Arts and Crafts
Arts and Crafts
The arts and crafts sector provides a livelihood – a meagre one so far – to a substantial number of people in the Eastern Cape. The sector is certainly large, and can play a direct role in poverty alleviation, but it has been poorly developed. It’s a sector fraught with challenges, ranging from low skills levels to alienation from market access and demands. It’s also a sector where significant headway was made in 2003/4, so much so that the province is being seen as a pioneer.
ECDC was a driver in the establishment of the Eastern Cape Craft Development Agency, which is spearheading an integrated approach by the major role players in the crafts sector. The agency is addressing critical issues facing the sector, such as fragmentation, lack of financial support for new ventures, the 'manipulation' of the sector by a small group of agents, quality assurance and control, branding and design input, and the lack of a coordinated and cohesive approach to markets, and business practices.
Solutions already underway for arts and crafts include the development of product clusters. The Willowvale bangles and chokers micro-cluster brings together crafters who specialise in these products and addresses some of their problems. EDS carried out production capacity assessments for this cluster, assisted the crafters with product design, and linked them with Mintek for technical training. A cluster has been developed in Port St Johns for basketry.
ECDC believes the Eastern Cape has the potential to become one of the top crafting regions in the country and in the world. To make that a reality, however, role players need to change their thinking about the sector, considering issues such as integrating skills with functional products, rather than products just for display. There are unlimited opportunities, too, in building links with more established industries, such as furniture making and automotives.