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UBULAKWANA (article first published : 1999-09-19)

Anyone who has visited the BAT Centre’s artists’ studio will have noticed Rasta-locked Hilton Gasa working away at one of his fine sculptures. Hilton has recently co-ordinated a group of crafters in Clermont into a group called Ubulakwana who intend to hold regular craft days at the Clermont community centre. Ubulakwana is a name created out of the words “KwaZulu” and “Natal” and the group is organised by Bongani Makhanya.

Most of the crafters are reliant on this new project to generate an income for themselves and their families. D’ARTS team visited Ubulakwana recently and met some of the group’s members. Peaceful Sibongile Mqadi is a single mother of two children (9 and 5). Her attractive “Mbhatuda” sandals with beaded straps are bound to be as popular as her beaded bangles that range in design from bright primary colours to the currently fashionable silvers and greys.

Rejoice Khanysile Shangase has five children to support from any profits she makes from her crochet mats and tablecloths. Jackson Mbatha hopes to provide an income for his wife and two children from sales of his good quality leather sandals, caps and belts

Thandithini Magubane is a sangoma but her expertise with a sewing machine can be seen in her charming pegbags and lace-trimmed traycloths. She also makes beadwork jewellery. Bhekizazi Maphumulo makes beautifully turned wooden bowls out of umthongwane as well as umqoqongo (holder for sour beer/milk) and carved spoons.

Joyce Jama makes colourful crochet bedspreads and TV covers and Busani Hlamuka produces beadwork in clean clear designs. Not a crafter but a musician is Patrick Shezi who is a bass guitarist with the Supplicators gospel group.

The next Open Day will be held in Clermont on September 25 from 10h00 to 16h00. If you are not sure how to reach the community hall, be at the BAT Centre at 09h45 and Hilton Gasa will lead vehicles in the right direction! For details, phone Hilton at BAT on 332-0451 (ask to be put through to the artists studio).


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