LEATHER smith, Tumane Thabane attracts attention wherever he walks displaying his wares.
In town and in the villages most either place orders or instantly purchase, which denotes the exquisite quality of his craft.
Thabane who runs Haka Productions, makes an array of products that include various styles of bags, belts, gun-holders and wrist bands among others.
However, his craft and his studies are worlds apart as he holds a degree in Statistics from the National University of Lesotho. After graduating in 2006, Thabane could not immediately secure a job and had to fall back on tanning.
Three years later, he got employed by the Ministry of Development Planning as a statistician. As fate would have it, in 2015 the Chinese Embassy sent him on a two-months training in leather processing in China as part of a cooperation exchange programme.
The course, Thabane said, equipped him with deep understanding of leather and how to manipulate it into different forms such as soft, hard, rough or smooth as well as changing its colour. During the China tour, he also had the opportunity to meet potential suppliers.
“There were 32 Basotho who trained in the leather manufacturing technology in Beijing,” Thabane told Xpress People.
“For three weeks, we studied theory on the composition of leather, chemistry and treatment in water after tanning. We then went to another province of Hebei (Leather City) where we learnt practicals like removing hair and flesh from an animal such as sheep’s skin. We also learnt tanning it to a stage where is usable with or without fur.
“It is through that programme that I learnt to take either sheep or cattle leather from its raw state and tan it to be either a soft or hard material, depending on how wants it. I also learned how to inject colour into that leather after tanning which is why my products come in different colours.
“Since there is no tanner here at home I buy white leather and then process it into any colour including orange, red, green, pink and blue depending on the client’s preference.”
Thabane said that when he started, he would copy designs from shops and the internet and add his own twist. After realising that he could earn a living out of his work after being equipped with skills from China, he quit his civil service job to focus on Haka Productions.
Over the years, Haka Productions has been showcased in a number of exhibitions around the country and in South Africa including Lesotho Arts, Innovations and Culture Week and the Nala Project.
Thabane clinched the number two spot in the leather production category during the 2015 local tourism awards. He also won second place during the Hook-up Dinner, a Sub-Saharan African network of emerging entrepreneurs in 2016 which was held in Lesotho.
He said he is now on a drive to his skills to others especially the less fortunate.
“I got my skills for free courtesy of Chinese government and it would be selfish of me to keep them to myself. This is why I am on a mission to pass it on. I started last year with neighbours who would be interested in knowing how to make products and suddenly thought of considering the vulnerable.
“I approached the Lesotho National Federation of Organisations of the Disabled earlier this year to teach their members and fortunately they had funds to allocate to buy raw materials and during the Easter holidays I taught them how to make simple products such as wrist bands and belts.
“I also wish to train street kids and vulnerable people who cannot provide for their families but the greatest challenge is the acquisition of raw materials,” he said.
Apart from Thabane’s drive, the Chinese Embassy earlier this year announced that more Basotho would get training in China.
The statement from the embassy said up to 2020, a technical team of 11 members would work with locals and transfer the operating and maintenance skills including leather technology.