Mdantsane is a unique, vibrating, eclectic, African place. Follow us on a pilgrimage to Mdantsane to discover the street culture, fashion, food, people, music, homes, taverns, humor, businesses, history and what's hot in the second biggest township in South-Africa, located close to the city of East London in the Province of the Eastern Cape. Join us on this journey while we capture the spirit of this amazing place for you in the here and in the now. We are going to introduce you to many individuals, artists, musicians, groups and associations.
They are the HEROES OF DAILY LIFE. They are the people who create, innovate and improve their life and their stories deserve to be told. This is a place for only good and positive stories of humanity, that will send out a message of courage, endurance and strength to the world through their pictures and words.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Perfectly Beautiful, Organic And Sustainable Piece Of Xhosa Jewelry And The Story Of Its Origin

If You Cross The River Bring A Bangle Back For Me

A Photographic Story By Chocolat

When the waters do not want to marry.....

There are times, when the waters do not want to marry! Like some people do not want to be together.
What happened here? What is going on here, you might ask me when you look at the two colors of the sea? The razor sharp line, that separates them seems a tiny little bit unreal. You have never seen such a clear and straight line between waters, you say to me!

I can only tell you, that this land, that belongs to the Xhosa for so long, and that some name the Transkei is a very special one. It is a land of rolling green hills, mighty bulls and clear, clear blue sky. I say clear. It is truly clear and bright like a child's face. It's the land of many rivers.

So, when the rains have been falling for some days and the Xhosa are happy because their hills are getting even greener and their bulls are getting fatter - the rivers from the mountains run into the sea. And sometimes the waters do not want to marry. And that is what you see.

Some of us others - and we are getting more by the day - wish for a cleaner, better and purer life. But we can not find it where we are. So we start to travel!

The Craft And Traditions Of Days Of Old

On my travels I have seen bangles so beautiful, shining and in a way pure, made by female Xhosa hands in the same old way for centuries. They come straight from the earth, entirely woven out of grass. This land of the Xhosa people, I told you about, has a very special type of grass.

The bangles, they last. 

A perfectly beautiful, organic and sustainable piece of Xhosa jewelry

But to have it, you have to cross at least one river. Only once, have I seen someone bringing them to the city. 
It takes a special place to make a special thing.
So, if you have to cross the river, bring a bangle back, just for me.

Finding a place on the ferry at Kei Mouth can sometimes take a while

Your travel, you will share with everyone. And that is nice.

The waters of the Kei River are brown after heavy rains

The river tells you if you are going on or not.

The easiest way to cross the river

Amongst the many others who have all a reason to cross the river, you can find her. There is she.
But she, she goes forth and back on the river. The river is where she works.  

Crossing the river to do business

It seems strange and still makes sense. For her it's what she does - travelling the river with her stuff. All day long.

Bracelets and baskets are handwoven by the Xhosa women in a traditional way in the Transkei since centuries

She has learned this craft form her forefathers and knows to do it as well as her mother and her grandmother. In the Transkei there is no work, so this is what she does.

A serious look - the Transkei has been my home - always

On the ferry, she shows her things to the ones that cross to the other side. The ones who buy are the tourists and she can tell you, there are not really many of them in this region. Christmas and Easter is a good time for her and the other women because she is not the only one doing this.
So she travels from one side to the other, her face protected against the sun like the Xhosa women have always done it.

In the distance the sea

The grasses of the Transkei in the Eastern Cape are used to make handwoven products

 She needs that grass on the other side of the river, to make the things she does.

Handwoven Baskets - Origin Transkei Eastern Cape

Her baskets are really beautiful and some of the tourists say:"Yes they are, but what would I do with it, I really have no need for it".
"Just buy one, I give it cheap for you", she says.
And may be she is lucky. Being on the ferry is to her advantage because she can talk to the tourists and convince them that they need a basket or a bangle until the ferry touches ground the other side.

Then off they drive with dust and noise.

Cheap Chinese import products have found their way into the Transkei

But her bangles and her baskets are not all she sells. 

Lately, she has added things that she knows come from China. Cheap things that are nothing like hers. Things that are made by even cheaper labor than in South Africa. Things that break and do not last like hers. But the young girls buy it.

To live here you have to be strong - and you are born like that

The remotest areas and all the small villages in South Africa have been flooded by cheap Chinese goods. No small village in the rural areas without a Chinese shop, selling dresses and shoes and lotions and potions to the locals. The same dresses you can buy at Woolworths in town, just 30 % more expensive than here.

The boats men

But we have heard that China is Africa's new big friend. Right? China is helping Africa so much and sending all that money!

And The Passengers

So what is a perfectly beautiful, organic and sustainable piece of Xhosa jewelry worth in our global world? Does it count more or as much as goods, that are produced by child labor. 
And the question is: who wants it? Me, I do.
But I am completely irrelevant int this process. 

International Brands Have Given Their Names And Labels To Africa

Some are not so sure about this trip

But many do not know about all that and are just worried about this trip. There is no time to care cause life is really sometimes not easy. It's the century old, courageous story of African people who can not swim, traveling on rough and long rivers to get to where they want to be. Well, this river is small but it is the same.
Don't look and you will be fine!

She comes home....

And for her, at the end of the day she comes home!
Tired but with may be some money.

Too shy but lots of reason to be proud

At first there was shyness.

What more can you ask for?

But then she showed me her pride.

Different Designs of Grass or Reed Bracelets

Detail of different grass bracelets

Delicate and Fine

A time consuming craft

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