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The Shashe wood carvers

SANDY GRANT
Somewhere, there ought to be a study which tells us about the rise and fall of the Shashe Wood Carvers, how they originated, who they were, how they prospered and why they simply disappeared overnight, seemingly without trace.

I make the point in relation to the emergence of the new Blue Train not least because I assume that the cessation of the old mail train to Johannesburg and Cape Town brought about the immediate demise of the Shashe carvers. I would like to know if those carvers tried to ply their long time trade with the new Blue Train passengers but found them to be disinterested. Did they then try to exploit the increased number of people using the north-south road and if so, did that tactic also prove to be a non-starter? So they simply went out of business and disappeared without trace.

Given the enormous, continuing efforts that have been made over many years to keep the Odi Weavers in thriving existence, it seems strange to me that even modest attempts appear not to have been made to resuscitate the Shashe Wood carvers.

Or were attempts made which foundered, as with the Weavers, on the disinterest of the young who wanted a quicker return than craft of any kind, normally provides.

How is it that the phane pickers manage to sell their product along the road side whereas the Shashe people are nowhere

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to be seen? Perhaps they do still produce but market their products only at guesthouses and lodges in Maun and the Okavango? Because this is not a strong craft producing country, it seems strange to me that a craft tradition should have survived for so long having been born with the mail trains and having seemingly died with them.

It also seems strange to me that Shashe wood carving should have been a viable business during the long years when tourism here was virtually non-existent but died as soon as it slowly began to become established.

I did earlier refer to the Blue Train without, I must admit, too much enthusiasm partly because with the train no longer stopping at Shashe, the carvers would need to base themselves at Serule, partly because the arrival times there are unfriendly and partly because I am unsure about the likely interest of those travelling on the train. 

All in all, it seems improbable that the carvers, if they still exist, will gain any benefit from the new passenger train.

If anyone has  information about the wood carvers, I would be very pleased to hear from them – at leitlho_grant@btcmail.co.bw. 



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