It may often be viewed by locals as kitsch, but the African crafts and curios trade is a significant contributor to the economies of many countries — and combines unusual trading practices with a concern for the loss of cultural patrimony. The department of arts & culture’s 2012-2013 figures show the crafts industry contributed R11bn to GDP and employed about 38,000 people, significantly changed from 2002 when Brand SA’s figures were R3.4bn to GDP and 1.2m people, compared with R2.63bn and 44,000 jobs at the time in fishing. On the few occasions it does make a showing in studies, the trade is seldom treated by economic analysts as a distinct entity. For example, in SA the biggest source of locally produced crafts and curios is the densely populated area of Bushbuckridge in Mpumalanga. But whereas a 2005 research report estimated that 4,000 people lived off wood-carving there, with the kiaat wood industry then contributing US$1.4m/year (R9.52m/year at June 1 2005) to Mpumalanga’s eco...

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