The preservation of this valuable collection is to the credit of the humble man known as â€������������Umfundisi Wotshani��€- the Rev Kjell Lofroth, his wife Bertha and their friend, Baba Elliot Dludla.Â When funds for food stopped during the drought in the late 1960s, they started a project selling handcraft made by rural people from the Rorkeâ€™s Drift area.Â In 1972, they were asked to formalise their work over all of Zululand, and started the Vukani Arts Association.Â The name â€œVukaniâ€ was chosen by the crafters to indicate that they would â€œwake up and get goingâ€.
The new markets opened up by Rev Lofroth and his team came at a welcome time, as the traditional grass and clay functional items had been replaced by plastic and tinware.Â���� The basket weavers and carvers, especially, were hard hit by this.
The early baskets were very plain, but interest in Europe in the few dyed and patterned baskets led the Vukani team to encourage experimentation with natural dyes, leading to the exquisitely coloured and designed baskets you see today.Â These designs are now known and recognised by discerning collectors throughout the world.
Mrs Lofrothâ���™s serious illness sent the family back to Sweden before their dream of a museum became reality.Â However, in 1991, a group of Eshowe townspeople saved the Lofrothâ€���s personal collection of about 2700 items from being sold overseas and the Vukani Collection Trust was formed.Â In 1994, the museum opened its doors for the first time, and in 2001, it moved to the present building, specially designed for the collection by architect Paul Mikula.
In northern Sweden, Rev Lofroth still presides over a museum of about 300 items of Zulu craft.Â And in Zululand, thousands of otherwise unskilled women can support their families â���“ because of Kjell and Bertha Lofroth and Elliot Dludla.