This post is linked with a look closer sibling post on Historic Crafts about the craft history of Swaziland.
This is the first in a series of blog posts that look closer at crafts all over the world. At the moment I have two brain children running simultaneously. One is the Historic Crafts website and journal where I am trying to create an international community of people who are all passionate about keeping traditional crafts alive. The other is Grey Duckling, which is slightly more personal and focuses on ethical crafts, recycling, design, fashion and the pursuits of my husband John and myself. Up till now I have been keeping these two websites apart – but I feel that now is the time to bring them together on common ground. This will happen through the look closer blog series. On Historic Crafts I will blog about the craft tradition of the country in question and at the same time I will blog on Grey Duckling about the modern crafts people of my choosing. Just one last thing before I begin – neither of the two sibling posts will be final. I reserve the right to add to them over time depending on comments and new ideas I stumble upon.
Why begin with Swaziland? – you might ask. I’ll tell you why. What better place to begin than amongst the crafted item I grew up surrounded by. I spent a part of my childhood in Swaziland and my mother who herself is very interested in crafts bought quite a few items, which was brought back with us to Denmark. They were always there in the house, the candles on the table, the baskets, pottery, soap stone carvings and batik wall hangings.
Tintsaba was first started in 1985 as a social enterprise by Sheila Freemantle. The idea was to create income opportunities for Swazi women thus enabling them to take charge of their own lives. Tintsaba have to date trained over 900 women in the craft of sisal weaving. Sisal is a sustainable local fibre and is dyed with environmentally safe dyes. Tintsaba has recently launched Tintsaba Reads, a literacy project which is focussed on teaching Swazi women to read and write. They have begun to sell these beautiful Love Angels to raise money for the literacy project.
Swazi Candles, situated in the Malkerns Valley in the Kingdom of Swaziland, has been producing fine handmade candles since 1981, where two South African art graduates and a designer set up business in an old cowshed. Their philosophy is “to create unique handmade candles of exceptional quality in a happy working environment”.
Swazi Candles has now grown into a successful and influential company employing over 200 people and selling their products worldwide. Nevertheless, all the candles are still made and finished by hand by their very talented crafts people.
Baobab batik use the age old techniques of batik to create homeware, which in my view are beautiful works of art. Their work is inspired by the surrounding Swazi nature and wildlife.
The companies above among a group of enterprising people who have come together to found Pure Swazi – a collection of handcraft companies in Swaziland focussing on high quality design, fair-trade and eco-conscious principles.