Saturday, 20 October 2012

Yarn Bomb in Africa

Squares brought in on Friday - a weeks worth of work.
our Jacaranda
This year we decided to celebrate World AIDS day by decorating our Jacaranda tree outside our gate. Two years ago we wrapped it and put some fairy lights up and the community responded by coming in for testing - we did a record number of tests that month we went from 70 tests to 400! We were going to wrap it again but my friend Lovell mentioned yarn bombing, and was getting very excited when she was explaining to me what it was.... I googled it to my happy amazement, and decided that that is what we were going to do, instead of trying to sell AIDS Ribbons we would get the community to invest in a  crochet square made by our crafters and they in turn would be part of a much bigger project . In all our tree will use 160 maybe more crafters, plus our community at large. We hope we can get every one involved in some small way. In my searching I came across Stephen Duneier's blog and have been in contact with him - he completed a big Yarn bomb tree in Santa Barbara desert in June, and I just find it amazing how one can connect - space - time do not matter!
Stephens Tree and our official inspiration - please visit his blog re process.

Jess Southey has joined the project,  although we both have never yarn bombed before we are passionate and enthusiastic, and I have to confess I am a hopeless knitter, Jess loves crochet and is good at it. Jess and I have got three experts from Woza Moya - Winnie, Theresa and Clara - who were the only three ladies who could crochet when the project began. Since the 1st of October 2012 Winnie Clara and Theresa have taught over 100 ladies to crochet and thousands of squares have been brought in. They are stored in our office and now Jess and I can barely get into the office for the wall of squares. We have also had the Quilting guilds and knitting shops support us, and they have donated hundreds of squares  so shew - thank- you Village Road Quilters, Bernina and Wool and Weave for the donated wool and squares. As this will be the first big yarn bomb in South Africa the local knitting community are excited . So are we! 

 We also bombed a few trees outside - babies to practice for the real event. Every now and then I have a massive panic attack and think jeepers this is absolutely crazy but we are too far gone to opt out - it is full steam ahead!  I have to say when I was photographing the trees two people were on their way to work , heads down when they looked up they starting smiling and then laughing, and I thought this is what we want to achieve - just pure joy that ART can create, not demanding or wanting anything back in return. I am a firm believer in Art that makes you smile!  Yesterday an overwhelming number of Squares came in, it absolutely floored me that a person can go from not crocheting to being great in a week.  Most of our crafters brought in over 30 squares each , Woza Moya pays for every square brought in and every crafter is given wool. Our main aim here is to put an income back into a community in need.  Jess and I have had wonderful individual support with individuals making small donations ( I call it our Obama campaign)  as well as corporate donations.
Yesterday we had to buy wool as we had run out of the donated wool. We have also been experimenting bombing furniture and Winnie, Clara and Theresa were given a chair each . You can see a small chair in the pic - will post more photos when we are done.  This is a great challenge for the crafters of Woza Moya who usually work on a very minute scale and in tiny 11'0 beads to now  working in wool and our canvas a tree. When we are done - we will have hopefully created a landmark - temporary though it may be , get over 1000 people to come in to test over November December, Increase foot - traffic and sales in our Woza Moya shop, inspire a community whilst creating a beacon of hope for all those who are living /or are affected by HIV/AIDS. It is also just a crazy thing to do - and the women of Woza Moya like a challenge. On Friday when all the crafters came in the excitement was at fever pitch and we also had new women from the community coming in to join the project. Life is beautiful right now.......

Crafters of Woza Moya bring in their squares! A most gloriously happy day!
Joyce shows off her square!

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Yenza the Rhino

 The story starts when the eTekweni Durban bought a Rhino - a moulded one and commissioned a group a community groups/artists and craftspeople to decorate said Rhino. The name of the Rhino - is Yenza (she is a girl) which means "just do it" in Zulu -  slightly similar to the Nike slogan! The Rhinos are based on a similar concept of the Cow parade, where life size cows were given to artists who decorated them and then they were paraded round the city. The cows travelled nationally in herds to graze in shopping malls and art galleries. The Cows made people smile and the kids loved them. It was also great to see how all the different artists interpreted the decoration of their cow. It also made art accessible to the public.

The Rhino's are slightly more serious in nature as we have a huge Rhino poaching problem - huge is most probably an understatement.  I found this graph on the Stop Rhino poaching site which is horrific. So Yenza the Rhino is really about educating and bringing awareness to the general public. The arrest statistics for poachers are very impressive, but it seems that the extent of poaching is almost uncontrollable in South Africa. Yenza  the rhino when faced with the horrifying facts seems frivilous, but she will be a great ambassador for Rhinos and will keep the Rhino plight in the forefront of everyones mind- unless they are blind. Yenza has had a lot of BLING applied onto her body and is not easy to miss.

So it was a real challenge for Robin Opperman the co - ordinator of all the craft groups to get everyone working together on one project and to keep the serious nature of the project at its heart. Unbelievable that the meeting of all the artists/crafters went very well, we all got a piece of Yenza and went about "just doing it" without fuss or bother.  Wendy Chatterton (Ukhamba), Magda van der Vloed, Woza Moya, Refugee Social Services, Ubunye Co-Op and HIV911, Sydenham Community Centre and Umcebo Design all contributing to the whole.

Yenza is nearly completed , Woza Moya's Tholakele and Ukuleleko are finalising the Woza Moya part of the Yenza. She is a true beauty, and we thank the eTekweni and Kathryn Kure of the community foundation for spearheading and driving the project. Will keep you poste re Yenza Travells -


 My girls making a Rhino horn so that Tholakele could bead it at home.
 Ukhamba crafters working on the legs of Yenza

 Tholakele and her Rainbow horns - when the poaching stops - a rainbow will surround Africa
 Little Tess moulding the small horn

Tholakele with Patrick from Magda's group fitting the rainbow horns.

Official Stats released by DEA on 22 August 2012:

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

jimmy chews

Today I got to thinking about shoes - its is pouring with rain here today and my "waterproof" boots are soaked through - so cannot feel my feet from my knees down - why on earth do they advertise waterproof as a selling feature when they are anything but! I wouldn't be moaning now if they had just told me the truth, but then I wouldn't be blogging either. Living in Africa has its challenges as we have no central heating and my office has a tin roof  so it's either sauna or fridge. Today I feel like I am sitting in a chest freezer and I started thinking about shoes - it started with my boots and my brain jumped to Lindy's chews/shoes. Lindi is a fabulous woman who arrived at the Hillcrest centre about four years ago as one of the Thursday beaders these are crafters who have a long lineage of beading their mothers beaded, their grandmothers beaded and their great grandmothers beaded. You just don't get better than that! These are women who for them beading is part of their everyday fabric of life, their life is connected by a series of dots.... the beads that have carried them from one generation to the next. Anyway Lindy had great talent and one day a heap of Ostrich eggs came into the centre and we asked Lindy to bead one - what came back was truly amazing - it was like her soul had been laid bare on that egg. Since then Lindy has beaded a lot of eggs and we have had a few close shaves, as once when I ordered eggs on line - the farmer from the Eastern Cape nearly sent me fertilised eggs, I had a few moments where I panicked at the thought of 30 baby Ostrich's hatching at  the centre and all of us trying to contain them.

Then a pair of shoes was brought into the centre and I thought I wonder if Lindy could bead these.....and yes she did, they were amazing, incredible we nicknamed them Jimmy Chews, our Chews with an African twist. We have had several customers come in and order shoes from Lindy and she now has a thriving business and cant keep up with all the orders for shoes. One pair of shoes was so outrageous  that I asked Hle who had taken the order if she was a young woman trying to get a handle on who would order such a shoe- Hle said no she in her 50's. Ive never had a major shoe fetish that some women seem to have, I have several pairs of homemade beaten up leather types- half puppy chewed! The day this woman came in to pick up her shoes she put them on and to my unbelief danced around the shop - so was her joy in her shoes- It made me reconsider how I look at shoes now - I see shoes can be incredibly powerful ,or in my case disappointing, but now I want to get me a pair of those -  shoes that make you scream with delight and make you want to wiggle your bottom, and that have also transformed the life of a incredible little woman- Lindy. 

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Traveller Love

Today is the day I start the blog.... I am by no means a writer and have beautiful words in my head that never quite come out right on paper but as they say  here goes nothing.

Today I recieved a beautiful post card from Newfoundland from Erin and Eric who recently got married. The story goes that they found each other in the city of Vancouver through a very small doll made right here in Africa ( South Africa) pinned on a winter coat.

 So how did this love story start... Erin came as a volunteer to the home of the Little Travellers - the Hillcrest Aids Centre Trust - Woza Moya -while she was studying geography- how she ended up here is another story but I will try to stick to the basics. She was with us for three or four months three years ago and worked help me set up the Little Traveller exhibition at the Durban ART Gallery. When she returned home a little depressed , she was walking to Starbucks when she saw a man in coat with a tiny Traveller on it - they struck up a conversation - had a coffee and the rest is history- true love - and marriage. So when I got the card from Erin with a beauitiful wedding photo of them both, it brought tears to  my eyes thinking of the story - and Traveller Love - how you can find love in the most unexpected places but only if "you have the eyes to see it, and the hands to gather it yourself" ( forgot who said thsi qoute)

Ntombi one of the women that makes the Little Travellers told me once that she loves making the little dolls and that when she is making them she thinks of real people, that when she is done she hates parting with her Little family she has created!  I thought today of the little fella that Eric was wearing on his coat that day - how it conspired to bring two strangers together.  I love a story with a happy ending.

If you want to find out more about Little Travellers go to

signing off Pollywobbles