During 1994 Dr Elbé Coetsee established the Mogalakwena Craft Art Development Foundation in the remote Blouberg area of the Limpopo province in South Africa. The aim of the foundation is to provide skills training and employment opportunities.
Working with Northern Sotho speaking women over a long period of time, exposed Coetsee to their way of life. During 2003 a cultural research project was initiated to document the mainly oral culture of local Bapedi, Hananwa, Batlokwa, and Babirwa (Northern Sotho) people living in the Blouberg area.
With the introduction of electricity and cell phone reception to this remote area in 2006 it became obvious that many facets of local Northern Sotho culture; daily routines, habits, customs and rituals are fast changing. The strong interplay between the two value systems, modern urban and traditional rural values does not only provide a culturally rich environment, but also clearly exposes former traditions. It is furthermore a cue to the imminent amalgamation of the traditional, mainly oral, with western culture.
Our research interest
The focus of our anthropological research is cultural anthropology. The project involves the collection, documentation, categorisation, contextualisation, preservation and dissemination of contemporary Northern Sotho oral culture in the Blouberg area of Limpopo Province, South Africa. It is mainly a qualitative research project and methods of data collection are: participant observation, in-depth interviews, video recording with focus groups, surveys, and the analysis of hand embroidered ethnographic textile panels.
The Research Centre is within walking distance of the neighbouring villages under the authority of traditional chief Kibi in the Blouberg district of the Limpopo Province. This area is home to more than 1,5 m Northern Sotho speaking people. Students have the opportunity to go ‘into the field’ to gather data.
The project aims to contribute to a better understanding between cultures and initiate social change towards nation building, essential in a multi-cultural society such as South Africa. The project will also create an archive for future generations.
Over the past 17 years Mogalakwena Craft Art & Research Centre have worked with students and/or researchers from the Humboldt Institute in Berlin, cultural anthropologist from Zurich, Santa Fe International Folk Art Market, University of Bern, University of Lille, University of Pretoria, University of Cape Town, University of Stellenbosch, University of Johannesburg, and the University of Limpopo.