Feb 2020 2nd edition

Crafters reach for the stars in the Northern Cape

Written by Dale Hes

Clever craftsmen are being taught how to use their talent to put bread on the table. 

The landmark MeerKAT Radio Telescope project in the Northern Cape is creating hundreds of work opportunities for community members, and now local craft producers are being brought on board too.

In 2019, the Craft and Design Institute (CDI) completed the skills training of 19 up-and-coming crafters from the small rural towns of Carnarvon, Vanwyksvlei, Brandvlei and Williston. The project came about after the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO), which runs the MeerKAT project, formed a creative community initiative with the crafters.

“The goal is to source craft-makers from disadvantaged backgrounds and under-resourced communities, provide them with creative skills training, as well as basic business and marketing skills,” explained CDI training manager Rosemary Cooke.

The six-month programme saw CDI running a series of workshops focused on design, creative skills training and developing quality products that are unique to the Karoo.

After the training, SARAO looked to give crafters the opportunity to sell their goods. The organisation took it upon itself to order R100 000 worth of products from 10 of the crafters, which were ordered for SARAO’s Bursary Conference in December 2019.

“The order included conference bags and various corporate gift items from the craft businesses. This is a further step towards empowering the businesses to start engaging with the market and getting their businesses into the mainstream of economic activity,” said Cooke.

One of the crafters, Maria Lackay, is the breadwinner of her family and creates household accessories and clothing. She said that CDI and SARAO helped her to access opportunities that she would never have been able to.

“I have never handled bulk orders, and the assistance I received from CDI helped a lot. SARAO is great and cares a lot for others, especially for those who want to be successful and who want to make the future brighter. I love this project!” said Lackay.

SARAO’s creative community initiative has also created a design brochure featuring each of the 19 crafters and their products.

*The CDI hosts a number of free workshops related to skills and business training in the crafts industry, mainly in the Western Cape. For more information, visit www.cdi.org.za or call 021 461 1488.

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