south african bead and wire art street vendors

Zimbabwean bead and wire artists new to South Africa have limited options. Many are amateurs and those more talented don’t yet have connections with shops or exporters.

The vast majority will either join or form a group and sell to locals and tourists along busy streets in the more affluent neighborhoods of Johannesburg and Cape Town. Each artisan or group stakes a claim to a certain spot. Some groups hang out together on the street and work as they hawk their good and others appoint someone to sell while the rest of the group works elsewhere. Each morning and evening they have to schlep all their merchandise and materials with them on public transportation. They do this year around, summer and winter. Fortunately, the climate is mild but it can get cool in the winter and it often rains in the summer.

Due to schlepping unsold pieces back and forth some get damaged. In the slideshow below you’ll see a picture of 2 multi colored, striped giraffes. See how the coloring has worn off some of the beads. These pieces have obviously not sold for some time, demonstrating the difficulty of retailing on the street. Also, by the fact they continue to try and sell these now defective pieces shows their desperation.

Since they don’t have any chairs they take advantage of tree stumps or stack a few bricks to make informal stools. Hardly a comfortable way to spend each workday!

As the artisans don’t have licenses to sell at these locations police occasionally confiscate their goods. As it is, they hardly eke out a living so such losses are difficult to bear.

Your purchase of authentic African beaded wire animals enables us to expand and to provide stable employment to more artisans such as those presently forced to street vend.


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