Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Vilakazi Street

My first task when the Maps theme was revealed was to consider how I could tie that into Africa having set myself the added goal with the 20/12 quilts of working in my own series with the parameters of (a) wholecloth (b) surface design (c) visual cohesiveness and (d) african theme. Of course, both Maps and Africa are delightfully wide and compatable in many ways but, my very first thought was of Vilakazi Street, Orlando West, Soweto.

This street is the only street in the world to be home to Two Nobel Prize Winners ( Mr Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu). It was also a central location in the Soweto Uprisings of 16thJune 1976 which were a pivotal event in the fight against apartheid.Students marching to protest the imposition of Afrikaans as he mandatory language of tuition for some of their classes were shot by the Police in and around Vilakazi street. The iconic picture of Hector Pieteson,shot by Sam Nizima who was the second student shot but the first to die caused international outrage. The first boy was Hastings Ndlovu.



The quilt is based on a map of Vilakazi Street and the surrounding areas and is made of a wholecloth base of scraped and stamped screenprinting inks embellished with Pitt Artists Pen and silk string. For those who wish to know more about the writing on the quilt ( which I am very pleased with as from a distance it appears as topographical texture but closer up tells the story of he street) see the entry on my personal blog where I set out exactly what is written on the quilt top.

I am pleased to say that in making this quilt I have revived my fascination with apartheid era history. By coincidence just after it was finished the shelves in my studio were finally finished and I was able to unpack my collection of South African books which had been packed since we moved some eighteen months ago. n there I found a book I had forgotten all about detailing the history of the uprisings. I have also stumbled uppin a website detailing the routes the various students took from their schools on the 16th July. The two are inspiring me to start a whole series. This is the second one, again based on Vilakazi Street albeit rotated so that west is at the top.



And this is the next piece of fabric with bits and bobs ready for a bigger map.

11 comments:

Diane Perin Hock said...

Oh, oh, oh, Helen -- this is I think my favorite of everything you've done so far. It is so rich and yet so elegant and spare. I love that as you look more, you see more detail. I'd say your series work is going VERY well indeed!

nicolette at dutchcomfort said...

I’m speechless! Love your wholecloth piece and your series is so wonderful!
From your clues and doing some research on the internet I understood you were referring to Vilakazi street.

When reading and hearing stories about SA, I often feel ashamed being Dutch, as my ancestors have left some awful footprints in the Apartheid history.

Kristin L said...

Wow Helen, I think you've found your groove! All your variations are wonderful. The colors and patterns reference Africa without seeming like you're appropriating them, the compositions are simple but effective, and the concepts are fully "Helen." You've made quite a journey in the last 5 years!

Karen said...

This so beautiful to look at Helen, and I think you are right about the writing, it really looks topographical form the distance. You are well on your way to a meaningful series.

Gerrie said...

Wow! I am loving my first look at this. I must go to your blog and find out more. The background is very effective with the text and other elements. The colors make me feel warm and happy.

Terri Stegmiller said...

Such a lovely piece Helen. I really like the addition of the hand written texture and the stamped designs and colors are wonderful.

Terry said...

Oh Helen! What a perfectly perfect way to tell this story. Can I say that in the past you may have used a gimmick here or there to illustrate your wonderful stories? Not here. Just elegant line, beautiful color and a straightforward focus that honors the heros of Vilakazi street. LOVE this.

kirsty said...

There's a whole new subtlety to the way you are working, Helen. Nice stuff :)
The writing is a beautiful feature of this quilt.

Brenda Gael Smith said...

There's a little synchronicity going on. Take a look at your map and Karen's side-by-side. They are a similar palette and broad composition; are multi-layered and they both go to the heart of the matter! I really want to see both of these pieces in the cloth!

Nikki said...

Beautiful and moving!

Nikki said...

Beautiful and moving!