Speech by Minister Pallo Jordan at Crafts Award Dinner at the South African Reserve Bank Conference Centre, Pretoria
Thank You, Mr. Wakashe,
Your Excellencies Members of the Diplomatic Corps
It is a great pleasure for me to be here this evening at this Crafts Awards Dinner. This is indeed a very timeous occasion because the crafts is a sector of the cultural industries we identified as possessed of a huge potential.
We often speak of a second economy in South Africa. When the concept is employed it is not intended to imply that there are two distinct, discreet economies in our country. We accept that South Africa is a single economy, but one that is stretched between two poles. The one pole is developed world of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, the Merchant Banks, the transnational corporations like Anglo-American Corporation, De Beers Consolidated and para-statals. At the opposite pole is the impoverished Black rural woman, trying to scrape a living from the inhospitable soil without the benefit of modern machinery or even water with which to irrigate her crops. At this opposite pole are also the thousands who are not working, who cannot find work, who live off welfare grants or are engaged in marginal activities to keep body and soul together.
The crafts have long ago been driven to the margins of the economy by machine made objects. In order to survive, the crafts were compelled to carve out a niche market in the areas where the machine does not find it worthwhile to tread. This market for the handmade object, invested with the individual skill, dedication and eye of the crafter has the potential of bridging the gap between the first and second economies because its products are high value.
Tonight’s awards are the outcomes of competitions we mounted in each of the provinces as a way of stimulating the crafts. I trust we have either all walked through the exhibition or plan to do so later. I am certain we can all testify to the high caliber of products from our crafters.
Over the years, the DAC has sponsored a number of incubator projects in the crafts. Our officials, assisted by the provinces, monitor very closely the project is rolled out, drawing valuable lessons from both its successes and failures so that we can extend our work further, applying the lessons we have learnt to others.
The purpose of our incubators is to impart new skills but also to adapt and elaborate on the skills that already exist within communities so that such communities are absorbed into the mainstream of the economy. Though small and frequently they entail small production batches, these projects are nonetheless producing objects that are attractive in both the national and the international crafts markets. Their potential economic impact among the communities where they are located is immense provided that the profits accrue largely to the direct producers.
The forthcoming Confederations Cup and the 2010 World Cup offers all South Africa’s craft sector a unique opportunity. Literally thousands of football fans will start arriving in our country as of 2009. Every visitor to a foreign land usually wants to take away something to make their visit memorable. Souvenirs of every type will be in great demand and the market will be coming to our shores. I am certain that South Africa’s crafters have and are preparing themselves to take advantage of this once-off opportunity and are producing souvenirs and other craft products that the visitors will find worth spending their money on.
Our crafters must resist the temptations of palming off shoddy merchandise on gullible foreigners. Not only will that conspire to bring down the quality of our crafts, but it can also be self-defeating. In the globalised markets of today, word will soon spread about the shoddy quality of our goods, and the market will dry up. The quality of what is marketed must be such that not only will those who have visited again seek out South African crafts, their friends and neighbours, who get to see and hear about their purchases, should also be inspired to want them. Let us appreciate that satisfied customers can be our best ambassadors and marketing agents.
The DAC developed a craft marketing strategy in collaboration with the Department of Trade and Industry which has produced interesting result. We have broken into high value markets in Europe, including the Conran chain of shops. South Africa has unique and innovative products with considerable product diversity. The crafters themselves have expanded and extended the range of products they are producing. The work of South African crafters has made a splash in the capitals of the world. Tonight’s awardees will make sure it does even better.
The exploitation of crafters is a well known scandal which needs to be addressed. The principal method of this exploitation is by unregulated middle-persons buying cheap from crafters and selling dear to retailers and to buyers. During the Football World Cup in Germany in 2006, we mounted a small but very successful crafts market in Cologne. At the end of that year, we launched our distinctly South African crafts brand, “Beautiful Things”, at the Presidential guest house, in Pretoria. On both those occasions, we made sure that the crafters benefited from the sale of their work.
That was relatively easy because the DAC dealt directly with crafters in the one instance and through a reliable service provider in the second. It must become an accepted mode of operation for crafters to deal with retailers and buyers who are not out to take advantage of those already disadvantaged.
Tonight’s craft awards are a good example of what becomes possible when the interventions we make are well-timed and appropriate. The crafters who have won prizes tonight are drawn from every part of South Africa. The high level of quality control combined with knowledge of the market performance of various products, has ensured that what we are rewarding here tonight is work that will stand up to scrutiny -aesthetic or otherwise – that even the most critical eye could devise.
I want especially to thank the regional and provincial coordinators, who performed an excellent job in bringing this project to fruition. We also thank the Reserve Bank for lending their premises to mount our exhibition and host this dinner. But most of all, I want to thank you all for coming.
I congratulate all the winners and want to encourage those have not fared so well to keep at it. There will be a next time.