High demand for SA's crafts, home decor

Thursday, July 9, 2015
Nthambeleni Gabara

Atlanta - There is an increase in demand for South Africa’s distinct superior quality handcrafts and an array of elegant home decor products in the American market, according to South African crafters and designers.

South African crafters and designers are currently displaying their top quality products at the South African Lifestyle Hub showroom, at the AmericasMart in Atlanta, Georgia, in the United States of America.

Speaking to SAnews during Communications Minister Faith Muthambi’s visit to the Lifestyle Hub Showroom on Wednesday evening, Lameck Mlingo, 43, from Mogwase outside Rustenburg said: “I made most of my hand-crafted products from wood that are dense and durable, something which attracts both the American and international buyers.

“They are buying my products which they often described as very unique and distinctly African. We thank the government for creating this opportunity for us and we want to share with everyone at home that business is not slow here.”

The father of three said he fell in love with wood work when he was still at high school 23 years ago, adding that he only established his company, Buffalo Arts and Crafts, in 2005.

“There is no other way of boosting the rural economy than this and as much as there are so many creative crafters in our country who are struggling to access the global markets, we hope that government will also help them.”

His sentiments were echoed by single mother of three, Thabisile Phenyane, from Durban. “I’m very smart in beading and the American buyers support me.

“With beads I make bangles, necklaces and jewellery in my traditional Zulu colours and designs. My products are very unique to the buyers because they don’t have people with traditional African beading techniques here and the support that we are getting is awesome.

“I view this as a good strategy by our government to eradicate poverty amongst the historically disadvantaged communities and obviously, with this demand for my products, very soon I will need more people to work for me,” she said.

Anikie Mphahlele, 43, from Limpopo, in Polokwane, is involved in furniture restoration and manufacturing. “We do ottomans, chairs, headboards, cushions, handbags made of animal skins kudu, springbok, Nguni, among others. I have already employed six people to help me, a clear indication that the Lifestyle Show Hub is reviving our sector.

“I want to urge young South Africans and women in particular to make use of all these opportunities that our government is creating for them,” said the mother of four.

Nthabiseng Dibakoane from Mabopane, in Pretoria, said: “The support for South Africans who are based here is very good.

“I like my beading work and I’ve been selling my products at OR Tambo International Airport for nine years, but it was difficult for me to pay my rental fee since the business was not thriving.

“Here, the Americans like our products and they seem to be very proud of our cultural products. They have since bought the stock that I brought here and all I’m doing now is taking orders.”

The Lifestyle Hub Show marketing strategist, Lindsay Matush, said: “South Africa’s products are yet another exciting opportunity here in the sense that there is a very progressive move. It is an unusual step to be taken by government and a creative solution to job creation. It’s easy for all these artists and designers to attract the American buyers because they are offering products that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

“People are excited to buy products that are really unique. They are excited about how a product is hand-crafted with such quality. They also love the story behind the product that inspired the crafters and designers to do their work. 

“We are also selling the products to furniture stores, interior-designers who also sell to their customers and it is very interesting the manner in which the South African artists and designers are influencing the market.”  

After hearing all the good stories, Minister Muthambi said: “As government I think we need to do more in terms of communicating. As a pro-poor government we know that it is very difficult to sell a product if you do not have someone to sell it to, hence we’ve established this platform.

“We are also glad as government that our crafters and designers are very strategic in that they know very well that to increase the product demand, they must offer something which their market values.”

Small Business Development Minister Elizabeth Thabethe, who is also in Atlanta for the Lifestyle Hub, said: “Our participation is aimed at steadily increasing our creative goods exports to the US and to bring a healthy balance to our trading relationship”. - SAnews.gov.za

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