Imbali – Live Craft and Art Centre

The Imbali – Live Craft and Art Centre is home to KYLEMORE COMMUNITY CRAFTERS – a group of previously unemployed people who are being ‘skills-trained’ to manufacture crafts/items that will appeal to the Tourism Market.

The group is developing a brochure that will itemise crafts available for sale at not only their workshop (which consists of two classrooms at the PC Peterson Primary School in Kylemore), but also at local craft-markets in Franschhoek, Stellenbosch, Kirstenbosch and Somerset West.

Items manufactured and already for sale include:

  • Beaded net ‘tea-showers’ in three different sizes with jug-covers;
  • Handmade dresses for little girls;
  • Hand-knitted items of clothing for babies and young children;
  • Hand-woven items: bags/scarves/pillow-cases/table-runners and mats;
  • Shopping bags/peg bags (hand-painted, stencilled);
  • Fabric painting: aprons, Pillow Slips, table-mats, serviettes, cushion-covers;
  • Leather craft: belts, bags, sun-visors/peaks, dog-collars;
  • Woodwork and crafts: beads/necklaces;
  • Embroidery: various items: pin-cushions/pillow-cases; and
  • Crochet work: various items.

The Kylemore Community Crafters project, which was started in 2002, demonstrates that an almost jobless community can be uplifted and that these jobless persons can be taught skills that will take the crafts they create and turn them into income producing opportunities. The aim of the project is chiefly to give the crafter the self-confidence to produce saleable items for the tourism market, thereby enabling them to self-generate income for themselves.

Within six months of skills training, the products produced by the Kylemore Community Crafters were already recognised by the local population. The crafters have participated in a number of craft-markets in Franschhoek, Kirstenbosch and Stellenbosch, where sales of products have gone reasonably well. The group also receives many orders – these are mainly generated by referrals from people on a predominantly ‘word-of-mouth’ basis.

The Imbali Visual Literacy Project:

The Imbali Visual Literacy Project was created in 1988, as a project of the Women For Peace, when it became clear from the results of a national children’s art competition that children with little or no access to art at school showed extremely poor perceptual skills.

Imbali was formed with the following mission:

  • To make art and art education accessible to all;
  • To enable teachers to develop and communicate visual literacy skills; and
  • To promote awareness of our cultural heritage.

Imbali has run courses and workshop programmes to train teachers in art education, and is also involved in crafts training.

Updates and successes on the route:

An offspring of Women for Peace, Imbali Western Cape was founded in Kylemore, a little rural village on the outskirts of Stellenbosch in 2001 to initially provide a visual art education program for children in the area.  In time this has developed into multiple programmes that support children and adults in the community to achieve a better quality of life. Imbali’s vision is a vibrant, self-supporting community, where human dignity, self-respect, personal contribution, and community esteem are the norm…and growing to encompass the surrounding communities. Their mission is to offer a holistic way of restoring natural and human communities, thus brightening the outlook of the world we share.

Joined early on by other community volunteers, Imbali on the Dwars River Escape Route has become an established part of the village tapestry and has been able to launch a number of initiatives to address the needs of both children and their under-employed parents.  The children in this jobless community are often malnourished and this has led to a joint effort with local farmers’ wives to establish soup kitchens in the winter months and also for Imbali to install and equip a hi-nutrition muffin bakery in four rooms previously used for storage in the Kylemore High School. The bakery creates two adult jobs, and is currently baking approximately 3000 muffins daily. Full production in this little bakery could reach 6000 muffins daily.

Currently 750 hi-nutrition muffins are provided free of charge every day by donors who contribute online on the Imbali website to a ‘feed-a-child-a-muffin-a-day’ campaign as well as by the generous sponsorship from  international partners, Thomas and Steffi Curry and their website to the most needy children in the Crèche, Infant Day-Care Centre, the P.C. Petersen Primary School and in the Kylemore High School as well as the Mamalumka Project and a small soup kitchen in Sir Lowry’s Pass Village in Somerset West. Other muffins are sold at cost to primary and high school children to sustain the project.

Imbali established a craft workshop in 2002 to provide skills training for jobless youths and adults. The project is currently housed in the Kylemore High School where a beading and craft skills-training room was installed in 2009 for primary and high school children in an attempt to keep them off the streets in the afternoons and out of the hands of drug lords who are preying on this section of the community. Approximately 50 adults, 17 youths and 37 children have already received skills training in craft making, beading, patchwork and quilt-making and are exposed to ongoing sewing, design and pattern making courses. Beautiful tableware, table cloths and serviettes, decoupage, safety pin crafts, woven items, children’s wear, and exquisite Christmas decorations are produced by this group, and sold at local craft markets. A significant number of those trained have now been able to obtain full-time employment using these skills outside their village.

In 2006 with the financial support of Lufthansa Help Alliance and the Hettlich family from Germany, Imbali built and equipped a crèche for 90 children, now run under auspices of the national Stellenbosch Child Welfare Organisation (SCWO). Imbali also built and equipped a multi-purpose day care centre with financial support from the Mirja Sachs Foundation which accommodates 65 infants from 07:00 to 19:00 daily, also run under the auspices of the SCWO.  And in 2008, with financial support from the Podlashuk Bellinchamp National Heritage Foundation Trust, Imbali built and equipped an Art and Educare centre for their very successful and much acclaimed visual literacy art education project. This was initiated in 2001 and the success is due to the relentless facilitation and expertise of Alexis Hanslo and educators of The Children’s Art Centre in Cape Town. As part of the Visual Literacy Project, 100 primary school children and 60 high school children attend art workshops regularly on a fully sponsored basis.

The responsiveness of the community to the opportunities created, has been most rewarding, responsible, and enthusiastic. We invite you to visit  and see the progress being made in improving the quality of childhood for all the young people of Kylemore.

The Dwars River Escape Route continues to move forward with energy, enthusiasm and a wonderful community spirit.

The Dwars River Escape Route has a wealth of spectacular scenery, cultural features, places of historical significance, activities and comfortable accommodation options as well as a fascinating mix of established businesses, entrepreneurs, small businesses and community projects. There is quite a story behind the development of the Dwars River Escape Route.

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