With Mother’s day in the UK tomorrow, I started to think about our talented ‘Zulucow’ artisans who are mothers “umama” out in South Africa. They lead very different lives. I know I’m guilty of whinging about the mundane domesticity element of being a mother. But compared to Nelly, Kwazi, Ma Beatrice,Thandeka and the team, I really have got it easy.
The mothers work hard in the Zulucow workshop for an above average sustainable wage. This income often needs to support their extended families of up to 7 people or more. (Our Umama are often the sole provider’s in their families.) After work, they have to care for their children (without our labour saving appliances in the UK); feed their goats and chickens and tend to their vegetable patches. They don’t moan! (unlike me!)
We are so lucky at Zulucow to have such fabulous artisans finely crafting all our beautiful pieces. I love catching up with warm, kind and cheerful Ma Beatrice, when we go out to South Africa. She’s not only a wonderfully talented leather worker and seamstress but a fabulous mother to Lihle who’s been at the workshop 4 years herself and with the support of her mother has been promoted to working in the office.
Ma B has a wicked sense of humour and is always laughing and giggling. Last year she ran up to our boys and gave them big warm Zulu ‘Gogo’ (Granny) hugs, before I received one of her wonderful warm embraces too! She said “Ngiyakuthanda wena” (We love you Lucy.) I was taken aback, but over the years I’ve realised how crucial these jobs are for all our artisans in this country of colossal unemployment. I realised that they rely hugely on the jobs that YOU (our customers) are creating when you buy any of our Nguni cowhide beanbags, rugs bags belts or cowhide cushions, or any other of our cowhide home and fashion accessories. Ma Beatrice says her favourite Zulucow pieces are the cross-body bag (or as she calls them: ‘The Lucy bags. I am deeply flattered. What a wonderful person she is.)
Shy, lovely Nelly is a mother of three children and has worked as a craftswoman, finely crafting our patchwork cowhide rugs and bags for four years. She gets a taxi to work every day, and then returns home to the demands of her children and home.
Ma Phillippine, who’s a senior seamstress and has plied her magic at the workshop for more than 8 years now, (finely crafting our cowhide Bags and cushions, loves her job, the training and challenges, as well as the ability to earn a good sustainable wage for her large family.