Special exhibition: KAROSS embroidery

 WOMEN »TRADITION » INCOME » ART

Sitting on a kaross (blanket), the women began to embroider images from their own culture with the aim of making modern artworks from traditional arts and craft skills.

KAROSS is a rural embroidery project in Limpopo’s peaceful Letsitele Valley that helps create jobs and uplift the local community by combining tradition with modern marketing plans and design techniques to create unique textiles.

KAROSS was founded in 1989 by Irma van Rooyen.                      Initially five Tsonga-Shangane women came together to embroider; today the project has more than 800 participants making a steady income while working from their homes. Quality products ensure sales locally and overseas via their online shop.

On a creative level KAROSS cherishes the spirit of these women.
This has led great success: seeing their work in public collections, completing important commissions, taking part in exhibitions nationally & internationally and winning awards.

‘The humble beginnings of an African Art project…
The embroiderers are Tsonga people who told me their stories and I became inspired…’

Irma originally drew the designs, combining geometric borders with bold and colourful images that draw on Tsonga mythology. They tell of the greatness of the elephant and the strength of the crocodile. They talk of the hare’s jokes, the flick of the fish, the flight of the bird….

Designs are sewn on black fabric in a variety of thread colours. Every item is 100% hand crafted. Stitches used are chain, stem, seed and a little herringbone.

Nowadays KAROSS has expanded their design ethos and uses a bigger variety of colours in both fabric and threads. They combine appliqué with the embroidery.

Albert Mangena’s Heart. Winner of the Innibos National Craft Award 2018

A Sotho man surrounded by his family. Hand drawn by Irma and sewn by Try Nkuna.
The monochromatic colour way suits their environment, struggling with water supply.