Rietbron in the Eastern Cape is home to an interesting little craft project based in a local school. Here nearly a dozen people, most of them previously unemployed, are engaged in producing beautiful wire and bead crafts. But part of the attraction is the unspoilt quietness of the town.

Did you know?

Many lovely Karoo cottages in Rietbron were built as ‘holy communion’ houses by farmers who sought 'town houses' after trekking long distance to church services in the town.

Rietbron in the Eastern Cape is the quintessential quiet desert town. All roads revolve around a blonde facebrick church with a springbok as its weathervane.

Nothing much happens here, and that is the greatest part of Rietbron’s charm. People drive from cities hours away just to sit on Rietbron verandahs and rest their eyes on the far horizon.

In the nearby township, however, weekdays are a hive of activity at a corner of the local primary school. This is where the Rietbron Handcrafters create unbreakable and beautiful crafts, perfect for travellers.

There are most beautiful hearts, crosses, angels and rosettes and dangly ornaments made with fine wire, crystals, beads and sequins. From this unlikely little town, crafts are sent out to Cape Town, Johannesburg and as far as Norway.

Eleven people are involved in the project, which was supported by the local district municipality and a tiny company called Craft Partners, who transformed their skills from simple knitting and crocheting to using those same skills, but with wire.

They work in a relaxed and supportive atmosphere in a spacious room, an unused classroom at Bronville Primary School.

Their children play around their feet. It’s a nurturing environment, and all the crafters deeply appreciate the work. For most of them, it’s the first full-time work they’ve ever had.
For others, it has enabled them to come back home from farflung cities where they were doing seasonal work. It is a source of great pride that they are now breadwinners in their families.

'We love creating beautiful things, and we love being together every day. We so enjoy each other’s company,” says Sena Steenkamp, who co-ordinates incoming orders.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Rietbron Wire Handcraft
Sena Steenkamp
Cell: +27 (0)78 134 8239

Baviaans Tourism Office
Tel: +27 (0)44 923 1702

Rietbron Local Municipality offices
Tel and fax: +27 (0)44 934 1008

Rietbron Townstays
Lizelle Murray
Tel: +27 (0)84 811 2004

How to get here

Rietbron is on the road between Willowmore and Beaufort West, and is about four hours’ drive from Port Elizabeth, the nearest airport.

Best time to visit

To avoid extreme temperatures, visit here during spring (September and October) or autumn (March and April). It gets very cold in summer (November to February) and very cold in winter (May to August).

Around the area

Willowmore, a short drive away, is a more bustling Karoo town with shops and good restaurants.

Tours to do

If you’d like to visit the local museum, call the curator, Corrie Snyman, on +27 (0)44 934 1118.

Get around

Rietbron is so small you can walk everywhere. It’s a place where children can ride bicycles along the main road because there is hardly any traffic.

Length of stay

Rietbron is so quiet it is almost a state of mind. If you’re just interested in the crafts, call them and pop through for an hour or so. But some people find themselves completely drawn in by the ‘nothingness’ of this region, in which case, a stay of a few days is recommended.

What to pack

Note that Rietbron does not have banks, automatic teller machines or a petrol station.

Where to stay

There are a number of Rietbron farmstays and townstays listed on www.baviaans.co.za.

What's happening

This is farming country, with sheep and angora goats being the most common livestock in the region.

Best buys

You could buy beautiful wire crafts directly from the crafters. They are quite inexpensive and make excellent gifts to take back home.

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