Even though the first dolls were simple in design and execution, the potential of the beaders was self-evident. Four People - Mathapelo, Makatiso, Beauty and Phumla - have played and continue to play, a critical role in this upliftment process.
Mathapelo, the projects community co-ordinator and communications kingpin is a vital link between the Monkeybiz studio and the artists in the townships.
Makatiso has taught many of the existing Monkeybiz artists how to bead; her house in Macassar, Khayelitsha, was the starting point for many a beader.
Beauty and Phumla, both facilitators, help to manage and organise 2 of the 3 main groups of beaders.
They collect the work, bring it to a once a month Market day, return with the orders, beads and meal parcels to distribute amongst the artists, and they are on call for the beaders if anyone should need guidance or help. "The women bead at home and can look after their children while getting on with their other duties" says Mathapelo "they have no transport or raw material costs as we bring the beads and cotton to them.
Beading lifts their spirits; they share in a sense of achievement. Personally, I too feel happy. I'm from a poor family but at a material level things are much better now. There's bread on everyone's table." Each piece is designed and made by beaders in their own patterns and colours, and although there is a standard range of animal types when each artist makes her own animal every piece becomes unique.
Some of the artists are more experimental and adventurous and therefore new animals and methods join the Monkeybiz range.
Monkeybiz uses discarded off-cuts from clothing manufacturers as the filler material for the beaded animals and from time to time has donations of beads. The Monkeybiz empowerment approach is remarkable because it encourages the woman to have dignity and pride in their work. It's based on the philosophy of making artists self-sufficient, to understand business and to take responsibility.
"Our Product is the secret to conquering the market. It's such an honest product" says Barbara. "Whether it's a small angel or large animal, it's a beautiful artwork, lovingly made. We've created a market that operates on the principle of "if you like it, you've got to buy it, You're not going to get a second chance, because it's an authentic ,once-off work of art. Even our price tags tell a story. On the reverse of every tag the artists sign their names". "Monkeybiz has given me a face" - Mankosi Modise