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By Bonginkosi Tiwane

Digital Journalist


Asiwele links urban creatives with SA’s rural crafting communities

The initiative by Art Aid titled Asiwele aims to foster collaboration between urban creative industries and rural crafting communities.


Few things enforce the class divide like the disparity in the quality of life between urban and rural communities.

This inequality is expressed in a variety of things, from government service delivery to how people in the city seem to look down on those living in rural areas, easily throwing the popular ‘living in the bundus’ remark when referring to those outside the country’s cities.

Even in the art world, one sees this. An artist that resides and works in Phiva, in the Nkomazi Local Municipality in Mpumalanga, would have to leave their home and travel to Johannesburg or Cape Town to get recognition for their work.

An initiative by Art Aid titled Asiwele – Crossing the Divide, supported by Business Arts South Africa (BASA) aims to foster collaboration between urban creative industries and rural crafting communities in South Africa’s Limpopo, Mpumalanga, and Gauteng provinces.

“Our objective is clear: to empower rural and urban crafters through collaboration, innovation, and marketability,” said Jan Bhuda, Asiwele project director.

“By preserving traditional crafts and fostering cultural exchange, we aim to create sustainable job opportunities for both communities.”

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Collaborative curation

Art Aid has curated a select group of 12 Gauteng-based creative enterprises specialising in industrial, fashion, art, and interior design, each partnered with skilled craft groups from rural townships in Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces.

Through these collaborations facilitated by Asiwele, innovative, sustainable, and marketable products will emerge, poised to launch into local, national, and international markets.

Asiwele – Crossing the Divide represents a significant effort to unite the rich heritage, indigenous knowledge, and skills of rural crafters with the innovation and market insight of urban designers and industry.

This project will culminate in a spectacular exhibition hosted at the Women’s Jail, Constitution Hill, Johannesburg, on July 11 and runs until the 21 July

This initiative is strategically designed to empower crafters, enhance economic opportunities, and establish a sustainable ecosystem for the craft industries across the region.

The exhibition at the Women’s Jail, Constitution Hill, promises to showcase the fusion of traditional craftsmanship with contemporary design elements. Attendees will experience first-hand the unparalleled artistry and ingenuity resulting from these collaborative efforts.

Asiwele – Crossing the Divide is a celebration of South Africa’s diverse cultural tapestry and a testament to the transformative potential of collaboration and creativity.

Some of the collaborations will include Courtney Hodgson (of Kif Kak) designing accessories with Nkosinathi Hadebe (of Nazo Accessories) with Letty Jiyane (of Dalagubha) doing beading.  

Sizwe Hendrick Eksteen (of Sizwe Creations) will be tailoring and embroidery with Emma Vhengani (of Tambani Muswodi) and Selena Mavhetha (Tambani).

Ndivhuwo Mathase of Ukonazwothe Fashion Design will collaborate with Suzan Makatu of Mukonazwothe Fashion Design.

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