting their work at the IDC art gallery

The rural became the urban at the Industrial Development Corporation's art gallery, housed at its headquarters in Sandton. Five rural crafters from KwaZulu-Natal are exhibiting their work at the gallery until mid-October, and were on hand to meet the guests this week.

"I want to thank the IDC for empowering crafters in their rural communities – they are doing a great job," said Nomvula Mashoai-Cook, the curator of the small gallery in the foyer of the building. The crafters and guests gathered at the gallery on the evening of 26 September.

Thembi Nala, Beauty Ndlovu, Angelina Masuku, Nomvuselelo Mavundla and Lobolile Ximba brought superb samples of their work to Gauteng. Their specialities are grass baskets, wire baskets, miniature beaded animals, traditional Zulu clay pots, and fertility dolls. Their work is of such quality that it has a ready international market.

"Tonight we are honouring these great, great women, who are here because they have a passion," added Mashoai-Cook, who is the executive director of the Mpumalanga Traditional Art Market (MTAM) in Nelspruit. The market is part of the IDC's corporate social investment programme. It was started in 2009 with the aim of supporting artists to become self-sustaining. It also seeks partnerships to train and develop young artists.

"We truly believe in rural empowerment," said Kesebone Maema, the head of corporate communications at the IDC. "Women are often at the centre of struggles in the rural areas." She continued: "In this humble space at the IDC this is a long-term commitment – we will continue as long as possible to support the arts."

Joyce Titi Pitso, the chairperson of MTAM, said: "Women from the cities work with our sisters to market their skills, and expose them to the international market."
Four of the five crafters were at the gallery, clad in traditional beaded skirts and isicholo headgear, exuding dignity and a quiet confidence.
Thirty-four-year-old Mavundla is from KwaMashu in Durban, where she learned to weave wire as a teenager. She used the proceeds of her craft to pay for her schooling. After finishing school, she took up weaving full time and now specialises in making telephone wire bowls, plates and armbands.

Her neighbour taught her to weave wire, she says. She and her husband produce colourful swirls and designs on the bowls and plates, interspersed with images of animals, people and houses. She has exhibited her work in Portugal, Japan, Germany and the US, and in galleries across South Africa. Her ambition is to open her own gallery. "It's a good way to make a living," she explained.

Fifty-nine-year-old Ximba's beautiful beaded dolls are a tradition passed down from her mother. She said a single doll took about two weeks to make. She has a family business, working with her daughter Sibongile.

Masuku uses Ilala palm and grasses to make her baskets, and makes the colours with natural dyes extracted from grapes, berries, leaves and roots. She explained that her aunt taught her to make the baskets, and now she employed eight people. She has had her work exhibited overseas, in the US, Italy and Germany.

Ndlovu said she had been making her bead animals for the past 23 years. Her delightful zebras, giraffe, birds, and antelope stand about 10cm tall, and their multi-coloured bodies attest to meticulous work. "I feel very happy when making animals," she added.

Some of the work on display will go to the American Folklife Festival, held every year in Washington, under the auspices of the Smithsonian Institution's Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. The festival attracts a million people.

The evening ended with good food, loud ululating, and cool dance moves.

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