Sisa Ntshona, CEO of South African Tourism believes it’s time for Limpopo’s hidden gems to take centre stage. This comes after Ntshona’s recent visit to the Ribola Art Route in Limpopo.
Ntshona has called on artists from the Ribola Art Route in Limpopo to work on visible and unique brand visibility to help protect their work as well as differentiate it from the rest of the artwork on the global market.
“I came into contact with some of the most beautiful pieces of art and enjoyed an exquisite journey of the Limpopo Province culture told through art. There was a burst of creativity, depth of spiritual inspiration and sheer love for art from the various areas I visited, all reinforcing that it is time our hidden gems take centre stage,” he explained.
“Creating a seal and visible brand market for such products would keep the legacy alive and draw people to specific artists and not just have a generalised art from Africa idea,” Ntshona added.
Ntshona was a guest of the Limpopo Tourism Agency (LTA) who, together with the Department of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism (LEDET), launched the province’s Tourism Month activities at Kone Village Boutique Lodge in Makhado Municipality.
Part of the weekend programme included visiting the Ribola Art Route wherein four areas were identified: Patrick Manyike’s Art Gallery, scrap metal artist Pilato Bulala, Thomas Kubayi’s Art Gallery, Mukomdeni Pottery and Twananani Textiles.
The Effects of COVID-19
One thing that was apparent during the visit was the way COVID-19 coupled with the lockdown regulations had impacted the artists.
“COVID-19 hit us all hard, however, I saw that as an opportunity to create meaningful pieces about the pandemic that can also raise awareness,” noted Pilato Bulala, a scrap metal artist on the route in Mbokota village.
The COVID-19 theme has made its way into the artwork on the route as Thomas Kubayi also showcased pieces that address the painful effects of the pandemic on daily lives.
The CEO of LTA, Ms Sonto Ndlovu, said in addition to brand visibility, there is need for the route to develop a branding concept that will clearly link the various art places found in the area through geographical positioning systems (GPS), proper signposts along the way, and other materials like brochures that could also be made available digitally.
“Our greatest challenge beyond marketing this place is to solicit corporate sponsors to take on the task of sponsoring these artists over a long-term period. In this way, corporates could find ways to use art as a form of team building, especially with some of the activities in pot making and textile places. We as destination marketing organisation shall continue to use all available channels to market the art coming out of Ribola Art Route.”
The Ribola Art Route forms the backbone of art supply in the Limpopo province with the majority of renowned woodcarvers coming from within a 30 km radius of the route.