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Zikulise enriches community

By now, most of us are probably aware of the old saying that goes: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” In essence, this adage highlights the importance and long-term viability of knowledge and skills sharing, and at its very core speaks to development and growth.

In the South African context, where poverty, unemployment and inequality are rampant, it’s somewhat comforting to know there are organisations out there that are acting on this profound saying.

Zikulise Community Upliftment Project is a non-profit company dedicated to the upliftment of the unemployed and impoverished community in Empangeni, KwaZulu-Natal. The organisation’s founder and executive director, Julie Jonson, says: “We focus on providing sponsored income-generating skills training to unemployed individuals, enabling them to become self-supporting and self-sustainable, thereby also adding to the local economic development of the region.”

According to Jonson, the costs for the training, which range from foundation and advanced courses in sewing and bead weaving to ceramics and baking, are covered by grants and donations made to Zikulise by sponsors. The NAC was the first funder of the project in 2004, which enabled it to get off the ground and register as a non-profit company in 2005. More than a decade later, the NAC again approved funding for the project in 2017.

“Zikulise develops and contributes to the South African arts landscape as its courses relate to traditional bead weaving, textile art and ceramics. Textile art includes working with fabrics (embroidery, embellishing and fabric painting) and grass weaving; and working with wool, yarn and recycled materials,” says Jonson.

One of Zikulise’s greatest achievements in terms of how its courses are structured is that they are all coupled with training in business skills. “The grant funding approved by the NAC for 2017 assisted Zikulise in providing seven young unemployed individuals valuable income-generating skills training in textile and bead art, coupled with business skills, over a period of one month. An incubation phase of one month was included and was also funded by the NAC. The total duration of the skills training is two months,” says Jonson.

With a strong emphasis on making products that are marketable, unemployed individuals from the local community received income-generating skills training via the NAC grant, and were also exposed to creating products that focused on design and innovation. Another important element, according to Jonson, was that the trainees were made aware of the importance of using recycled materials in creating their products.

The benefits of projects such as Zikulise are far-reaching and sustainable, and shed light on how skills training and knowledge sharing can lead to grass-roots development with an exponential and compounding effect. As an organisation with a mandate to promote socioeconomic development through the arts, the NAC is proud to be involved with Zikulise, as it gives expression and realises many of the values the NAC upholds and sees as crucial to a prosperous future.

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