South Africa: Ribola Route Artists urged to focus on Brand Positioning

Artists at the Ribola Art Route in Limpopo have been advised to work towards the creation of a unique brand in order to scale up their business.

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

Sisa Ntshona, CEO of South African Tourism pose for the camera during the trip

"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 a 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 the tourism sector recovery plan which he believes is about “inclusion and market place exposure primarily driven by the deployment of technology as an enabler.”

Officials of the Limpopo Tourism Agency as well as the Department of Economic Development, Environment and on site

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.

An Artiste from the Ribola Art Route

“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 a 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 signposts 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 a 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 the backbone of the supply of art in the Limpopo province as a number of renowned wood carvers are from within the 30 km radius of this route.

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