5 February 2010

Botswana: Heyns' Hazelwood Shop Holds Some Valuable Lessons

Gaborone's Hazellwood shop can be an inspirational story for out-of-school youths who mistakenly believe that finding a job is the panacea to a good life.

Located at the Middle Star mall, Hazelwood houses a sizable retail store, as well as a workshop, and all the items sold in the shop - ranging from jewellery, household items to wall hangings - are manufactured in the workshop. A walk into the shop reveals that this is indeed no ordinary shop as every worker is busy piecing together something; some vanishing wood, and others putting together eye-catching jewellery.

The owner Wendy Heyns proudly shared with Arts & Culture that almost all the products sold in the shop are made in her workshop, adding that the products are inspired by Botswana culture and nature. Heyns, who is very enthusiastic about what she does, believes that it is possible for Batswana to produce their own goods and reduce the flow of imports into the country. She also believes Botswana can actually export her goods to other countries. Her workshop, does many works, which include jewellery making, decoupage work, pewter work, mosaic work, and plaster curving mostly using local raw materials, including semi-precious stones.

While all the products have their own level of appeal, quite a few were particularly striking. One of the eye-catching items, is a mosaic piece of work, which was done by the owner of the shop, using tiles, concrete, and local semi-precious stones, nicely arranged to make a moon in the art piece. The mosaic, of course, simulates a typical Setswana yard with huts, and a big tree. The mosaic is simply breath- taking. The shop also sells a variety of woodworks, which include magazine racks, jewellery boxes, dustbins, remote control holders, wooden trays, and business card holders. All the products are decorated in a special way, with the African theme visible in all them.

Heyns explained that all the items made are authentic, and that they are not duplicated, meaning that no two people can buy one thing, which is exactly the same. She explained that their woodworks are of good quality, and that all the things sold in the store are functional items. Holding an exquisite wooden tray, Heyns said that the wood is durable, as it is resistant to spats of either water or alcohol.

The wooden tray, which has decorations of two full-figured African women, has elegance, and would fit perfectly well in any household. Heyns' Setswana culture inspiration goes a little further in her creations, as one of the wall mirrors in the shop has a frame decorated using popular Setswana decoration used for a traditional courtyard (lelwapa). The metal frame is decorated with what is popularly known as lekgapho. The décor gives the mirror a special look.

There are other interesting items, including refrigerator magnets made from Botswana stamps. The shop would be a good place to visit for those looking for gifts and are unsure of what to buy. I was intrigued by a beaded bathtub plug string, which can undoubtedly add a unique décor to a bathroom or kitchen sink.

Prospective investors can learn much from Heyns's shop and help Botswana diversify its economy. She believes that Botswana can produce its own goods in different sectors. Her shop and workshop seems to have a dedication towards only selling products made in Botswana. These include gift wraps as well as gift cards, which are produced in her workshop.

With her determination to see Botswana inventing instead of only buying inventions from other countries, Heyns also runs a series of workshops, where she trains those interested, with the hope of transferring skills. Her workshops, which are offered free of charge, teach everything done in the workshop.

She explained that many unemployed youth and women, can use jewellery making as a means of survival, adding that to start the business does not require much capital, as natural resources can be used, including things like seed pods.

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