Monday, November 1, 2010

Spaza shop

When this 'rusty' pallate was first announced I was amused ( and please, no one take offence at this) that the first reaction of some of my colleages was to deliberately make things rusty. We live in a society in which rusty things are play things for us - cast offs that we can use to experiment with and make something beautiful with. Of course such creative recyclying is a very good thing. But all I could think of (and maybe this is my house renovation preoccupation again) was that many people have to live under rusty corrogated iron and be grateful for its shelter. Every rusty mail is put to construction use.

I have long had a South African fettish and all I could think about was the jumble ofTownship shacks - often rusty, almost always painted brightly and decorated with whatever is to hand - the lables off food tins are a common substitute for wall paper. Its the same thing - creative recycling but with necessity underlying it.

This quilt was made at the Bishops ranch retreat in Healdsburg where I had the priveledge of spending time with Diane and 43 other quilters. I already knew I was going to do a rusty shack and one evening spread all the goodies on the theme I had packed so they were ready the next day. I sat and mused a while and told Diane I was going to do the door to a sangoma's (traditional healer's) shack. But, when I came in the next morning and looked at them again they said, "Spaza shop".

A spaza shop is a South African shop run from the home of someone living in one of the townships. There are over 100,000 of them and each one financially supports an average of four family members. They sell the basic commodities and were especially important in apartheid when they were often the only shops available in the black residential areas.

I went to the kitchen trash can and pulled out some new quilting materials. Diane - who had kindly loaned me her Bernina - looked at them curiously, then, with a hint of fear in her voice asked casually, "Are you going to stitch those?"
"Yes," I replied, "but not with your Bernina."
The relief on her face was obvious!

A little shelf of goods to buy

I do think that the photographs lose some of the texture of this quilt. I made it by roughly sewing ripped strips of African resist dyed fabric and strips of bark cloth to get the higgeldy-piggeldy look and texture of a 'self-build with waste materials'. I deliberately left the scrim rough to illustrate decay and peeling paint. The beads are recycled glass again made in Africa.

You can see a photo of a real Spaza store illustrating this interesting article about poverty tourism.

On a lighter note, it was in a Spaza shop en route to Swaziland in 1990 that I discovered the delights of bacon and banana toasted sandwiches!


Gerrie said...

I am so pleased to know that you can come up with a story quilt no matter what we throw at you!!

Diane Perin said...

This is so effective, Helen! I can say with pride (and amazement) that I watched Helen assemble this quilt -- with a sureness that impressed me. I always enjoy finding out how you've linked our challenge to an issue on your mind and a piece of cultural history. This is one of my favorites of yours, ever.

Terry Grant said...

Helen, you have totally captured the spirit of a rusty shack of a store, with all these bits. There is something quite joyful about it, despite the patched together nature of it. I am glad you included the detail shots of the wonderful raggedy textures. It really brings it to life. I would LOVE to see this one in person!

Terri Stegmiller said...

Very interesting Helen, as is usual with your pieces. All the elements and textures work so well together to create this piece.

Kristin L said...

I love the beads you've found. And your stories never cease to amaze me. There is definitely a shanty look to this and the richness of the colors are a beautiful foil to the poverty in the story.

kirsten said...

Superb - it really does look as if it is made from sheets of corrugated iron! Love the incorporation of the glass beads.
I, too, am rather fond of bacon and banana toasted sandwiches :)

Karen said...

Once again you're making me think of social issues and I always love that in what you do. I learn something every time you post and I hope it coninues.