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INK FAIR (article first published : 2006-03-30)

A skills development programme involving 200 crafters has come to a head with the project co-ordinators, INK ABM (Inanda, Ntuzuma and Kwa Mashu Area-Based Management), and the Business Support Unit hosting an arts and craft exhibition in Kwa Mashu to showcase the crafters’ new skills and creative works.

“The programme formed part of an initiative to support the development of co-operatives in the INK areas and to uplift the socio-economic status of the region,” Linda Mbonambi. INK ABM Manager.

Crafters were trained in beadwork, pottery and ceramics, grass basketry, wirework, leatherwork, needlework and embroidery from July to November last year, and since then they have been busy practising their new found skill by creating new arts and crafts for the exhibition.

“One of the main problems experienced by crafters is that they produce the same kind of products with no variations. This is because they produce crafts in a vacuum with little or no knowledge of the consumer preferences and demands and general market trends. The opportunity to exhibit will assist to link the emerging crafters with the market which will then sensitize them on the market needs,” added Linda Mbonambi. “Those already involved in the arts and crafts field were assisted with product development and diversity to compete in the international market.”

To ensure the sustainability of the business co-operatives, the crafters were also trained in business management skills and marketing skills. They were further introduced to the various raw material outlets and linked with relevant markets.

“The project is intends to enable these crafters to become fully-fledged businesses and suppliers and not return home empty-handed after this intervention”, said Fisane Mzimela of Business Support Unit. “Over and above training, the recruited crafters were assisted to become fully fledged business entities. Sixteen co-operatives were formed in this regard.

“This has been very helpful,” she added, “because not only have we learned how to make these baskets but also we’ve got an income generating hobby to look forward to everyday. We can now call ourselves employed, because we wake up every morning to go to work,” said crafters of the Umqhele Wentuthuko Co-operative in Inanda.

The Department of Arts and Culture have also partnered with the municipality on this project to ensure on going support for the crafters.

Crafters have already seen the benefit of the intervention by the INK ABM and Business Support Unit.

Two beadwork co-operatives have been given an opportunity to link up with DIT fashion designer organizers for provision of accessories and to sell products at the Hazelmere Jazz festival and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) organised exhibition in November this year. Three Leatherwork co-operatives were registered and linked with opportunities to sell products in Italy. Six needlework co-operatives were linked with an opportunity to make conference bags for a conference to be held in Pretoria and assisted to showcase their products in different exhibitions.

The INK Craft Fair runs until April 7 at the Kwa Mashu Shopping Centre. It is free and all are welcome.




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