Changing Lives by Introducing the World to South African Art

Beaded hoopoe birds
Beaded hoopoe birds | Courtesy of Streetwires
South African streets are filled with local artists selling bead and wire works. From the brightest flamingos you’ve ever seen to your favourite football team’s emblem, these artists cleverly create pieces they know locals (and tourists) love. Today, a local company named Streetwires exports these stunning handmade crafts to more than 15 countries around the world.

What exactly does Streetwires do?

Streetwires was launched in 2000 with the aim of training and supporting those who may otherwise be unemployed, giving them a platform on which to create beautiful things and in turn make them available to the world. Patrick Schofield was soon joined by marketing specialist Anton Ressel and wire artist Winston Rangwane, and the three partners began to lay the groundwork for the brand. The company is all about sustaining the artists while at the same time producing high-quality, original wire art.

An artist in action Courtesy of Streetwires

How Streetwires is making a difference

The company employs artists who would not otherwise have full-time work. Most bead work artists make their living by selling their products on street corners and traffic lights, but the appeal is so much wider than that. Tourists travelling to South Africa love to take home a piece of culture, and what better way to celebrate an unforgettable holiday than with a beautiful, hand crafted piece? This is exactly what Streetwires tapped into, while at the same time bettering the lives of those employed under the brand.

The Streetwires studio Courtesy of Streetwires

Real life stories

There are many examples of artists who have been impacted by the company, but Nolubabalo Komsana, sales administrator and shop manager, and Nicolas Maqondo, studio team leader, are two who stand out.

Nolubabalo joined Streetwires in 2007 and has worked her way up from beader to sample master beader to shop assistant, and now works in different departments with a focus on sales administration. Her skill-set keeps growing and she’s doing everything from assigning codes to new products in the database and issuing samples to following up with sales people and dealing directly with clients.

Nicolas has been with Streetwires since 2003 and, although most artists are already fully skilled when joining, he was a novice with immense passion. His works are so popular that a whole range has been created around them. The Buck Range is inspired by his love for animals, which started at a young age while living in Limpopo and herding his family’s livestock.

Class with the master wire artist Courtesy of Streetwires