Africa!Ignite is a leading rural-development agency based in KwaZulu-Natal, but working increasingly into the rest of South Africa. It is known for its holistic programmes that support rural communities to create meaningful livelihoods. Its WOWZULU Marketplaces, operated by local entrepreneurs, support rural enterprises in seven of KZN’s tourist destinations and combine craft sales with vibrant cultural experiences and attractions. These Marketplaces support over 1,000 crafters across KZN.

“WOWZULU is just one part of what we do,” says Bongiwe Mlangeni, the organisation’s Craft and Tourism Programmes Manager. The agency also provides training, mentoring and support, assists with financial management, skills and product development, and helps its network of entrepreneurs create viable tourist experiences.

“It’s about giving people access to market,” Bongiwe says, “and putting money on their tables. We create platforms where everyone can be visible and have equal participation in the economy – whether they work from a marginalized rural community or in a tourist destination.” 

Beauty Mbongwa moved from Durban to eMazizini when she married a local. It was in this new home that she learned to weave “from the grannies”, and her speciality has become laundry baskets. She and four other women from the community wove this totem’s baskets, which resemble the traditional ukhamba beer pot with lid. “In Zulu culture, the women stay home and look after the children while the men go work in other towns,” Beauty explains, “so I have no choice but to weave, but I enjoy it.”

Zanele Hlongwane is one of the Ladysmith artisans who worked on the beaded panels. “I learned my skill from an NPO in 2006,” says the 42 year old. “Now I travel to teach beading in different places.” She insists that a love for the craft plays a big role in the quality of the product. “Beading goes with your heart, and what we do with our beads is something special you won’t see anywhere else. ” 

This totem was proudly made by:

Inanda artisans (embroidered tapestries): eMazizini artisans (grass baskets): Ladysmith artisans (beaded panels):
Benzeni Mtshali  Beauty Mbongwa Keketso Mokoena
Ntombifikile Shangase Doris Jwara Zanele Hlongwane
Ngonephi Nojiyeza  Gretta Mnguni   
Solani Eunice Mtshali Lizzy Ndaba  
  Xolile Vilakazi

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