THE KAROSS STORY
who we are
In Africa, there is a belief that ‘I am because we are’
This deeply ingrained sense of community, putting the ‘WE’ before the ‘I’, is a powerful value that empowers in ways few people can appreciate.
One of the many admirable facets of African culture is how people come together to create things. It may be music, food, wood carvings or beautifully crafted textiles – what matters, is the combined inspiration and commitment to creativity that people bring to the proverbial ‘party’.
Truly, the world has always been fascinated by Africa. It’s the cradle of humanity, where art and culture first took a foothold and shaped the development of a plethora of people across the globe. Living on such a culturally rich landscape, how could one not expect exceptional works of art?
Kaross embodies the essence of being African
Kaross was founded in 1988 by Irma van Rooyen, a fine artist in her own right, and also the wife of a Citrus Farmer.
Bringing people together in a way that makes the world a better place. It is not simply about the beauty and passion that goes into creating incredible hand-embroidered works of functional art. It’s about the long-lasting benefits of job-creation within a community.
What’s more is how the jobs are created FOR the women in rural areas, developed AROUND who they are and their potential.
It’s not a job telling them WHAT to do and HOW to do it, but rather a special way of extracting value from something the Vatsonga people have handed down over many generations.
It is for this reason that Kaross’ mission is to provide opportunities based on these pre-existing skills and wealth of experience.
Burgert and Irma van Rooyen started farming citrus in the Letsitele area in 1984 and created a family business known today as Groep 91 Uitvoer (Pty) Ltd.
From the beginning, both as a family and as a Citrus grower and exporter, they have believed in working together with their colleagues, employees and the community to create a sustainable, respectful environment in which everyone can benefit and grow.
Irma van Rooyen
As an artist and newly established citrus farmer, Irma was immediately inspired by the seasonal farmworkers and their vibrant culture and wanted to get involved by creating an extra income for an otherwise rural woman and men.
“The Tsonga people told me their stories and I became inspired. By their humanity, their space, their life - so utterly proud! By their eagerness to be involved, and to be part of the project. These talented women and men, together, raised up the Kaross project from its humble beginnings.
And now, the drive to never give up, to keep on exploring and developing and growing. And learning to be stronger, together. To you, whose path I am privileged to share, I owe my inspiration.”
- Irma -
In keeping with the African way, the citrus farming business of Groep 91 Uitvoer not only brought people together, but also created a platform and financial support for Kaross to be born with just 5 ladies sitting on a blanket – a ‘Kaross”- doing what they know and do best according to their cultural heritage.
Embroidery is a traditional skill for most Vatsonga and Northern Sotho people.
Kaross revived this skill by making it commercially viable and has grown into a South African success story that now employs around 1300 embroiderers in the Letsitele/Giyani area.
It produces a comprehensive range of premium quality products from placemats to cushion covers, handbags and wall hangings. These individual hand-crafted works of art retail through outlets in major tourist hubs such as our international airports, or direct to the public through the newly launched Kaross online shop.
In 2017 the Kaross Foundation was born. The foundation is a non-Profit organization with the main objective to identify, fund and implement projects that will result in a sustainable improvement in the quality of life of both Kaross and Groep 91 Uitvoer’s employees and their communities. Groep 91 Uitvoer’s International commercial partners;
The Waitrose Foundation and The Albert Heijn Foundation are instrumental in the funding of the work we do.
The Kaross Foundation focusses on Investing time and expertise within the Education sector and we partner with six local High- and Primary schools in order to improve the quality of the education offered to the young learners.
We also invest our time in the personal development of our employees, such as personal finance management, adult based English literacy and sports development.
Click on the link to go to the Foundation Page
Africa needs more companies who actively seek to improve the lives of others
Building strong communities where the collective become stronger than the individual. The world should be looking to Africa for examples of community in action.
If we don’t encourage development and the realisation of potential, then what are we doing?
What kind of a community are we fostering and what is the end result if we forget about the ‘we’, and lose ourselves to the ever-lonely ‘I’.
We are excited about the future in South Africa as an Agricultural Business, Exporter of Fruits and Embroidery Business - because WE are working and getting the job done.
Kaross Brings Creative hands Together
It is a platform for endless possibility
It is a Voice, a Home, a Covering, a Job and an
Kaross is fashioning a New culture
It is a culture of honest and hard work
It is a culture of perfecting our craft
It is a culture of getting the job done
It is a culture of Grace and Truth
It is a culture of making our country work
It is a culture of embrace; where we celebrate the fact that we are all equal, but not the same.