The production and sale of arts and crafts provides a viable source of income to combat poverty in rural South Africa and reflects the country's rich cultural diversity.
Traditional skills are applied to both traditional materials - beads, leather, wood, clay and grass, and everyday materials - copper wire, plastic bags, glass and bottle tops.
This area of the Mpumalanga Lowveld, bordering the Kruger National Park and a number of private game farms, falls within the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere Region, a biosphere region recognised under the UNESCO (United Nations Educations, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) Man and the Biosphere Programme and is traditionally home to the Vatsonga or Tsonga people. The Vatsonga include Shangaans (Vachangana), Thonga and Tonga and a number of smaller ethnic groups.
This guide provides information about Vatsonga artists and crafters in area and the objects of art or craft that they produce and sell. The points of interest on the map are provided to give you an indication of where the craft stops are situated and GPS co-ordinates are given for each of these stops. Set your GPS or map software (e.g. Google Maps or Bing Maps) accordingly. Interestingly we have found that Bing Maps handles directions using GPS co-ordinates a little better than does Google Maps. GPS co-ordinates are provided in both decimal and degrees/minutes/seconds for your convenience.
You can also download this guide to your smart phone to help you navigate to a particular stop. 3G coverage from Vodacom is good in the area, Cell C does not have much coverage here to talk about. I am not sure about the coverage of the other service providers, but will update this guide as and when information becomes available.
New crafters will be added to this guide periodically as they are discovered. Please come back from time to time to see who has been to this guide.
The area has an interesting history, including the appearance of one João Albasini, a Portuguese trader of Italian descent, who was made an honorary tribal leader of the Shoshangaans in the middle 1800s. The Shangaan ethnic group of the Vatsonga are of Zulu origin, descendants of the Zulu warriors sent by King Shaka, under the command of Soshangana (Manukosi), to conquer the Tsonga people.
A number of the links accompany this guide deal with the history and ethnography of this area and make for interesting reading. These links can be found in the column to the right of this text - below the map and information about the author and weather - under the heading "Other Resources".
The reason for describing this guide as "moderately difficult" has to do with both roads and language.
: The tar roads are potholed - more so after rain in summer. The dirt or gravel roads are corrugated. There are few fences and animals wander freely into the path of oncoming vehicles. Driving standards are not great, so beware of cars on the wrong side of the road when least expected.
: The owners of most of the craft enterprises along this route do not speak English
, although it is likely that some of the younger generation will be able to help out in this regard. We intend to add languages spoken by traders to points of interest in the near future.
: All of the enterprise owners are informal traders. They do not sit around and wait for passing trade and often have to travel to market their goods or get supplies. It is best to phone ahead if you want to visit a particular informal trader. Remember to have a local language speaker on hand if you phone.
Numbering Points of Interests
: We have tried to number points of interests with respect to distance from Acronhoek. Number order does not necessarily mean the order in which traders should be visited.
: The photographs provided with each point of interest will help you identify the trader, the trader's site and the art or craft offered by each trader.
Junctions are often hard to find. A photograph accompanies each junction to help you navigate to a particular trader.
: There is a wealth of opportunity for photography. Remember that it is always a good idea to ask permission to photograph people before doing so. People here are extremely poor and you may be asked for a donation in return for taking a photograph of them.