Jackson and Rose Baloyi’s family live the real meaning of Ubuntu, roughly translated it means “human kindness”. These two, kind people raised their 6 children in their warm, hospitable, creative homestead at Riverplaats, a rural community on top of the foothills of the Soutpansberg near Elim in Limpopo.
The respect for each other in this family is clearly visible in the gentle talk and lots of laughter when the family works or gathers together on the wonderful suede-like dung floors of the grand-parents’ courtyard. Two of Jackson and Rose’s sons live next door in the extended household and the neighbours’ and grandchildren often come to play after school. Even their cat always looks happy and content.
Jackson master weaver
Here up in the mountains is where Jackson weaves his baskets, a skill not taught in schools but acquired from ancestors. Jackson uses different weaving material from his immediate environment, such as the abundant Flame thorn or Acacia Ataxacantha in this area. This shrub often forms impenetrable thickets and the wood can be split into paper-like strips without cracking, which are then used as weaving material for baskets. Gathering, preparing and dyeing the weaving material is already quite a job.
The roots of the Flame thorn can also be used in basketry and have traditionally been used to make long-stem tobacco pipes. Jackson uses other rattan-like materials and cut spoons from a local wood called Khombeko in Tsonga. The brown dye is called Mapendani and is extracted from a small bush growing at Riverplaats – the same day it has been cut however, or it loses its potency.
Rose dung floor installation artist
This house-hold is always a bee-hive of activity. When Jackson is weaving, Rose beads her husband’s baskets or make traditional bear from Marulas called Mqomboti. Every month or two the beautiful ‘installation art’ of the dung-floor in the homestead’s courtyard and cooking hut needs to be redone. Over the years, Rose has developed her own unique style. One of her typical patterns looks a bit like a paisley pattern. When we asked her what she calls this pattern she had to think a bit, but then without hesitation said, “Mango Fish”.
Textile paint techniques meets dung floor designs
Madi a Thavha met the Baloyi family last year. We have since visited them to buy baskets and one day took Nonny Mathe, well-known Zimbabwean artist, with. Nonny works in various batik-like paint techniques like maize flour resist to create textile artworks with striking layers of texture and depth. Madi a Thavha’s handyman Paul and Dutch intern Maartje joined this trip to Rose and Jackson’s homestead where we all tried Rose’s traditional dung floor ‘carpet-patterns’ on textile with Nonny. The ladies at Madi a Thavha Design & Textile studio will then work these dung-floor-painted cloth into interior soft furnishings like table cloths and place mats at the lodge.
Baloyi couple’s visit to Madi a Thavha workshop
This December Madi a Thavha invited Jackson and Rose to join a woodcarving, weaving, beading and recycled scrap-art workshop at the lodge. Here we could combine all our skills and talents and experimented with new designs and colours for Jackson’s traditional weaving material. It was a delight to learn from this 67-year-old master and to see him catch on to contemporary ideas with gusto. We all learnt a lot from each other putting our heads together for collaborative and individual work with different mediums. It is a great way for traditional skills to be preserved practicing it with friendly masters.