Johan de Meyer (left) and Denver van Rooyen at work on an order at Macassar Pottery | Photo: Tonya Hester
A SMALL, unprepossessing building, Macassar Pottery stands in one of Cape Town’s most isolated townships, encircled by a highway, a sand mine, marshland, a nature reserve and a bomb factory.
It has nonetheless blossomed into a unique pottery and township-tourism business since its launch five years ago. Former Beeld newspaper bureau chief, Johan de Meyer, is a driving force. Its heartbeat? ‘We aim to upskill youth at risk who haven’t finished school to help them create a sustainable lifestyle,’ he says. ‘We feed into their lives and give them attention as well as a means of putting bread on the table.’
Macassar Pottery, winner of the UnLtd SA award in 2012 and 2015’s Spark Changemaker, sells clay instruments and innovative kitchen items such as ‘coffee drippers’, which make you an individual cup of coffee. It also runs pottery/music tours and corporate team-building sessions that have received reviews of ‘excellent’ on TripAdvisor, probably due to the local youth volunteering their life stories.
Exciting work for De Meyer, 42, who grew up in a traditional Afrikaans family in Pretoria? ‘We’re a business so sometimes the warm fuzzy feelings get swamped by deadlines,’ he says. ‘But there’s a groundswell of small businesses in South Africa taking ownership of their communities and empowering their employees as well as making a profit for themselves. Things are really happening, it’s not all a wilderness of discontent out there.’
Both in its daily business and its tours, the pottery aims to ‘pinpoint beauty in unlikely places,’ says De Meyer. ‘We like people to interrogate their blind spots and discover that often the most beautiful things, the best opportunities, are in spaces we consider unlikely. God took dirt and breathed on it to create man − the ultimate way of finding beauty in an unlikely place. I think the point of life is to copy Him and see how many unlikely places there are into which we can breathe friendship and energy.’
Macassar Pottery’s innovative one-cup ‘coffee dripper’ | Photo: Tonya Hester
You can also find it on TripAdvisor. The organisation has a band for hire that plays its own handmade instruments, with some sax thrown in to keep things jazzy!