Today was our first day venturing out in Cape Town. We finally made it to the famous markets where we all decided to do our souvenir shopping–couldn’t resist with all the beautiful crafts and native goods. In between our market experience, we stopped by the Company Gardens to have lunch before visiting the Slave Lodge.
MonkeyBiz: Art That Makes a Difference
My favorite place where we stopped today was a company called Monkeybiz. This is a non-profit bead project that started in January 2000. A woman by the name of Barbara Jackson founded this bead project with the help of her life partner, Carrol Boyes. Jackson thought beadwork was fading due to apartheid. She revived the craft artwork of beadwork through a sustainable company that deals with women empowerment and health development. The name stems from the fact that her and the rest of her co-founders, Shirley Fintz, and Mathapelo Ngaka were monkeys simply running around in the business world.
I thought this name was very clever and catchy. They added their own twist to it which makes it more interesting and easier to remember. This came about because the people in certain townships were suffering and needed income to help alleviate poverty and illness. An example of one of the township is Macassar. With the help of Monkeybiz they were able to connect to the community and help the people.
Although I had seen a similar style of this beadwork earlier at Green Market Square, it did not have nearly as intricate designs, and everything was so unique. The rest of the group and I were all eagerly waiting to purchase the merchandise, however we first were able to get a tour of the facility first. As Joan Krupp graciously showed us around, we were all in awe by the beautiful art that was displayed around the office. Through a short film, we were able to learn many details about the company and the start up process.
There are 450 women who bead for Monkeybiz. They are provided with free materials in order design creative and unique beadwork designs. They are also provided with a soup kitchen and health services. It was said that the animal figures made are distorted because many of the women have never seen real animals before. The women made the animals simply by looking at pictures or designs they are given. I was so surprised when she said this. I had not realized that people do not get the chance to see animals–even though they live in Africa. It made me realize how privileged I have been, especially on this trip.
For instance, a couple of days ago, I was lucky enough to wake up to a giraffe hanging outside my window where as some people have never seen one in their whole life. Also, I was speaking with one of our tour guides from Pretoria and she said she has not even been to Cape Town yet. It made me realize that I have been able to do so much here in so little time, that natives simply do not have the privilege of doing. Despite the fact they had not seen real animals, I think their imagination portrayed in the animal makes the beadwork even more special. The artwork they create gets a tag with their name on it so followers can always follow their favorite artist. Beadwork is coming back and becoming popular with this contemporary art form.
Monkeybiz also deposits money in their artists’ bank account, which they had to teach them about as well as the aspect of a bank. It is interesting to realize that some people do not have a need for a bank as they merely do not make enough money in the long run. Also, there is no one there to educate them about this stuff as those before them might not have needed a bank account. I think it is very beneficial for these women, as well as provides them with a great sense of structure.
Each woman is paid according to size of artwork. This money provides them with income to support their families as well as hope to carry on.
Business is 85-90% exported to the United States. ABC Carpet & Home in NYC is a big supporter of project and has been selling Monkeybiz products for around 10 years.
Allowing women to express themselves is something they thought they’d never be able to do. It touches a lot of their souls. It gives people hope and before there wasn’t any. When Joan told us this bit of information it made me thankful that there are people out there in the world looking out for ways to help others. This whole trip has made me look at situations and people in a new light and I think that even though this business contains only 450 women, it started with one and is hopefully expanding to help even more. People buy it because it’s unique and it makes a huge difference at the end -charities want to help but are unsure how, and it helps when they buy something as it goes to something good. I also was shocked that they do not advertise at all, they simply rely on word of mouth.
I think that it is even cooler that after Professor Gallay has showed us this place, we will to help spread the word. As many of us bought presents for others, hopefully they can help spread the word as well.
Monumental Stop: The Slave Lodge
When first entering the Slave Lodge I was somewhat confused as to what it was exactly. There were signs that said museum so I obviously assumed that was what it is. However, the Slave Lodge is very unique.
The Slave Lodge is a heritage site now that serves as a place of memory and reflection from where slaves used to be traded. It was interesting because one side was dedicated to the whole process of slave trading and the steps that went behind it. Although I have learned about slavery in the past and the process behind it, it was somewhat eerie to be in a place where it all actually happened long ago.
One of the informative videos playing on display specifically said that outside lays an exact spot where slaves used to be auctioned off. This made me think of all the movies I have watched about slavery and how gruesome and degrading the process of slave trading is.
One unique aspect of this museum was the fact that one whole side was dedicated in memory of the slaves, and the other half consisted of a timeline relating to Oliver Tambo. After all I have learned throughout this semester, I thought it was surprising that this is really the only time I saw something dedicated to Oliver Tambo. He was a strong part of the ANC and I feel as though he gets neglected sometimes for whatever reason. Due to the fact that we talk so much about apartheid and the oppression that results in South Africa, I thought it was cool to see where it all began long ago.