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Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Stunning collection at Durban Art Gallery. (Report by Dawn Haynes)

The Dreams for Africa Chair: “A Celebration of Hope exhibition opened at the Durban Art Gallery on July 22 with a capacity crowd and much traditional joy and energy.

The exhibition is described as “a photographic journey of a beaded chair, created by 160 women from the Hillcrest AIDS Centre Trust which is travelling around South Africa inviting people from all walks of life to share their dreams and to tell their stories. It is a celebration of hope in the true spirit of Ubuntu.”

The second floor of the Durban Art Gallery buzzed as hundreds of people crowded into the room where the chair and the photographs were displayed, to be awed by the brightness, the mood of joy and the messages of hope displayed in the photographs.

Photographer Mathew Willman was responsible for most of the photographs with Peter Upfold and Xavier Vahed providing some stunning views of the chair. The photographs are large, colourful and vibrant with the energy of the South African people. We see Zapiro, Desmond Tutu, Jess Foord and little Zarah from the Cape, the known and the unknown faces of South Africa all conveying a strong message of Hope.

The exhibition was opened by Gcina Mhlophe in her typical storytelling style. As she welcomed everyone to this “hot, round room!” (no air conditioning in the Durban Art Gallery?) she expressed her joy in once again being associated with the Hillcrest Aids Trust Centre. (The previous occasion was the opening of the Little Traveller exhibition some two years ago). With songs and smiles, she recounted how the women at the centre lovingly create their bead work beginning with “just ONE bead and a needle, then ten beads, then hundreds…”

We were entertained with live music and dancing provided by some of the ladies from the centre and then enjoyed refreshments including home-brewed beer.

Paula Thompson who spear-headed this project and has been responsible for the growth of Woza Moya, the craft centre at Hillcrest, recalled how eight years ago, they began with one plastic bucket and now they have more than 300 crafters who are unable to cope with the orders pouring in from all over the world. They are hoping to raise enough money (R1.2m) from the sale of prints from this exhibition, to build new premises for their craft centre.

The exhibition is running in Durban until the end of September. It will then begin moving around the country and will grow as it moves. At each new city, the chair will be photographed and the pictures will be added to the existing collection. An exciting concept, an amazing collection, and a worthy end point! Hopefully, the pictures will eventually be available in a coffee table book form, too. We look forward to the opening of the new Woza Moya centre which I am sure will happen as a result of this stunning collection. The exhibition is currently on the second floor of the Durban Art Gallery, entrance free. - Dawn Haynes