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The beauty of handcraft, Swaziland and Themba.

January 05, 2018

Handcrafted wooden stag head

Themba is 29 years old, and he originally comes from the south west region of Swaziland, a tiny landlocked Kingdom bordering Mozambique and South Africa.  Swaziland is an incredibly beautiful country, rich in magnificent valleys and mountains, towering forests and expansive wild life.  This beauty is reflected in the Swazi people; a proud nation, with friendly, peace loving people at its core. Themba, himself, embodies the essence of the Swazi population.  His welcoming smile is contagious, and his genuine warmth and care, are deep rooted values of a time gone by.

I approached Themba with the idea of a product that I would like him to work on.  He listened carefully, took his time to understand my requirements, and then he set to work crafting a product that we are truly excited to add to our Artisan Lifestyle brand.  His work ethic and commitment to producing crafts of the highest quality is unquestionable.  In one word I would describe Themba as utterly humble.  He is truly gifted and deserves to thrive in his artisan career.  Simply, he plans to build his reputation based on the quality of the work that he is able to produce.  Themba’s craft is wood and soapstone carving, and his ability to create pieces of artwork, is a story to inspire us all.

Themba stopped school in Form 2, when his parents could no longer support the cost of his studies.  In order to support his family, Themba did odd jobs whenever he could find work.  Eventually, he moved closer to work opportunities in the town of Matsapha, where he worked in construction.  It was his roommate that invited him to come to Malkerns (a picturesque farming area of pineapples and sugar cane, and popular with visitors to Swaziland) to assist in selling crafts at the market.  Whilst selling crafts, Themba closely observed the carvers around him and taught himself the art of wood and soapstone carving.  Themba has now been carving for 3 years, and he will only go from strength to strength.  His talent is undeniably a gift, which he has now passed onto his brother-in-law by teaching him these invaluable artisan skills.  His brother-in-law has been carving for 2 years, and together they work on many projects. 

Collaborating with artisans, such as Themba, is what we get excited by at Artisan Lifestyle.  Being able to conceptualise a product, and then see these products skilfully crafted is hugely gratifying.  These handcrafted products are items crafted through creativity and passion, and the end results are always a loved artisan artefact which is ultimately one of a kind.  I love that skills are almost always passed on through generations, with scope for individual style, but also the creation of connectedness amongst peers and generations, in a mostly disconnected world. Designing and crafting handcrafted products nourishes the creative spirit, allows for true quality and these artisan items are made with complete heart and pride. 

In an effort to give back to Themba and his community, we will be donating proceeds from any Themba product sales towards improving their working and home conditions.  Clean, running water is a luxury, and our initial goal is to provide this community with tanks for water storage.  Themba’s giant smile and warmth is a gentle reminder of how simple life can be, and how important it is to be grateful for all that we have.  At Artisan Lifestyle we remain committed to uplifting the people that we work with, and I am super excited to see Themba’s smile grow even bigger!

* The wood used in Themba’s carvings is Jacaranda wood, a soft wood which is ideal for carving.  These trees have been declared an alien and invasive species in Swaziland and, therefore, the Swaziland carvers are always on the lookout for any of these trees which are to be cleared. 

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