An African Artisan’s Humble Beginnings

Upon arrival in South Africa many of our artisans could only afford to settle in a township, which often wasn’t much different than where they came from in Zimbabwe. Many of the dwellings are nothing more than tiny shacks made of cinderblocks and randomly appropriated or discarded bricks with amateurishly patched tin roofs, which habitually leak in the rainy season. Many have no running water or sewage and numerous unofficial electric lines provide power.

Townships are home to South Africans as well as those from other African countries seeking a better life. Many languages are spoken, there are tensions between locals and foreigners over jobs, unemployment is high and a significant percentage of the young men engage in marijuana dealing, theft and even violent crime such as armed robbery and carjacking. The conditions are by and large worse than any US slum.

We’re fortunate to have a hand in uplifting our artisans from such conditions and with your purchase of authentic African beaded animals you help them and their families live a life of greater comfort and stability.

To better appreciate their humble beginnings here’s a peek into Alexandra, known to locals as Alex, a township on the edge of the capital, Johannesburg. Interestingly enough, it’s in very close proximity to very affluent neighborhoods and the contrast is staggering. Few local, white South Africans will enter Alex and the few tourists that visit will mostly do so in groups during daylight.

Note the many spontaneous smiles! In the Western world we equate happiness with success, status and wealth while in many parts of Africa people are satisfied with a life of simplicity and are much more laid back.