Modern meets traditional! Nyeleti’s designs embrace her cultural past in a refreshing contemporary way…

Last week we were fortunate enough to visit Nkowankowa, one of the many growing townships located in the Limpopo province. Driving through its bristling streets, teeming with unique, local businesses, immediately we are aware of the communal spirit that accompanies the process of sustaining local livelihoods.

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Nyeleti

Waiting for us at the heart of it all is the beautiful and energetic Nyeleti Maluleke who invites us to take a look around her home/studio. Surrounded by youngsters hard at work, bending wire and threading beads, Nyeleti explains her passion for craft-making and the community and commonality that develops from her art.

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Nyeleti’s studio and shop 

Nyeleti’s passion for both her craft and community is evident in her decision to forgo her former career as a social worker and pursue, full-time, her jewellery-making business. By doing so, she has set an example for younger generations, encouraging the youth to pursue their artistic talents. Interestingly, however, she rejects the term ‘art’ for its elitism and exclusivity and admits that she prefers to acknowledge the creativity that can be found in everyone, and which is essential in the craft-making process.

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The crafter’s belief in creativity, and its ability to manifest in different forms, is reason enough for her change in lifestyle and career but, while passionate about her jewellery, she is equally inspired by the people and stories that so often lie behind the different creations. It is obvious, from the way her face lights up as she tells the story behind her wire bangles, sourced from a local craftsman, and his business-savvy antics, that she is aware of the benefits of supporting local craftsmanship.

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Silver wire bangles, you can find them on our shop. Take a look here.

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Some of Nyeleti’s beautiful Hoop necklaces, we have some on our shop. Take a look-here. 

What we encounter first, when entering Nyeleti’s workspace, is the shock of colour and vibrancy that radiates from her hand-made pieces. While the bangles are not created by Nyeleti herself, the rest of her products are clearly the result of long hours of hard work and practise. Through experimenting with different designs and materials, she has created a unique range of eye-catching jewellery, the likes of which include necklaces, bangles and earrings.

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Recycled telephone wire Nyeleti uses to make the funky earrings. Get yourself a pair here

Her necklaces, much like their maker, are a combination of the traditional and contemporary and, as a result, give to their wearer an elegant yet adventurous air. Brightly coloured and made to perfection, these African-inspired pieces defy definition and can be suited with multiple different colours to achieve the desired effect. Her miscellaneous range of earrings, made from beads sourced from all over Africa, each tell a story, as do her own designs which have a distinctive, modern look.

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After spending most of the morning trying on different variations of jewellery, taking photographs and deep in conversation, we left Nkownkowa pleased with our findings, excited and refreshed by both the place and its welcoming people.

Written by: Katie Forrest

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