Crafts in South Africa

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During the January 2015 TechWomen mentoring program Delegation to South Africa, I was able to see (and buy!) many remarkable crafts. Even though I try to buy directly from the craft workers (rather than from brokers), or at least buy local rather than imported goods if possible, within Africa craft sales are quietly international. Some of the crafts for sale in Cape Town were clearly imported from Kenya and Rwanda (confirmed by the shop keepers) but I also realized that a wood carving I purchased in May 2014 in Ethiopia was probably from South Africa. All of the cloth I purchased in Rwanda last year was from Congo, and the cloth I purchased last month in South Africa was from Zimbabwe (again, confirmed by the shop keepers).

The most remarkable crafts I saw in South Africa involved glass beads: jewelry, pottery with beads, bead and wire animals. Some notable craft sources:

  • Arts on Main in Maboneng Precinct, Johannesburg – a location for dozens of small craft shops and food stalls in an old warehouse, including a very creative photo vendor called iwasshot in joburg – “a platform for former street children to learn skills and generate an income”
  • Streetwires in Cape Town – first rate creativity and execution in a wide variety of designs.  I liked the animals and angels best!
  • TheBarn incubator and community center (in Khayelitsha, Cape Town) – featuring several small craft shops, including the work of notable potter Martin Mayongo whose beaded raku ware pottery is superb.
  • MzansiStore – a popup store inside of a hotel in Cape Town
  • Greenmarket Square, Cape Town – a location for dozens of small craft stalls under awnings outside, some staffed by craft workers but most run by brokers

If you don’t have much time to shop, the Out of Africa store in the Johannesburg airport has a good selection.  Pictures from my craft hunting:
guineafowl, hoopoe glass bead and wire from Streetwires, Cape Town South Africa

Streetwires, Cape Town South Africa

Streetwires, Cape Town South Africa

Martin Mayongo pots with beads, TheBarn,  Khayelitsha, Cape Town South Africa . Martin Mayongo plate with beads, TheBarn,  Khayelitsha, Cape Town South Africa

TheBarn,  Khayelitsha, Cape Town South Africa

beadwork jewelry bought at Greenmarket Square and TheBarn,  Khayelitsha, Cape Town South Africa

beadwork jewelry bought at Greenmarket Square Cape Town South Africa

cloth from Zimbabwe, bought at Greenmarket Square Cape Town South Africa . tablecloth from Zimbabwe, bought at Greenmarket Square Cape Town South Africa

Greenmarket Square Cape Town South Africa

Greenmarket Square Cape Town South Africa

bead and wire kudu head from Greenmarket Square Cape Town South Africa

MzansiStore craftworkers and TechWomen, Cape Town South Africa

Out of Africa store in the Johannesburg airport
Images Copyright 2015 by Katy Dickinson

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