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Oodi Weavers blossoms despite challenges

GOITSEMODIMO KAELO
Oodi Weavers PIC: PHATSIMO KAPENG
Oodi Weavers is an embodiment of entrepreneurship, self-empowerment, perseverance, desire and where real natural talent is found.

Started in 1972 as a community project, by artist (sculptor and painter) Swede Peder Gowenius, Oodi Weavers continues running after more than 40 years of existence. The tapestry business in Oodi consists mostly of elderly women (age ranging from 33-89) from three neighbouring villages of Oodi, Matebele and Modipane in Kgatleng.

The women have been able to fend for their families from here over the years, with some having been part of the cooperative for over 60 years. 

Recently, Nandos Botswana took the local media on a site visit to Oodi Weavers; one could not help but admire the artistry of the 16 elderly women working at the establishment. We found the women busy at work. They were working on colourful and an array of items such as tapestries, tablemats (small and large), blankets, bedspreads and runners (long and short). It was breathtaking, more especially to see those elderly women operate those machines otherwise known as Loom and put together their creative styles to weave exceptional designs. It is indeed a good sight.

Each one of them stands next to her Loom and comes up with a creative of her own.

49-year-old Mpho Mhlanga, who now heads the other 15 women, told Arts & Culture that for many years, the project was uplifting to the village.

She said the founder of the establishment had wanted to empower the community which then worked

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at the tapestry as apprentices for a year, during which they were obliged to save 20 percent of their wages, which was P110 then to buy a stake in the project.

Mhlanga is of the view that while the cooperative has had financial and management challenges over the years, it continues to command respect. “It has been tough financially. As you can see, it is now old people who are work here because the youth want money. We have had to sell some part of the land that we own but the money was shared among us while only a little was saved. But as of now, our account has been frozen so we are unable to transact through that account,” she said.

However, Mhlanga said despite all these difficulties, the women have kept going, as they cannot let the establishment die. She said they sell to the corporate, government and tourists. “Our prices are very reasonable but the artistry is just amazing and loved by many,” she said.

According to her, the cooperative could do even better if they had partners who would assist in terms of management and financing. She said Nandos Botswana has been assisting them, but would want to see the relationship grow even bigger. She also encouraged young, especially those who are unemployed to seek refugee at Oodi Weavers and explore their talents.



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