MASTER crafters, from the Phansi Museum, teaching the next generation are Simon Manana (wire craft master), Phumlani Nyawo (clay master), Nontando Ngcobo (Bead craft master). Picture: Shelley Kjonstad African News Agency (ANA)
MASTER crafters, from the Phansi Museum, teaching the next generation are Simon Manana (wire craft master), Phumlani Nyawo (clay master), Nontando Ngcobo (Bead craft master). Picture: Shelley Kjonstad African News Agency (ANA)

Master crafters aim for ’Ubuntiques’

By Tanya Waterworth Time of article published Jun 5, 2021

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EMBRACING local design and creating a new trend of “ubuntiques”, which celebrate everything South African.

That’s the goal of local master crafters, from the Phansi Museum, who are teaching the next generation how to generate an income working with clay, leather, beads and wire, under the Rotary global initiative Jobs From God.

Local schools visit the museum, where master crafters, such as clay artist Phumlani Nyawo, wire master Simon Manana, bead designer Nontando Ngcobo and leather designer Bongani Mhlongo inspire a passion for South African culture and find the next generation of artists and crafters.

Phansi Museum director Paul Mikula said the focus was on young people discovering their particular talent, which could lead to making an income.

“This museum is about triumph over adversity and we decided to go into the schools and show them how brilliant their ancestors were. We want to show young people what they can do. We think the future of this country is people celebrating our culture.

“We have found that young people, who have come here, have loved it,” he said, adding that local goods, such as leather products, were fast becoming a fashion statement among millennials.

Mikula said that the teachers also highlight that the products require little or no money to produce – just knowledge and talent. There is also focus on traditional ways of communicating culture through rhythms, colours, symbols.

After the pupils have been to the museum, the master crafters visit the schools to continue tutoring and helping to develop the emerging talent, as well as continuing to share their knowledge and skills.

“South Africa can save itself by believing in itself. The solution is for these young crafters to sell to their own generation. We are looking at a concept of ‘ubuntiques’, which would be centres where such products could be marketed,” said Mikula.

He added that they also identify young people who may have skills, such as strong communication, which could be used in sales and marketing.

Also adding to the mix of developing new artists, recognised cultural icon, actress, playwright and storyteller Gcina Mhlophe has also been involved in the project, by creating opportunities for young people to partake in cultural events, as well as marketing opportunities.

Clay master Phumlani Nyawo, whose work attracts international buyers, including his popular Nguni cattle, said the aspiring crafters were doing “some very good work”, and that there was a need to create more markets for their work and to encourage South Africans to buy local.

Wire craft master Simon Manana said: “Wire work is fascinating. We start with collecting wire from waste at demolished buildings and then, as the pupils start to create a piece of work, it becomes like a game. Once they get started, they don’t want to stop and they are very keen to create their own designs”.

Young craft master Nontando Ngcobo, whose work in beads and wire has already been described as “gifted”, said she has enjoyed teaching the next generation.

Independent on Saturday

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