Mintek empowers rural people through art

Patience Bambalele

Patience Bambalele

The 2008 Beadex Expo that took place at the Sandton Convention Centre last week showcased the best of African art and crafts.

Crafters came in big numbers to display their beautiful creations that really caught the eye of buyers. One of the works that really shone at the exhibition was the Mintek products that included African bead art, necklaces and earrings.

These products were made by rural artists from various provinces in the country.

Christina Pule, a bead specialist at Mintek, says when they started the beads project, their aim was to open job opportunities within communities.

"We looked at things that could benefit the community without spending money - like creating jewellery from waste glass (liquor and soft drink bottles), planting maize and crushing stones into gravel and sand for use in housing projects."

Pule says their role as Mintek is to train people so that they could run projects by themselves and earn a living. She adds that women from several places are making clay pots in the rural villages and selling them to tourists.

"However, they often lack technology to make high-quality pots demanded by the market. Mintek identified that some of the pots made by these women were not of a very good quality and assisted them by installing the latest technology stove to burn the pots."

Pule says since 2003 she has established beads projects in places such as Dundee, Ulundi, Hazyview, Marble Hall, Northern Cape, Mafikeng, Potchefstroom and Taung.

"I am currently training people from Uganda, and next week I am travelling to Nigeria to train people there. Our project has spread all over South Africa."