Mdukatshani Project - Gifts that Support Women's Causes

Discover the exquisite objects created at Mdukatshani, “the place of lost grasses,” and support the Mdukatshani Craft Project, an organization that employs craftswomen from an extraordinary community that offers women a promise of economic independence and self-sufficiency in one of the harshest arid rural areas in South Africa.

Women work from home, honoring their tribal tradition of staying close to their families. They are often the major breadwinners, and almost half are widows. Some specialize in making jewelry, others work with fine gauge industrial copper wire to produce beaded eggs, bangles, and decorative vessels. Their intricate wirework has origins in Zulu traditions going back almost 1,000 years. Masters of these traditions, Mdukatshani crafters created the jewelry for two haute couture collections for Yves Saint Laurent.

Mdukatshani is located in the hills of Msinga in KwaZulu-Natal, a province in South Africa. It began in 1964 as a church agricultural project, (CAP), under the auspices of Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran churches. Its focus was to be primarily a cattle co-operative and dairy industry to benefit local African residents with training and skills in animal husbandry and land conservation.

The organization was shaped amidst years of difficulty: ongoing skirmishes between local factions, physical hardships and political impasses. By 1984, the land conservation and reclamation practices established earlier began to yield success.

In the 1990’s the CAP organization was reorganized into three separate Trusts to reflect the different parts of the project: the Mdukatshani Rural Development Trust, the Mdukatshani Craft and Welfare Trust, and the CAP Trust, which owns a 6,250 acre farm.

A good friend, Marisa Fick-Jordaan from Zenzulu, introduced me to this Project. Mdukatshani as it is today, exists as a threefold organization dedicated to: the building and care of livestock herds (goats, sheep, cattle and chickens), the education of youth as well as practicing farmers and the development and support of crafts employing many women in the community.