South African Arts & Crafts
Did you know?
There are more than 1 000 formal craft retail outlets in South Africa.
South Africa abounds with creative talent, reflected in the output of artists and craftsmen and women from around the country.
South African arts and crafts are made from every possible medium. Traditional materials like beads, grass, leather, wood and clay are worked using traditional skills, while materials such as telephone wire, plastic bags, glass and bottle tops are used to create vibrant, contemporary craft items that reflect our cultural diversity.
Art and craft objects in South Africa include items like wire art and eco-friendly bags made from recycled bottle tops , traditional beadwork, pottery and woven baskets, tableware, fabrics, ceramics and beautiful wooden carvings.
You will find a number of markets and collectives selling modern and traditional African craft in every city and in cultural villages dotted around the country. Often, these South African arts and crafts co-operatives directly benefit local communities, teaching skills and providing employment through tourism.
These cooperatives also nurture hidden talent, with skilled artists emerging to attain national and international attention for their work. One example of this is the work of ceramicist Bonnie Ntshalintshali, with its almost phantasmagoric detail, which has gone well beyond the confines of traditional African pottery and been bought by galleries around the world.
Sculptor Phutuma Seoka is another artist who has taken a traditional craft – Venda wood carving – and used it to create a cast of eccentric – and highly sought after - characters.
Esther Mahlangu, has adapted Ndebele paining techniques using distinctive, highly coloured geometric Ndebele designs for use on everything from cars to aeroplanes.
South Africa also has many galleries and museums that showcase examples of traditional and more recent South African art – from that of the San to artists like Irma Stern, Gerald Sekoto and Walter Battiss.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Department of Arts and Culture
Tel: +27 (0) 12 441 3144