Elbé Coetsee (née Fincham), is a promoter of craft art and social entrepreneurship, and has an unwavering passion for the tactile quality of handmade objects. She completed a PhD at the University of Pretoria, focusing on the demographic characteristics and entrepreneurial attitudes of craft artists in South Africa, for which she received academic honorary colours.
She established the Mogalakwena Craft Art Development Foundation (MCADF) at the end of 1994. The philosophy behind and the aim of MCADF is to establish a sustainable development programme that will provide training and employment in craft art for previously disadvantaged or unemployed people. The foundation specialises in the training of multiple skills including embroidery, sewing, beadwork, candle making, basketry, pottery and basic computer literacy. Practical first aid courses, AIDS awareness and care training, children’s art workshops and basic principles of cultural tourism, are also taught at the foundation. Coetsee also collaborated with designers Haldane Martin and Paola Lenti to produce the woven Zulu Mama and Afra chairs respectively at Mogalakwena.
In 2002 her book Craft Art in South Africa was published by Struik and voted onto the Publisher’s Choice List at Exclusive Books. A follow up, Craft Art in South Africa: Creative Intersections is published in 2015.
The Mogalakwena Craft Art Village, including the Artist’s Retreat and Craft Art Centre opened its doors in 2004. During 2006 Coetsee founded the Mogalakwena Research Centre for African Ecology and Anthropology to facilitate research in the fields of ecology, anthropology and social entrepreneurship in Africa. In 2008 she established the Mogalakwena Craft Art Gallery in the heart of Cape Town. All exhibitions focus on aspects of Africa’s cultures.
Coetsee is a member of the international ResponseAbility Alliance, and is a curator for the Handmade sector at Design Indaba 2015.