‘Preserving the past, understanding the present and pioneering the future’.
– Jenny Thorne
The addition of Gone Rural to my product line was a little bit of a no-brainer. I came across them when I was looking into Swazi candles because they are also founding members of SWIFT (Swaziland Fair Trade) and I was immediately blown away by how beautiful and well made they were.
Add to that they a) have an amazing ethos b) use sustainable materials and c) and have done many wonderful things for the nearby communities in Swaziland.
5 great reasons to choose to work with them without even having to look hard. As I said – a no-brainer.
Founded with a vision to empower women in some of the most remote areas of Swaziland, Gone Rural has evolved into a Handcraft company and design brand that uses creativity to ignite change on a community level. Gone Rural today is a role model in social enterprise in world-class handcraft, while also addressing wider community needs by running health and education programs for their artisans and communities.
Gone Rural’s roots began in a thatched mud hut in the 1970s. Here their founder Jenny Thorne, ran a small craft shop called Tishweshwe, selling handmade clothes, accessories and anti-apartheid literature. As the business grew, sprouting two other retail outlets across Swaziland, Jenny was inspired to focus on hand-woven products and ventured into the mountains, where the Lutindzi grass grows wild and abundant. Her vision? To give Swazi women independence: a voice. And so, in 1992, Gone Rural was born.
Fast forward twenty years and Gone Rural is now working with over 770 artisans in 53 communities across the country and selling those women’s products to retailers around the world.
Gone Rural is constantly reinventing the traditional weaving techniques and revolutionising the world-view of African handcraft. Their products range from functional homeware to gallery pieces, with natural and recycled materials and
innovative contemporary designs. Inspired by the lutindzi grass (a highly sustainable yet strong material) of the mountains of Swaziland and the female leaders of rural communities, Gone Rural transforms the indigenous art of weaving into high-quality products that are showcased and loved all over the world.
To go back to how they help the communities around them – they have a program called BoMake, (meaning ‘women’ or ‘mothers’ in Siswati). Gone Rural established it to bring health clinics, clean water and a school bursary fee program, among other social needs, to impact to more than 20,000 community members. In addition to all this, they have empowerment programs that educate the women on their basic human rights, micro-enterprise and business literacy. They also have social workshops on gender-based violence and victim support. All of this in a country where up until 2006 women had a legal status of minors, and a vast majority (as much as two-thirds of the female population) face abuse.
What an absolutely inspirational company with beautiful and innovative handicrafts!