The MeerKAT Radio Telescope project in the Northern Cape has been creating hundreds of work opportunities for community members over the years and now they are teaching craft producers how to use their talent to put bread on the table.
The project came about after the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO) formed a creative community initiative with the crafters where 19 up-and-coming crafters from the small rural towns of Carnarvon, Vanwyksvlei, Brandvlei and Williston completed a skills training programme at Craft and Design Institute (CDI) in 2019. “The goal is to source craft-makers from disadvantaged backgrounds and under-resourced communities, provide them with creative skills training, as well as basic business and marketing skills,” explained Rosemary Cooke, Training Manager at CDI. Furthermore,CDI also hosts numerous free workshops related to skills and business training in the crafts industry.
The six-month programme saw CDI running a series of workshops focused on design, creative skills training and developing quality products that are unique to the Karoo. After the training, SARAO gave the crafters the opportunity to sell their goods. The organization took it upon itself to order R100 000 worth of products from 10 of the crafters, which were ordered for SARAO’s Bursary Conference in December 2019.“The order included conference bags and various corporate gift items from the craft businesses. This is a further step towards empowering the businesses to start engaging with the market and getting their businesses into the mainstream of economic activity,” said Cooke.
One of the crafters, Maria Lackay, is the breadwinner of her family and creates household accessories and clothing. She said that CDI and SARAO helped her to access opportunities that she would never have been able to. “I have never handled bulk orders and the assistance I received from CDI helped a lot. SARAO is great and cares a lot for others, especially for those who want to be successful and who want to make the future brighter. I love this project!” said Lackay.
SARAO’s creative community initiative has also created a design brochure featuring each of the 19 crafters and their products.