Some small town stuff

Years ago when we were the owners of Soekershof Botanical Gardens one of our slogans was:

“Everything you always wanted to know about SEX … in the garden but never dared to ask”

Reason for the local tourism bureau to inform tourists not to go over there because it was all pornography … 😉

Very prolific to me in that regard:

Prototype of a wooden Handbag

Some years ago, during our previous life at Soekershof, we managed some workshops on our farm where local artisans had the opportunity to hone their skills. Some beautiful things were created such as the huge wire baobab tree for the South African embassy in Berlin (Germany). Visitors from around the globe saw the people at work and it was always a nice exchange between cultures and it was selling on the spot; from wire work to seed boxes (with inlaid wood) with seeds from plants in our garden !!!

At the time Soekershof was Fair Trade accredited which meant that we could supply Fair Trade and similar shops (like Oxfam in the UK) with products. But you know what? These shops (including their umbrella organizations) wanted to have it all cheap, very cheap, while we had the impression that Fair Trade stood (stands?) for (e)quality and honest income for people from less privileged areas in the world. … One of ideas (from a Dutch Fair Trade organization) was to market wooden handbags so ‘Mr. Plaatjies’ (the woodworker) made a few laminated prototypes. Cost price of wood, leather, etc., (= just the materials) was around R 10,00 (1.5 USD); fairly cheap because we recycled rest pieces. Fair Trade offered us 1 EURO each including transport to Holland; less than materials costed us.

Well … we told them to buy in China. But this is not the end of the story.

We still have one prototype left. And that one will last a long, long,  time.

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Labyrinth key ring

… One of the few ‘left overs’ of our previous adventure (Soekershof, with maze, cactus labyrinth and succulent garden). In the workshop we had several local artists/craftspeople (one of them with an international reputation) who sold their (hand made) products to visitors who could appreciate true South African made arts and crafts. And it’s so fulfilling to know that all of them were able to uplift themselves from poverty and gathering an above average income from their own home and/or workshop.

The new owners transformed the workshops in a (money generating) trendy restaurant and accommodation. In South African tourism there is nowadays hardly any place for a truly mutual beneficial initiative between proprietors and artists/craftspeople. Most of the crafts for sale along the roads and on markets are from abroad … For the tourists there are also state and private funded ’empowerment’ initiatives where local people hone themselves in craft making… Some of these survive, most unfortunately not.

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