Monkeybiz is an internationally recognised décor house and non-profit organization in Cape Town. Founded in January 2000 by a trio of passionate ceramic artists, this outstanding NGO transformed the beaded arts market in South Africa before going global in a big way.
As well as being an international business success, Monkeybiz is also a renowned non-profit organization that has created employment for over 450 disadvantaged women in Cape Town. Each woman works from home and is paid according to the merit of her creations. This allows bead artists living in informal settlements to earn a good income whilst tending to their families and saving on transport and child-care costs.
Monkeybiz’s fame comes directly from their stable of exceptional bead artists, who are steadily growing their credentials. Each artwork is unique and is signed by the artist, ensuring that the individual artists receive recognition and payment for their work.
Monkeybiz artwork is sold worldwide and is for sale at London’s National Gallery shop. They’re featured in 23 Carrol Boyes stores around the globe and they exhibited in Norway in association with the sensational Nelson Mandela 46664 concert. Monkeybiz has also been the subject of a remarkable film, “Bigger than Barbie”, by award-winning British filmmaker Tina Davis. The film also features appearances by Desmond Tutu, Annie Lennox and Nelson Mandela.
The philosophy of making artists self-sufficient and responsible for their own success is a remarkable empowerment approach. These artists receive the respect and reimbursement that their art deserves. “They’re not doing a mindless job on some obscure factory line. They’re creating their own thing, expressing their individuality. It’s extraordinary because it really values women’s work, which often goes unpaid and unnoticed.”
This remarkable women’s empowerment initiative is further endorsed by the patronage of Dr Mamphela Ramphele, formerly one of four managing directors of the World Bank and a key role-player in the Black Consciousness Movement during the struggle against the apartheid government of the old South Africa.
Monkeybiz founders Barbara Jackson, Shirley Fintz and Mathapelo Ngaka-Mtati are deeply committed to the African philosophy of ubuntu, which means “humanity to others”. “We like going to sleep at night feeling OK that other people are OK,” says Barbara.
Now that’s glamour with a conscience!