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.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Story Of Welile The Cane Weaver

Welile Melane is a cane weaver who works from the Mdantsane Arts Center
Welile Melane The Cane Weaver

Welile Melane has been living in Mdantsane for a very long time. Welile is a basket weaver and he works from a container in the Mdantsane Arts Center. He has not always been a cane weaver.

These baskest are made by Welile Melane and are woven in the Mdantsane Arts Center

During the political unrest in the 1980's when the whole of South Africa was in turmoil Mdantsane was also put under a curfew to keep protesters under control. One day Welile came into a violent confrontation with the police, was beaten severely and lost his eye. Half blind in a time of great insecurity he faced a grim fate.
At a later stage when peace was restored in the township and the country's regime had changed Welile found help from the South African organization of the blind in East London. He got involved in a skills development program and was trained in the century old craft technique of basket weaving.

The story of Welile Melane the cane weaver was featured in the Mdantsane Way Online Magazine

Basket weaving is like pottery one of the oldest trades and crafts techniques in the world and is practised in many countries. The role basket weavers and ceramic artists played in the community was an important one. People always needed containers and before the arrival of plastic and other modern materials baskets and ceramic pots were valued household goods.

The techniques differ depending on the region, culture, history and the material available. It is a skill that deserves great admiration. But some of the very old technique are known only by old people in the rural areas anymore and are dying out now.  It is a skill from the past.

Welile is weaving with cane. He has to buy the material from suppliers in East London or even from Durban. Cane is not available in Mdantsane. 

"Now, I had a skill but I had no money to start a business", says Welile.

Somebody told him about the Mdantsane Art Center. The Art Center of Mdantsane is a story of its own. It has its ups and down. It is riding a constant wave. At the moment it is in the upwards face and there is life. The premises are filled with artists because the center has received new funding from the government.

Welile's Baskets

Welile was given a container from where he operates his business now. He called his business WEZA'S CANE WEAVING and works still alone. These are some of the beautiful baskets he makes. 

Working Material


Welile was facing the same situation like many other participants, that have completed successfully skills development programs. To develop a skill takes time and dedication. You have to be hard working and patient.
But it is even more difficult to start a business. Once the skill is there, what next?
There are business start up programs in East London that assist artists like Welile.
"But then again financial input is not the only thing that matters", Welile reasons, "equally important are management skills. And these are not easy to transfer in a couple of days or in a week long workshop to an uneducated person".

But Welile tries! 

He has learned about costing and knows now how to get his prices right and not to sell his products to cheap.
"But if the price is right and fair to him people tend to buy less", he says

If you have enjoyed the story about Welile don't miss our 60 min road and documentary movie MDANTSANE - ANOTHER AFRICAN STORY  (click the link to watch the trailer). We have included an interview with Welile in the movie.

 A peak into Welile's workshop

1 comment:

  1. This guy is my uncle. I still remember the night he lost his eye, he was coming from my home after a party and the police took advantage. I really like his dedication and determination. But I haven't yet bought something from him, after reading this story Im tempted to also give support to him and buy some of his art. S Yanxa, 104 kwaNu1 Mdantsane



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