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Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Remarkable collection of 12 door-sized beaded tapestries for Tatham Art Gallery.

On September 19, a remarkable collection of 12 door-sized beaded tapestries go on display at the Tatham Art Gallery in Chief Albert Luthuli (Commercial) Road, Pietermaritzburg. After successfully displaying at the National Cultural History Museum in Pretoria last year, the KZN MEC for Education, Mrs Ina Cronjé, made a special appeal to bring the tapestries to the KZN community, thus the move by MiET Africa to bring the exhibition to Pietermaritzburg this year for all to see.

Members of the public are encouraged to be a part of this and experience it for themselves. Every tapestry tells the unique and compelling story of a specific rural community somewhere in KwaZulu-Natal’s green hills and valleys. A special area in the gallery will be designated to a group of crafters from Willow Fountain in Edendale to work on their tapestry in full view of the public.

Bright beads and stitches lovingly applied by local artists bring to life the local colour of each place: The soaring Drakensberg mountains, deep river valleys and lush rolling hills of KwaZulu-Natal. The tapestries also bring to life the hardships of rural life, the changes that have been brought about by development projects, and communities’ dreams for the future.

Together, the collection of tapestries is a remarkable record of rural life across one of South Africa’s most rural and most diverse provinces, as well as a testimony to the courage, the creativity, the compassion and the capacity for positive change of the different communities.

The Celebrating Change: Tapestries that tell stories exhibition is hosted by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education, to celebrate its long-standing partnerships in rural development with the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Media in Education Trust (MiET) Africa.

The KZN education department, the Netherlands Embassy and MiET Africa have been partners in extensive rural development initiatives over the last nine years. The celebration is their way to acknowledge the contributions of the many remarkable people in rural communities who have been positive change agents against great odds.

In KwaZulu-Natal two important rural development programmes have emerged out of the partnership between the education department, the Netherlands’ Embassy, MiET Africa and rural school communities: Education Centres Supporting Rural Development; and Schools as Centres of Care And Support (SCCS).

Key partners in these development programmes are often forgotten people in rural communities who wage a daily battle to survive, yet who make positive changes through their determination, courage, compassion and creativity. The focus of “Celebrating rural development” is therefore to give communities opportunities to tell their own stories through the beaded tapestries.

The process started with large community workshops in twelve rural communities across KwaZulu-Natal, through which communities reflected on their past and present and defined their future vision. Some 48 talented artists - four from each of the 12 communities - were then trained to create the tapestries.

The exhibition showcases the tapestries as well as the stories and the faces of the people behind them. It will remain on display until November 2.

The celebration has been driven by MiET Africa’s subsidiary Africa!Ignite, which aims to tell Africa’s stories and celebrate its role models, with support from Durban’s Umcebo Trust, who trained the artists, the Durban University of Technology (DUT) and KwaZulu-Natal’s Caversham Centre for Artists and Writers.