Community Project Making a Difference

29 Jan 2016



This photographic project focuses on the vision of one woman who has inspired not only her own family, but impoverished people in her area to use their creative skills towards improving their living conditions.

Dr Elbé Coetsee’s concern for the poverty stricken Northern Sotho people living adjacent to the Coetsee’s cattle farm in the northern part of Limpopo Province between Tolwe and Alldays, lead to the creation of a charming safari lodge (River Lodge), a Craft Art Centre, Research Centre, and Artist’s Retreat. During 2003 a cultural research project was initiated to document the mainly oral culture of local Bapedi, Hananwa, Batlokwa, and Babirwa (Northern Sotho) people living in the Blouberg area. Recently a Factory was established to manufacture health products from the ubiquitous bulbinella plant (Bulbine Frutescence) in the area.

All these activities are documented not only in words but in embroidered wall hangings, functional home enhancing products (or rather ‘soft furnishings’) like cushions, weaving and beaded interpretations of renowned South African artists, like Willem Boshoff and Karel Nel, and gathered in unique embroidered ‘pages’ stitched together in book form. These books made of cloth, document through oral traditions and imaginative images - the customs, religion, education, medicine, daily lives - of people in the area. 

The main aim of these projects is towards nation building and creating an archive for future generations.

The work of the women under Dr Coetsee’s guidance has found eager markets locally and abroad.
Dr. Coetsee holds a PhD in social entrepreneurship and in 2002 she published the definitive book, Craft Art in South Africa with a recent follow up, Craft Art in South Africa: Creative Intersections was published in March 2015. 

Some of the embroidered panels are show cased at international exhibitions, for example at the Santa Fe Folk Art Market, and included in permanent collections such as the South African Embassy in Brussels, Sasol Art Collection, Jack Ginsberg’s Artist Book Collection.

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