June 20, 2024

Beauty Arts

The Arts Authority

Keiskamma Art Project: Tapestries tell the story of a South African town, one masterpiece at a time

Keiskamma Art Project: Tapestries tell the story of a South African town, one masterpiece at a time

Created by Gertrude Kitongo, CNN

The South African town of Hamburg is positioned by a single of the most attractive estuaries in the Japanese Cape. Bordered by unspoilt seashores, dune forests and a meandering river, Hamburg, like the rest of the area, is recognised for its abundant Xhosa culture, cattle herding, fishing and homesteads. It is really also home to a group of women of all ages who have produced a series of incredible artworks that have been exhibited close to the earth.

Keiskamma Art Undertaking was created to train local females embroidery competencies to assist them at a challenging time economically and socially, but it has developed into something a lot even bigger. Possessing been demonstrated at intercontinental art galleries, a lot of of their tapestries are now staying shown underneath just one roof for the to start with time, at an exhibition in Johannesburg.

Their tale begins in 2000, when Dr. Carol Hofmeyr moved from Johannesburg to Hamburg. She observed a town having difficulties with substantial unemployment and a community of gals determined to come across strategies to feed their families.

Obtaining examined embroidery herself, Dr. Hofmeyr hoped that passing on that understanding to area women would assistance empower them. “The first intention of the challenge was to use creative imagination to build self-assurance and self-esteem not to make cash,” she claims.

From rudimentary beginnings keeping workshops in an previous, ruined dwelling, increasing quantities of the girls read about the project by way of term of mouth. Now, more than 150 women are part of the initiative. Promoting their perform delivers a resource of income, but the undertaking has also created a meeting spot and support technique for the women.

A visitor stands in front of the "Keiskamma Guernica" (2010), a 3.5x7.8-meter (11.5x26.6-foot) tapestry inspired by Pablo Picasso's 1937 painting "Guernica."

A customer stands in entrance of the “Keiskamma Guernica” (2010), a 3.5×7.8-meter (11.5×26.6-foot) tapestry motivated by Pablo Picasso’s 1937 painting “Guernica.” Credit: Anthea Pokroy/Keiskamma Belief

Initially, the girls started out out simply just producing cushions and compact purses to offer to travellers. Solitary mom Veronica Nkosasana Betani, 53, has been element of the initiative due to the fact its outset. With the dollars she earns from it, she is now capable to care for her small children and grandchildren.

Finally the women of all ages begun obtaining commissions for bigger items. They were provided panels about a meter in measurement to get the job done on at property. By signing up for the accomplished panels alongside one another, they designed the 1st of their bigger will work, and just one of their most celebrated, “The Keiskamma Tapestry.” Sewn on wool that was donated to the project, the 120-meter (394 foot)-extended get the job done is impressed by the Bayeux Tapestry, manufactured in the 11th Century to commemorate the Norman conquest of England.

“I recognized together we could make a monumental perform — our to start with 120-meter tapestry telling the story of our place.” states Dr. Hofmeyr.

Though the Bayeux Tapestry presents the point of view of the conquerors, “The Keiskamma Tapestry” tells the tale of the Xhosa people today who ended up subjugated by colonization and the Xhosa British Frontier Wars from 1776 to 1876. The piece continues their narrative up to the 1994 elections — South Africa’s initially to enable all races to vote.

“It triggered a stir when it was shown at The National Arts Pageant in 2003 and then received a national art award,” states Dr. Hofmeyr.

It can be a person of the substantial tapestries on screen at the retrospective exhibition “Umaf’ evuka, nje ngenyanga / Dying and rising, as the moon does,” presently demonstrating at Johannesburg’s Constitutional Court of South Africa.

Exhibition “Umaf’ evuka, nje ngenyanga / Dying and soaring, as the moon does” at Structure Hill, Johannesburg, South Africa. Credit rating: Anthea Pokroy/Keiskamma Believe in

Co-curator Pippa Hetherington claims the building of “The Keiskamma Tapestry” was a cathartic instant for South Africa. “It depicts a darkish time, exactly where the Xhosa individuals became decimated. Having killed their cattle in a bid to travel the White settlers absent, they were being left in severe poverty and had to go and beg for perform from the White settlers,” suggests Hetherington. “This was then adopted by Apartheid.”

The piece has traveled to artwork galleries all around the globe, as properly as European cathedrals. It was acquired by Standard Bank, which later on loaned it to the Cape Town parliament building, where by it was almost consumed by a fire in January 2021.

One more celebrated piece is “The Keiskamma Altarpiece,” which was developed by 130 women of all ages. Fashioned soon after the “Isenheim Altarpiece” (1512-1516), painted by German Renaissance artist Matthias Grünewald, the four meter-higher, four meter-wide piece reveals the struggles that aged women endured when the youth in their group were hit by HIV two many years in the past, and grandparents stepped in to care for little ones.

The innermost panels of “The Keiskamma Altarpiece” mix photography with embroidery. Credit: Anthea Pokroy/Keiskamma Believe in

The retrospective is also the initial time the “Women’s Charter Tapestries,” done in 2016 as a celebration of femininity, have been publicly exhibited. They are revealed along with the “Democracy Tapestries,” established amongst 2003 and 2004.

Raw and provocative, the parts address some of the country’s darkest moments. Amongst the “Democracy Tapestries” is a piece encouraged by Picasso’s 1937 portray “Guernica.” Additional than three meters (10 ft) higher and almost eight meters (26 feet) huge, the “Keiskamma Guernica” tells the tragic narrative of lifetime and loss of life at the top of South Africa’s HIV epidemic.

“We produced that piece to scream at the process and commemorate the persons,” says Dr. Hofmayer.

The latest artworks engage with up to date problems. “Covid Resilience Tapestry” bargains with the pandemic, while “A New Earth,” and “Our Sacred Ocean” are a connect with for environmental consciousness.

A detail from "Covid Resilience Tapestry" (2022).

A element from “Covid Resilience Tapestry” (2022). Credit history: Anthea Pokroy/Keiskamma Believe in

Now regarded for their inventive worth and cultural relevance, the tapestries are testimony to the community’s talent and resilience.

“For me there is no other route. I want to hold Kieskamma going for the reason that it truly is a area that will help women of all ages to preserve going,” claims Betani.

For Dr. Hofmeyer, there is still perform to accomplished. She hopes the task “will continue to do the job for the superior of the local community and at some point give this marginalized rural local community a voice.”