Greetings from eSwatini.
Following is an update from Richard Freemantle director of Tintsaba where they are still deep in the throws of Covid restrictions, the effects of which have the greatest impact on the most vulnerable members of society all around the world.
Happily, Tintsaba currently has a good inventory of most of our best sellers. This stock was added to by the store inventory of course. The lockdown has forced us to re-evaluate each and every one of our operations urgently and now! (this should be normal business practice anyway) I’m sure this is true for almost everyone in the world now.
Tintsaba has four main departments.
1. Retail Shops
Our four Retail stores closed rather abruptly on the 20th of March. This was due to our tourist trade drying up almost overnight. The four staff concerned have been at home ever since, and on a very reduced wage. The three Silver workshop staff have also been at home as we have had very few orders. This popular product sold well in our stores, here in eSwatini and in Cape Town. We also did a fair amount of export of this product.
Then there is the Production team. Their duties are to coordinate orders and issue them to the artisans in the rural areas. So, we do quite a lot of travel to these groups each week. They also collect components and issue to those that assemble them. E.g. jewellery and other embellishments. This team of five, are now coming in to Tintsaba only when necessary. Perhaps two or three days a week.
The Administration is headed by our director, Bongiwe, and she has two assistants. They manage the paper work for orders, monitor store sales and arrange shipping. One assistant monitors inventory of completed items and components. Bongiwe is able to work from home most of the time, but sometimes the office calls.
4. Rural Artisans
Last but not least are our 841 Rural Artisans. They are in fact Tintsaba’ s main engine. These groups usually specialise in certain products but many are multi skilled. E.g. baskets, jewellery discs, trays and other home ware. There are 4 groups that strip the sisal fibre for Tintsaba. Not an easy task that they do by hand. Here is another big concern as there are so many of them that are out of work now.
In our assessment of ourselves, we have found many positive things. We have a sound ethos and a high quality brand that is unique. This even attracts people enough for them to offer to volunteer full time at this time!! We are confident that a virus will not overcome our history of producing remarkable work. And we thank our founder, Sheila, for instilling a sense of pride of who we are as a company and individually. She taught us to believe in ourselves – it’s not so easy being female with a voice on this continent. Those who are less outspoken, make their statements loud enough though their art.
Our products remain interesting and the demand has been there all through these last few months. This confirms the above paragraph and we shouldn’t have been surprised. Tintsaba is happily in a position to provide 90% of company transport for staff to and from work, as and when they come in on particular days. We have provided 3 sets of masks and hand sanitiser and we continue to do our best by following the suggested health practices. As well as masks to some in the rural groups. We get a sense of security though doing these things, even if it’s going to be proven to be ineffective.
Buying Tintsaba art means a lot to 857 rural eSwati women.