Monday, March 31, 2008

District Six



I have a soft spot for all things South African and as soon as the theme was announced found a way to connect my quilt with Cape Town. District Six was a vibrant, multi-ethnic community which was cleared by forced removals during the apartheid era. Over 60,000 occupants were forced to move to the 'homelands' where there was little or no infrastructure or employment or else ended up in the desolate 'townships' in the Cape Flats. The area was destined for redevelopment but in fact was never built on again.

The District Six museum, is now a place of remembrance to a destroyed community. One worker, employed to bulldoze the houses and shops had the foresight to save the street signs which now hang in the museum over a giant map on the floor of the main hall.

I printed these out to use as the left and right 'bars' of the quilt. The top and bottom are my first attempt at stamping fabric using a Sherril Khan stamp from a fabric paint kit my husband bought me to play with. I suspect the letter stamping could be more distinct but we live and learn. I plead the excuse for having 2 weeks less than the rest of you due to my holidays!
I wanted to represent firstly the shame of the heart being ripped out of the comunity, hence the missing centre of the quilt. I made the bars seperately and sewed them togther by hand whipstitch ( badly as you can see - and the photo makes it look even worse!) Recently there have been attempts to start to rebuild the community with 24 houses first being built. On 11 February 2004, exactly 38 years after being rezoned by the government, Nelson Mandela ( my all time hero!) handed the keys to the first returning residents, Ebrahim Murat (87) and Dan Ndzabela (82).

I could not fit 24 houses on but these mobile like houses dangling in the space represent the 'drop in the ocean' start to fill in the gap left by apartheid. The houses are made by free motion embroidery on some stiff white stuff I was sold to make fabric postcards with ( but never did!) I have no idea what it is called! I do feel that my vision is far more advanced than my technical skills at the moment. If we ever have an exhibit I might remake this with what I hope will be increased ability by that stage. However for now, I am loving trying new things out with a purpose and being part of our own encouraging, supportive, accepting and playful community.

19 comments:

StegArt said...

It's fabulous Helen. I very much enjoyed learning that bit of history and your use of the street signs on the quilt is very cool. The houses hanging in the center are wonderful also.

Eamon said...

Nice blog. I love quilts after spending a summer in America, in Amish country. The Amish are master quilt-makers. You would see the Amish women sitting out in their porches, chatting together and so on, making quilts.

Nellie's Needles said...

The story behind your intriguing art is heart breaking. I suspect the effect of your limited skills is a part of the voice/story of the quilt.

Diane said...

I'm so impressed by your work on this piece, Helen. First, the concepts and the way you've chosen to use the elements for those concepts is wonderful. Even if I didn't know the story, I'd want to look long and close at this piece. But knowing the story really clarifies your intent, and I think you've done a wonderful job of memorializing this destroyed community.

Diane said...

Oh, by the way, in the US that stiff white postcard stuff is usually called Timtex, and I think it's made by Pellon. Is that what it's called there?

Natalya said...

a very touching piece, poignant...

StegArt said...

Actually, Pellon makes their own version called Peltex. I don't know who makes Timtex. I've heard of a product overseas that compares called Pelmet Vilene.

Françoise said...

Very meaningful piece. Don't redo it. It's perfect as is it.

Gerrie said...

You do not need to redo this. It is just wonderful as is. When I first saw the pieces, I thought Africa and had no idea that this was where you were taking us. I have such admiration for Mandela and was inspired by your story of this community.

Kristin L said...

Argh, I had a nicely written comment and it's gone! Anyways, as the others said -- don't re-do it. What you may see as poor workmanship speaks to the disintegration and neglect of the community. Your concept is a good one and I think you HAVE done it justice.

Kristin L said...
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Diane said...

Yep, I agree -- this doesn't need redoing. (I don't think your technique looks bad, either.) The way you'd revisit these ideas at some point in the future probably wouldn't be the same as what you chose to do here... and I'd suggest that if you're not done with exploring the ideas this destroyed community makes you feel, then maybe it'd be more worthwhile to make some different pieces about it (a series!) instead of redoing the same piece again.

Helen Conway said...

But its all wonky.....!! But Ok I'm happy with not doing it again!! Thansk for the encouragment. Roll on the nexxt challnge...

Nikki said...

The wonkiness is fitting for the piece. It speaks to the devestation and the very misguided attempt to make things "right" during the apartheid era. The soft focus of the letter stamping speaks to how the community was is slowly rebuilding despite attempts to wipe it out. I love the bright colors of houses and the hope that they hold.

Brenda said...

There is such a rich back story to this piece and it IS well executed. Don't redo it but, as Diane says, perhaps it could form part of a series.

Deborah said...

No need to re-do it. It has so many interesting and meaningful elements just as it is. I love the color palette. I am also totally inspired by the mobile effect. Very interesting. I could totally steal that idea!

twolimeleaves said...

Absolutely DON'T re-do it! It's not wonky. It's honest and full of heart. You have completely done justice to this tragedy.
My favourite aspect of the quilt is the street signs on the sides. They stir the heart as well as providing some nice horizontal strength.

Helen Conway said...
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Helen Conway said...

Go ahead and steal Deborah!