The Publisher of Jambo Africa Online, SAUL MOLOBI, comes face-to-face with a young creative dynamo oozing with chutzpah to empower others through the cultural industries.
The 32-year-old Reitumetse Molapo is a renowned tapestry specialist and business woman with experience spanning over five years. She started making her own carpets at home towards the end of 2017. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 in South Africa, the subsequent imposition of the lockdown intended to contain the spread of infections, regrettably resulted in a lot of people losing their jobs.
“It goes without saying that the COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating effects on our communities, people have lost jobs, means of livelihood and have been left destitute,” Reitumetse with a deep sense of empathy. “The youth have also not been spared in this sad situation. With closure of big industry, it is evident that employment opportunities have become slimmer by the day.”
These became the challenges that Reitumetse decided to take on. She decided to change people’s lives by empowering them. So she started teaching how to make mats and carpets from scratch. Within a very short space of time, she has already trained over 3 000 people.
The best possible intervention she came up with was to draw many unemployed people into the cultural industry. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the creative industries deal with the interplay of various knowledge-based economic activities, comprising tangible products and intangible intellectual services, with economic and cultural values, creative content and market objectives.
The vehicle to implement this was her Litsepiso Group of Companies (Pty) Ltd – which trades as Reitumetse wa Dimmata. The company is offering the youth a life line in the creative industries, where the economy is directly controlled by the willing participants.”
“I never chose this craft but it chose me – my passion and zeal to do something for myself and my community, country and continent drove my attention to the craft. The scarcity and uniqueness of the craft within black communities inspired me to fall in love with it. It was more about my desire to develop myself and also my positive response towards my calling to help others which became my driving force. Indeed this also responded to government’s call for everyone to do their bit to help fight poverty and hunger within our communities. These are what kept me motivated to keep going against all odds.”
It is not just legends such as BI Phakathi and our global icon, Nelson Mandela, who inspire Reitumetse to keep going, but also ordinary people who wake up every day and dedicate their lives to helping others. “My upbringing factored a lot in what I’m doing today, growing up seeing my elders running backyard small scale farming has engraved sense of independence in me. Yes, experiencing hardship also drove me – spousal financial and emotional abuse also contributed a lot in me taking the route I took to pursue this craft. Divorce and single parenthood pushed me to work hard for myself and my child which then resulted in me helping others as well. This then helped to define my purpose in this world which is to make a difference in those who are in need and less fortunate.”
It is for this reason that she is venturing further into targeting youth empowerment programmes, through tapestry and motivational sessions. The harrowing statistics of youth unemployment in South Africa, which stands at 64%, is also what drives her to make a meaningful impact in her community. “With dwindling job opportunities particularly for the youth, comes an acute increase in crime, mental disturbances, depression and ultimately suicide. It is therefore, important for government (local, provincial and national) to take a stand and empower the youth.
“Young people must not only rely on jobs created by others but they must strive to use their own talents and gifts to create employment for themselves as well as to help others who are less privileged. Short skills development is a vital entry vehicle for young people into the mainstream economy, so they should utilise such opportunities to champion the drive to self empower and to revive the economy.”
What are the challenges and opportunities the sector encounters? “The worst challenges we face currently are inadequate promotional tools, lack of proper funding and government assistance. We don’t have access to marketing opportunities such as exhibitions and expos. We do require foreign market access. We are battling to get accreditation from the relevant SETA for us to access the assistance they provide – that include funding to cover trainees fees. Financial constraints means we don’t have machinery, equipment and material to be able to increase our production capacity.”
In every dark cloud, there’s a silver lining. “The greatest opportunity is the potential to create jobs, to create self-employment as well as grant our graduates financial independence. As government has made a commitment to revitalise township economies, we can use the tapestry workshops to revive industrial sites in the townships. Looking at the value chain of this industry, we can source our materials local as well as to create or inspire start-ups of factories for our raw materials. This will contribute towards the revitalisation of the township economy whose impact will be towards the cherished dream of socio-economy stability.”
She plans to sell her final products to big retailers for reselling. She plans scale her business by opening training workshops in major townships and informal settlements. “We hope government may come onboard to purchase our products. We hope the tourism industry will be enticed by our products too. We will attend International Expos to try to access foreign markets. The private sector may give us opportunities to be part of their supplier development programmes so that we could supply them. Furthermore, companies could through their corporate social investment, sponsor our training workshops.”
Reitumetse Molapo may be reached on +27 78 499 4833 and firstname.lastname@example.org.