Home Institution

Smith College

Publication Date

Spring 2012

Program Name

South Africa: Social and Political Transformation


The significance of the South African traditional craft industry is often associated with the preservation of historical culture. However, besides being a crucial element in the protection and promotion of cultural heritage, craftwork also can be a significant source of income generation for disadvantaged communities across South Africa. The African Art Centre, a non-profit organization located in Durban, reaches out to various communities of disadvantage in and around the KwaZulu Natal province, holding training and design workshops, providing access to craft skills and materials, and providing a market for the sale of craft as a source of sustainable economic empowerment.

The focus of this study is to examine the development workshops run by the Centre and to evaluate their success. Success, in this study, is measured by whether or not the programs yield long-term results and if the model used is applicable to other communities outside of KwaZulu Natal. This information was collected through a combination of observation, participation, and interviews.

My research will show that while the African Art Centre’s development projects successfully provide significant income-generating opportunities for disadvantaged, rural communities, the full potential of these programs are limited by lack of governmental support and the gendered division of labor within the craft industry.


Art and Design | Arts Management | Civic and Community Engagement | Entrepreneurial and Small Business Operations | Inequality and Stratification | Social and Cultural Anthropology


Article Location