Streetwires is a self-help enterprise providing sustainable employment opportunities for many formerly unemployed men and women, including refugees from Zimbabwe, to channel their natural creative energies into this vibrant art form.
Zululand Wire Art is a uniquely South African craft that has an almost unlimited potential to be bent and twisted and beaded into shapes – descriptive and decorative, as well as functional. All products are 100% handmade using wire, beads and small tongs. Products are produced according to the model of an original and subject to continuous quality control. A full-time product designer is developing and working together with the "sample team" on new lines, ranges and stories.
Established in 2000 by Patrick Schofield, Streetwires employs and provides training, support, and raw materials to over 100 artisans in Cape Town and rural Clanwilliam. Although South Africa has seen significant progress since the end of apartheid, unemployment and poverty rates are still high with 24% and an unemployment rate for youngsters in nearly 47%. At Streetwires 55% of the employees are women.
All employees are on a fixed contract basis. Some receive monthly wages, others are paid by piece, depending on the position. The organisation supports all stakeholders in the treatment of HIV / AIDS through medial and counselling services. Streetwires also offers vocational education to all employees, such as computer and book-keeping courses. The main objectives of the organisation are the provision of jobs, the strengthening of the vulnerable and a sustained mode of action.
Last year, a significant increase in sales was recorded. At the local level, Streetwires is currently implementing the world's first training program for wire and beadwork aimed at all the unemployed in the region. The organisation was the recipient of two important prizes, recognising their social impact as a change maker: Primi Urban Energy (2010) and Social Entrepreneur of the Year (2008): Patrick Schofield for Streetwires company.
Streetwires expanded its reach, opening a centre in Johannesburg in 2007 which was later turned over to entrepreneurial artisans. Its goal is to develop leaders who demonstrate to the community that it is possible to start a successful business despite challenging circumstances.
Lauren Joy Rosenback from Streetwires says, “Our collections are reflective of our surroundings and of our local culture…”
Streetwires is a WFTO member.
Victoria Ntulini, Artisan and Xhosa Teacher at Streetwires: “I enjoy being here at Streetwires because there’s no racism. Here we are all the same and we respect each other. I’ve learned so much about beads and wire, and I still want to learn more—even how to use the computer...One day I want to own my own company.” When Ntulini joined Streetwires, she was entirely unfamiliar with the craft process, explaining that tools such as pliers and cutters were mainly used by men in her culture; now, she is a loom-beading expert and in charge of materials distribution to the entire team of artisans.
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