Indigenous South African handcraft and many other cultural traditions need to be recognised, honoured, and maintained in the modern world where cultural activities are slowly diluted. Especially because traditional African handicrafts have played an important role in various South African cultural practices going back to the 17th century. However, due to numerous unfortunate circumstances, many of South Africa’s remaining handicraft artists are unable to create their craftwork.
It is very pleasant to see that South Africa still has projects that are actively moulding the future of handcrafters in the country. One of those projects is the Ubumba Pottery Project which provides skill development training in the manufacturing of traditional African pottery and ceramic products such as plates, teacups, mugs, casserole dishes and calabashes.
In 2022, the Ubumba Pottery project (implemented by Shine Inter-Trade) was successfully funded by National Arts Council (NAC) for their project of skill development training in the manufacturing of traditional African pottery and ceramic products. This follows the project’s alignment with the NAC on addressing historical imbalances by upholding and promoting the right of artistic practice by providing the disadvantaged with the required support to be able to access South Africa’s various artistic markets.
With the support received from the NAC, the Ubumba Pottery project manage to implement their organisation’s initiative of providing vulnerable and underprivileged crafters with the skills and resources needed to independently produce and sell a variety of handmade cultural creations. These training courses were facilitated by professional crafters such as potters, painters, retailers, and marketers and the project was aimed at providing participating artists with the knowledge and resources required to produce, market and sell their respective products independently.
During an interview with the project’s artistic director Muziwakhe Ndimande, he stated that “There is a gap in the handcraft market. We (Shine Inter – trade) saw a need [where] people were able to do the artwork but were without funding”. The NAC funds have been extremely beneficial for many South African artists and individuals who had been a part of the Ubumba Pottery project, both facilitating and participating.
Muziwakhe added, “The people that we trained, some of them [have] already started their own business”. The project initiative mainly targeted participants in the province of Kwa-Zulu Natal who were vulnerable and underprivileged artists. More than 100 training participants were equipped with the valuable knowledge, insight and resources necessary in developing and transforming their talents to ensure a future that is profitable and sustainable.
Additionally, several professional artists were employed to contribute to facilitating the Ubumba Pottery project, which led to creating more job opportunities within the sector.
The Ubumba Pottery project’s activities were exceptionally aligned with several of the NAC’s focus areas such as supporting marginalised and indigenous arts and addressing social ills by targeting artists who are underprivileged/vulnerable and unable to rightfully access their respective handicraft markets, capacity building through providing career opportunities and skill growth and supporting vulnerable groups with the resources needed to develop and sustain profitable artistry.
In his conclusion Muziwakhe’s, stated that “The NAC funding has helped us a lot. We were able to reach our markets and train more people in the rural areas. Through this initiative, some families are now able to have bread on their table which is very fulfilling for me as a project manager”. The organisational efforts of Shine Intertrade, along with the funding aids of the National Arts Council, have provided an opportunity for all beneficiaries of the Ubumba Pottery project to develop and sustain a profitable artistic career in South Africa going forward.
The Shine Intertrade’s vision is to continue to work with artists across South Africa and look forward to future artists’ collaborations.