The African Room at the Art Curator Galley on Lourensford Wine Estate is divided into four separate yet inter-connected sections looking at contemporary African art, figure sculpture, traditional beadwork, and local-is-lekker bits and pieces.
It offers a variety of items ranging from key-rings to African carvings to unique beaded decor for the home.
The items included are inspired and made by various groups such as the Nguni people – which consist of Ndebele, Swazi, Xhosa and Zulu people.
These craft artists are often the sole providers for their families, therefore they produce their pieces with much dedication and pride, as their survival is dependent on sales.
In a way, it is 3rd world commerce mimicking 1st world methods, because these craft artists are employed to make the goods, which are then sold wholesale to the retailers.
This doesn’t mean that these items have any less beauty or worth just because they are made in bulk. Each intricately carved key-ring or beaded bowl has a story.
It is not merely a “thing”. When we open up to these stories, it inspires us to care about the lives of other people.
One supplier, Sithabe African Craft, is run by Mathokoza Nhlapo. She and her craft artists are from the Nguni group.
She explains that her Ndebele products are not about symbolism, but rather about the vibrancy of colour and the art of beading.
The ladies sit together to talk about everyday happenings, and while they chat, their hands are just making, without thinking.
Mathokoza says: “It’s a form of therapy: they talk, they create, they heal and become closer as a community because of it”.
The designs are not drawn on a piece of paper first, but are rather a spontaneous outcome.
“It is from the heart to handmade,” she says.