This inspirational story of the ladies of Twananani Textiles is as heartwarming as it is creative. It is a story about people and place, and a small group of industrious woman determined to create a small enterprise to provide jobs, preserve traditions and produce quality clothing, accessories and household items that would embellish any context.
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Situated in the heart of Limpopo Province South Africa – the story of Twananani textiles takes us back to 1983 when a group of 29 remarkable women from Elim in Limpopo Province, decided to work together to make textiles and beading to sell. They initially started out working together – straddling the business across four of their homes.
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Map showing Limpopo Province in South Africa

Map showing Limpopo Province in red in South Africa

Then in 1985, the ladies met a woman called Anna Collins who had experience in block printing and Batik. Anna taught the women of Twananani textiles these techniques.  From this seed of opportunity this cottage industry grew as the ladies sold their produce, and they eventually established a workshop/studio that was alongside a preschool where they could work whilst remaining close to their children and grandchildren.
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Twanani Textiles - A picture of one of the ladies working with her baby on her back

Twanani Textiles – One of the ladies works with her baby on her back. These co-operatives often double up as creches.

The blocks used for printing the patterns come from soft wood growing in the area and the patterns carved onto the blocks are inspired by Tsonga cultural traditions. These printing blocks and candle wax are used together to make patterns on cloth, which is then hand dyed or painted and crafted into beautiful items of clothing or for the house such as tablecloths, napkins, cushion covers, often incorporating beautiful beadwork. The ladies also use traditional Tsonga beading techniques to make necklaces and other jewellery. As an alternative to block printing patterns, other motifs are hand-drawn or traced onto the cloth, outlined with hot wax and painted with stunningly bright, colourful dyes.

 

Twanani Textiles - Wooden Pattern Stamp

Twanani Textiles – Wooden Pattern Stamp

The manager Florence Ngobeni holds up samples of the beautiful finished products

The workshop manager Florence Ngobeni holds up samples of one the beautiful finished products – cushion covers, serviettes, table cloths … it is all made by hand here at Twananani Textiles

 

An African lady from the co-operative Twananani Textiles seated on the floor of the workshop finishing off a batik, table cloth design

One of the Twananani ladies putting the final touches onto a batik, table cloth design

These skilled and industrious ladies are not only making a living, they are creating jobs for people in the community, they are supporting their families through the sale of finished products, and they are also preserving traditional Tsonga patterns and crafting techniques.  The quality and creativity emerging from this little workshop in this relatively remote corner of the world is quite remarkable.

Twanani Textiles Finished products

Shelves full of completed products – ready for sale!

The group is now smaller, but the textile workshop and preschool remain and the work of the ladies continues – as my pictures taken a few months ago show. They sell their embroidery, textiles, and jewellery from their studio shown here in the pictures. The workshop is a place where a hive of activity paradoxically radiates total tranquillity.

Twanani Textiles finished products - A beaded shoulder bag

Our guide, Gift Mkhari modelling one of the finished articles – a lovely beaded shoulder bag.

If you are passing through the area, and keen to visit this hotspot – always better to go with a local experienced guide. The team at Love Limpopo will be able to assist with this.
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Alternatively, if you would like to join one of our hosted eco-cultural safaris, which includes a visit to Twananani Textiles as well as a visit to a number of other cultural gems, along with our visits to premier game reserves offering spectacular wildlife viewing, our contact details are below.
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For the story of the origin of Twananani Textiles above I have drawn partly on a blog posted on the facebook page of Travelling Trader that eloquently tells this story together with wonderful old pictures dating back to the 80s of the women dying the cloth and block printing. The old photos are lovely! I have embellished the content and also used our own photographs for this post based on our visits to Twananani over the years.  If you can’t make the journey but love the craft – I note that Travelling Trader also sells clothing and other items produced by the ladies of Twananani Textiles on line!

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Alexandra of Alexandra's Africa Headshot

Alexandra of Alexandra’s Africa

 

 

 

 

 

Alexandra’s Africa is an independent, niche sustainable Tour Operator based in the New Forest in Hampshire, UK – offering a range of small-group hosted Safaris and Retreats. For information or for a chat:  W: alexandrasafrica.com or T:UK 02380 861278 or E: alexandra@alexandrasafrica.com.
For more on Twananani Textiles please take a look at the links below: