ELIM, LIMPOPO PROVINCE: There will be great benefit if artists at the Ribola Art Route in Limpopo were to work on a visible and unique brand visibility, said Sisa Ntshona, CEO of South African Tourism after a visit to the route over the weekend.  

“I came into contact with some of the most beautiful pieces of work of art, an exquisite journey of the Limpopo Province culture told through art. There was 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.” 

“What had me thinking is how to protect such work of art, how to differentiate it from the rest of the work in the global art market. Creating a seal and visible brand market for such products would keep the legacy alive and draw people to specific artists, not just have a generalised art from Africa idea,” said Ntshona

Ntshona was a guest of the Limpopo Tourism Agency (LTA) who, together with the Department of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism (LEDET) had launched the activities of the Tourism Month at Kone Village Boutique Lodge in Makhado Municipality. For Ntshona this was part of tourism sector recovery plan which he believes is about “inclusion and market place exposure primarily driven by deployment of technology as an enabler.”  

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 artists on the route appreciated the visit but could not emphasise enough how they were hard hit by COVID-19 and regulations that had literally stopped all their potential buyers from visiting in the past 6 months. 

“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,” intoned Pilato Bulala, a scrap metal artist on the route in Mbokota village.  COVID-19 theme cut across the artists on the route as Thomas Kubayi also showed pieces that are addressing 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 sign posts along the way, and other materials like brochures that could also be made available digitally. 

Further said Ndlovu: “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 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 backbone of supply of art in the Limpopo province as number of renowned wood carvers are from within the 30 km radius of this route. Various government departments and non-governmental organisations have over the years kept the route alive in forms of support, but the need to seal it as the to go to place of art still remains.