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
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
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.
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.
This is farming country, with sheep and angora goats being the most common livestock in the region.
You could buy beautiful wire crafts directly from the crafters. They are quite inexpensive and make excellent gifts to take back home.