I’d like to share something with you.

I'm making a video. It's taken ages to scan all my embroideries and the fabric I want to use for the background at the opening.

I'd like to share something with you.

But before I do, look around your sewing room or studio.

Think about how many items we have to make our work look spectacular.

Think how easy it is to get supplies.

We have lighting, power, sewing machines. etc.




The lady with the smiling face above is Alice Matsilele.

She says "I started doing embroidery not very long ago and at first it was difficult using that small thing called needle. I am used to picking up heavy pots and chopping wood with an axe so this thing called needle was not easy in my hands.

I was born in 1957, but on my ID book it said born in 1961. The government lost my years."

Many of the women like Alice make these folk art pieces by candle light.

But I will let Ina tell you in her own words…. just like my video.

My name is Ina le Roux and I live in Johannesburg. I devote myself full time to the Tambani project. I travel about four times a year to America. Dr Jean Orr who lives in Indianapolis is my great supporter and guide in the States. In Germany I have  two dear friends who have taken it upon themselves to market Tambani products : Marita Knobel retired soloist from the Bavarian State Opera in Munich and Brigitte Steinert Vice Director of a Cultural Institute in Munich are invaluable helpers to this project.  Inbetween shows I go to Venda to see the women and encourage them. They are the heart of this embroidering project and need my attention and support. In Johannesburg my Malawian houseman, Harold Sibande, helps me to silkscreen images onto cloth ready to be embroidered. The women who do the embroidery live about 6 – 7 hours from Johannesburg. I have two supervisors who hand out embroidery yarn and who check quality.

Once a month one of the embroiders comes from Venda with an enormous bag full of embroideries. She leaves Venda very early in the morning and travels on a small bus to Sibasa. There she boards a big bus for the trip to Johannesburg. Late that afternoon she arrives at Johannesburg station where I pick her up. The first words are always, 'This place is very far'. As soon as she gets to my house she asks for water. The bus driver stops only once on the long journey and everybody has to rush for the bathroom and if you're not quick enough the bus driver hoots impatiently so it's prudent to drink nothing before or during the trip.

Then the two of us sit for 2 nights to fill pay packets and to write a short letter – the women are very disappointed if there is no letter with the money. Once every 2 or 3 months I pay them a visit and we have a glorious time of folk tale performances around open fires and ironing out problems with reading glasses or embroidery colours or just enjoying children climbing onto our laps. Friends from Johannesburg love to go with me and help with the driving. The hospitality of these extremely poor people is an unbelievable experience. Times like this make city life seem very far away.

I do not get paid by Tambani, as a matter of fact – I often support the project out of my own pocket. The reason for this is that my work force constantly outstrips my market demands. I find it impossible to say “no” if someone asks to “join the cloth team”. Such a request usually comes from a mother at her wits end, school fees have to be paid or there is literally no food.

Ina is a Treasure.







2 Comments Add yours

  1. Yvonne says:

    There are some amazing people in this world!!

  2. mary-anne says:

    wow! I have some of these embroideries, bought them in Houston in 2008 off Ina. I love them.

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