St Lucia Arts & Crafts
Did you know?
A major decor home store buys the bulk of St Lucia's renewable arts and crafts.
When the Isimangaliso Wetland Park became South Africa's first World Heritage Site in 1999, life began to look up for the women of this beautiful land of Lake St Lucia.
St Lucia's arts and crafts come from a strong tradition of basket weaving, but the women earned a pittance from their work. St Lucia's craft workers had limited access to markets. The products also looked the same, which drove down the price.
Clearly the goods had to be become more diverse, with colours and shapes that would appeal to more lucrative markets. So the Wetland Authority brought in product developers to help advise on the latest décor trends and colours.
St Lucia's arts and crafts also had to be made of renewable resources, in keeping with the conservation ethic.
Hundreds of women now make a decent living weaving baskets and placemats at their own homes, using local plants like isikonko reeds, ilala palm frond and sisal. They are now sold under the label ‘Rooted' at décor stores in the major centres.
The difference the St Lucia renewable crafts programme has made in people's lives is nothing short of spectacular. There are many examples, but that of Thembi Nkanini is fairly typical.
Ma-Thembi used to live in a 1-room shack just outside the Mkhuze Game Reserve. She struggled to raise her children on the few vegetables she could grow and money from part-time work, when she was lucky.
Thanks to the baskets and placemats she now makes, her income has increased tenfold. Five years after starting to weave her bright baskets, Ma-Thembi bought solar panels for the roof of her extended house. Her children have school uniforms and the books they need. And she has finally been able to buy herself a cell phone - essential for keeping up with orders.
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Who to contact
iSimangaliso Wetland Authority
Tel: +27 (0) 35 590 1633