Heart, and art at work

Memory Mundembe from Nomzamo solders a mobile.

Every week, a group of women from Nomzamo and Strand get together at Ruth and Andre Marriott’s home on the outskirts of Sir Lowry’s Pass Village, and create functional, vibrant and beautiful art.

This husband-and-wife team run an NGO, “heART At Work” – which provides work and a means of creating a sustainable income, supporting township residents and independent artists, sculptors and creatives.

They provide a platform for developing and evolving art from South Africa, making home décor, fashion accessories and lifestyle gifts, which are sold at their outlet at the Waterfront Watershed, and the Helderberg Nature Reserve gift shop, and at Decorex SA this week.

Ruth explains that on the principle of “fair trade, not aid” remuneration is offered to the people who design and manufacture the products sold, which are of a very high standard.

“We do not want a sympathy buy. We believe that the economy of this country can only be improved if people take responsibility for creating and selling marketable products, and we are committed to making this a reality,” she says.

Andre explains: “We believe in educating people about where products are created and produced, and by whom, and assuring our customers that the products are exchanged for fair remuneration and that people are not exploited in the manufacture of products, but rather involved in creating a sustainable income for themselves.”

“We encourage consumers to buy products produced locally, contributing to the economic growth of our country.”

The women who create the items all live near Somerset West, mainly in the townships and informal settlements.

“These mothers are often the sole bread winner for their family and have little or no skills when they find their way to heART At Work,” says Ruth.

“We teach them skills so that they become self sustainable members of the community.”

I visited their home/office recently, and witnessed first-hand the lovely, practical items that were in the process of being made, and I will be heading to Decorex to support this local initiative this week. For more information, call 071 499 4141 or visit heartatworksa.org