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Keeping Arts & Crafts Alive

Arts and crafts constitute the most popular tourist attraction in Swaziland. Tourists from lands near and far are a regular sighting at the many market places shopping for Swazi culture inspired souvenirs to take back home after their holiday is done.

The traditional arts community relies heavily on the natural environment to create their art pieces. Many of these art pieces are made from raw materials found in nature such as trees, clay soil, animal hide, different types of grass, and varying types of stone. Like all manufacturers and producers that rely heavily on nature for their products, the art community also has a responsibility towards nature.

Most of the artists in Swaziland are either self-taught or are trained informally. There is absolutely nothing inferior about informal training, however one must concede that because informal training is bottom-line oriented, not much emphasis is given to the resources which sustain the art culture. So apprentices may not be trained in optimal usage of raw material, the obtaining consequence is that one may find that a whole tree is exploited for only one art piece when it could have produced more. The same goes for sustainable grass harvesting in the production of mats, and methods and many other forms of natural resource extraction.

The government of Swaziland would do well to engage with the arts community in a bid to reach a mutually beneficial arrangement. Government has an interest in keeping Swazi art and crafts alive, and it also has an interest in preventing damage to the environment when it can. It is submitted that the approach taken by government should be more support than regulation. Thus government sponsored initiatives and workshops would be highly beneficial.

The art community also has an interest in doing all that is necessary to make sure that natural resources are exploited in a manner that is sustainable.

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