In 2020, I went back up to the community of KwaJobe with Sizah Mtshali. Sizah and I began working with the groups in 2016, and whenever an opportunity presents itself, we head back up there. We were deeply concerned at how Covid would have impacted on the livelihoods of the crafters.
One would think that in rural areas, Covid-19 protocols were largely ignored. Particularly mask wearing. We were amazed and just how many people were wearing their masks. Space is not an issue up here, and with plenty of space and fresh air, we felt completely at ease meeting with the women.
It was a very different type of meeting. The group was smaller, and there was little craft to be seen. With no outlet for craft locally, as game reserves and game lodges were closed, the women had no one to sell their products too. Travel restrictions put an end to weekend travellers who would pass the craft stalls on the R22.
Where are the others? we asked.
‘They are coming,’ said Ma Themba.
‘No,’ said Ma Eunice. ‘They are in the fields. There are vegetables to harvest.’
It was vegetable farming, not craft, that kept hunger at bay.