Digital project to sell finest artwork in US

A former East Londoner with an inspiring inclination to promote high-end, handcrafted, beautiful wares that tell an African story, is on the lookout for Eastern Cape artisans who would like international exposure.

Hudson Park High School and University of Cape Town business science graduate Caley van der Kolk, 27, will soon be launching her curated Artisans in Africa (AIA) website, which will provide a platform for artisanal food, beverages and crafts to attract an American market.

VISIONARY: Former East Londoner and social entrepreneur Caley van der Kolk will launch her digital marketplace for high-end artisanal merchandise called Artisans in Africa in early July and is on the lookout for Eastern Cape artisans who fit the bill Picture: SUPPLIED

“Obviously we want them to get into US retail stores but at first we want them to get a critical mass on site,” said Van der Kolk. .

“Our creatives deserve a bigger marketplace,” said the go-getter who made it into the Top 5 of the International The Venture television competition for entrepreneurs late last year.

Her aim now is to get in touch with Eastern Cape artisans who display the specific qualities she has identified to be commercially successful in America.

“They must be made predominantly by hand and they must be high-end because we will only be able to help with product development further down the line. They should be visibly inspired by Africa or made in part or fully using African practices,” she said.

“Because I am from the Eastern Cape I know there is a lot of artisanal talent there, yet it is often an ignored province, so I am hoping to sign up crafters before the site goes live.”

Mthatha-born Van der Kolk, who grew up in Willowvale, hopes by capturing the stories behind the wares on her AIA site, a global market will be created for the goods.

Proving that the world has a taste for authentic African wares is a captivating video Van der Kolk had shot in Xhora Mouth on the Wild Coast in December.

The video, which is posted on her personal Facebook site, tells the story of an elderly beader who produces beautiful beadwork despite a polio disability which slows down her long rural walk to work.

“It has attracted 13000 views and I hope it will go viral when the AIA site is launched at the beginning of July.”

Van der Kolk, a seasoned public speaker said her high-profile business networks will also be of value to the AIA crafters.

“I am the anchor on Primedia’s Heavy Chef online show and get to interview influential and important people and so I might as well tell them about AIA,” she said.

Besides global exposure, artisans will also benefit from advice regarding tariff fee rebates and packaging once the American market shows an interest.

l Artisans who are interested in being represented at no cost on the AIA site, may e-mail Van der Kolk on caley@heavychef.com for more information.

By Barbara Hollands – DispatchLIVE

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