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Sunday, April 6, 2014


(Ismail Mahomed & Sershan Naidoo take up their crochet hooks to support the 67 Blankets for Madiba project)

At the recent launch of the 2014 National Arts Festival, members of the media were given a tantalising taste of the splendid programme on offer this year in Grahamstown from July 3 to 13.

One outstanding feature of the festival is that no less than 65 previous winners of The Standard Bank Young Artist Award will be showcased on the Main Programme. They will be represented either in person or through their work at the Festival.

It is expected that the names of two more Standard Bank Young Artists will be released shortly. “They will be working on the Festival's development programmes,” explains Ismail Mahomed, the festival’s Artistic Director. “In total, that will us bringing us to the very significant number of 67 artists in this particular year when we also sharpen the Festival's focus on our two decades of constitutional democracy.”

Another important aspect of the festival is the open-access element of the Fringe Programme supported by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund.

artSMart Editor, Caroline Smart, who is strongly involved in the 67 Blankets for Madiba Day project took the opportunity of the launch to photograph two major roleplayers in the arts to show their support of what has now become an international movement. As Mahomed indicated, the number 67 is a significant one as it represents the number of years that Nelson Mandela gave fighting for freedom and service to his country.

Ismail Mahomed, the festival’s Artistic Director, and Sershan Naidoo, spokesperson for the National Lottery Board, willingly picked up their crochet hooks and set about stitching.

While Mahomed lent his usual clear and immediate focus to anything new, it was former Durbanite Naidoo who handled his crochet hook with an assurance born of experience.

This experience comes from the fact that, for many years, his father ran a shop in Alice Street called Fleecy Wools below the now-defunct Upstairs Theatre. In the mid 40’s, his grandfather worked at Durban’s most popular and well-stocked wool shops, Bombay Bazaar in West Street and Swansdown in Foundry Lane.
Naidoo remembers his growing years when his mother, Kamalam Naidoo, used to do all the family’s knitting – jerseys, hats and scarves.

“You remember the warmth,” Naidoo says. “There are many people who don’t have that basic need. We should support anything to keep people warm to help them survive those cold days - and what better way than through the memory of Madiba. My mum has started her own blanket. It’s great because it keeps her occupied, doing something that she enjoys but will also help someone less fortunate than she is. I’m trying to find time to do some crocheting myself – 30 years came zooming back when I picked up that crochet hook today and I was surprised that I actually remembered the stitches!”

Ismail Mahomed equally supports the 67 Blankets for Madiba Day project: “The 67 Blankets for Madiba Day is an inspiring project. It brings together caring people to engage in a craft form to help other less-fortunate South Africans. More than that, with every knit-one pearl-one or crochet stitch, it weaves Madiba's legacy into our consciousness.”

For more information visit the Facebook page of 67 Blankets for Madiba Day or contact Caroline Smart on

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