[Image Credit: Crooked Stem Wine Glass – Ngwenya Glass]
Ngwenya means ‘crocodile’ and encircled by mountains nestles the tiny kingdom of Swaziland, where one of the mountains is said to resemble a basking crocodile; at the summit of this mountain is an ancient iron ore mine that dates back 43 000 years and at the foot, you will find the Ngwenya Village, home to the Ngwenya Glass Blowers. I mentioned Ngwenya Glass in the recent post I did on the ‘Piece’ jewellery exhibition and although they created some of the beads that were used, Ngwenya Glass’s scope is much wider. Ngwenya Glass is a factory cum studio producing some rather striking, unique glass products encompassing interior home accessories and tableware. The designs are fluid and very quirky mainly picking up on animal themes given the proximity to some of the world’s most spectacular wildlife populations, in addition to the rich cultural heritage of local Swazi life; think elegant warriors forming the stem that supports the glass to miniature glass animals that double up as candle holders and napkin rings.
Ngwenya Glass was first started in 1979 by Swedish Aid, who provided machinery and training, closing its doors in 1985 before being revived in 1987 by Richard, Alix and Chas Prettejohn; a family living in South Africa who had a penchant for collecting the glass animals produced by Ngwenya Glass, then known as Swazi Glass Craft, and were saddened when production ceased making the decision to do something about it after a chance visit to the area. Today the factory is going from strength to strength with a fully stocked studio welcoming visitors, who can take the opportunity to observe the glass blowing techniques first hand via an overhead balcony. Ngwenya Glass employs a staff of 70 including several original members, among them Sibusiso Mhlanga, one of the original glass blowers who has trained locally and in Sweden as well as working with some of the world’s leading glass blowers. Sibusiso trains all the new apprentices.
All glass products are made from 100% recycled glass bottles collected by local people who get paid for them, the bottles are then melted down to be reformed into delicate items like drinking glasses, vases, pitchers, platters and animal ornaments. As environmentalists and conservationists, Ngwenya Glass organises clean-ups of the local area and works with local schools to instill environmental awareness amongst students. Ngwenya Glass also strives to help protect the animals that offer so much inspiration and established the Ngwenya Rhino and Elephant Fund in 1989 to aid wildlife conservation, donating a percentage of its worldwide profits towards Mkhaya Game Reserve, a refuge for endangered species of wildlife in Swaziland.
…you can never too many glasses
Products currently available on Pure Swazi priced at: ZAR47 / USD$5-ZAR332 / USD$42
Products currently available on Amazon UK priced at: £9-£62
For further information about Ngwenya Glass visit: www.ngwenyaglass.co.sz
To purchase Pure Swazi visit: www.pureswazi.com/; and Amazon UK visit: www.amazon.co.uk