Idah Ratshiendana

 A Venda Embroiderer

“If you visit us at the end of January the marulas are ripe and we can offer you some very tasdy beer.”

My name is Idah and I sign my embroideries just as Ida. As you can see I have a very long surname and if I have to write that long name I’ll be off the cloth.

I live in Folovhodwe village. The whole area north of the mountains is called Niani. In this area called Niani you will find many baobab trees, red ivory trees and marula trees. In very dry years we mix the powdery fruit of the baobab with corn flour to stretch it a bit, it does not really help, but it is a good try. We eat the small red ivory berries and we also pick marulas and eat that. Many people make beer from the marula fruit. It is not very strong but very, very tasty. If you would like to come and visit us you must tell Ina that you want to come by the end of January, that is when the marulas are ripe and we could offer you some beer.

The other day I was sitting next to my kitchen hut when Selina Mavhetha called me. She said, “Now you will be in the embroidery team.”

“What is that?”

“It is work with a needle.”

She showed me this very small little thing called “needle”. I struggled with this thing called “needle”. The she gave me spectacles to put on my nose. All the time there was a hole in the thing called “needle” but I could not see that. Then it was better. I started working on these pieces of cloth. I tried and I tried many times. “Your work is too tight,” Selina said, “go back.”

Venda women know how to work with a hoe in the fields. A hoe is very big, you hold it with two hands and now I use this small thing called “needle”. I did not give up.

Now my struggling with the needle is over and I get paid for my work. I can now buy clothes and food. I can pay school fees.

I say thank you very much.


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