Proudly Macassar Pottery is a social enterprise that develops pottery skills in previously unemployed community members of Macassar, Cape Town, an impoverished community with high unemployment rates. The organisation equips at-risk youth with the skills necessary to create beautiful, functional, clay flutes, or Ocarinas, and traditional Udu drums.
The project, initiated by musician and producer Trevor Sampson, and managed by Johan De Meyer began in 2010 but only began functioning as a business in 2011, after a period of prototyping and finding unemployed youth with low education levels and a small skills base who were eager to be involved in the project. After winning an award from Unltd South Africa, a social enterprise incubator and support system, Proudly Macassar Pottery received coaching and business model assistance, and have now officially launched into their first selling season. As Johan De Meyer states, the organisation believes in “relational intervention, a flat management structure and in bridging the wealth gap by activating the local township economy.”
At the moment the group is focussed on making two different classes of instrument, the African Ocarina, a wind instrument, and the Udu, a percussion instrument from West Africa. Proudly Macassar Pottery developed their own indigenous variety of Ocarina that does away with classic Ocarina fingering holes and replaced them with a single large hole that one manipulates with the palm of a hand.
They come in a variety of sizes, have a beautiful melodic and at times haunting sound, and are individually painted in various stylish patterns and colours. The Udus are percussive clay drums that have existed in West African music for centuries. Each Udu is handcrafted with a unique shape, colour and tone quality. Both the Udus and the Ocarinas are handmade using press moulds, hand painted and fired for high strength. To listen to the instruments in action click here.
The organisation currently employs five potters, three of which have been involved with the project since the beginning of the year, and another two who joined recently. De Meyer, the manager of the project is intent on providing a well rounded skills base for those involved:
“We want to help our guys grow on all levels – so we try to follow a whole-person approach where we increase their occupational intelligence and break their dependence on outside intervention. The easiest way to do this is in the context of a functional business, where they get to be involved and take responsibility in all areas. By involving them as we go along, they take responsibility in, and ownership of the business. They give input on all levels, their opinions matter in all decisions. It takes time, but I think we are starting to see the kind of personal growth that we hoped for when we started.”
Proudly Macassar Pottery aims to target musicians and the tourism industry as well as local craft shoppers. They hope to become involved with schools in the near future, assisting youth with learning musical ability and appreciation as well as fine motor skills.
They have also just initiated the Township Clay Experience, an interactive workshop type event whereby tourists and locals are invited into the studio to spend time learning from the potters. Groups can jam with the instruments, paint their own flute, or get their hands dirty working with the clay.
If you are interested in buying beautiful, handcrafted clay instrument for yourself (or as a perfect gift this festive season), contact Johan on 082 747 7104 or visit the Spier Craft Market until the end of March.
By: Matthew Koehorst