It is fitting that the UCT Irma Stern Museum in Rosebank should host the Cape Town book launch and exhibition of ‘The Keiskamma Art Project – restoring hope and livelihoods’ by Professor Brenda Schmahmann as the late Irma Stern had a deep interest in the Eastern Cape and its peoples, painting many of her works in that region.
The exhibition will run from 18 to 25 February and will feature the Intsikizi works. The launch on February 18 will include a talk by founder of the project, Carol Hofmeyr, and a walkabout of the exhibition.
Production Manager, Keiskamma Art Project, master embroiderer and ceramicist Cebo Mvubu will join Carol as will sales assistant Nomakhaya Dada.
The Keiskamma Project will also be the subject of a lecture by author Professor Brenda Schmahmann on Monday, February 20, at UCT at 6pm and Kate Crane Biggs of Culture Connect will also host a walkabout of Museum shows on Saturday, February 25.
The Keiskamma online shop will be officially launched on Tuesday, February 21, at 6pm in the Coral Room at the UCT Irma Stern Museum.
The Keiskamma Art Project, begun by Carol Hofmeyr in 2000, provides opportunities to over a hundred people in the tiny Eastern Cape settlement of Hamburg, South Africa, to support themselves and their families. Members of this remarkable project are best known for the compelling and exquisite large-scale artworks they make collaboratively which include embroidery and needlework. Several have been exhibited internationally and a number are in important collections – amongst them the Keiskamma Tapestry which is on permanent loan to Parliament.
Author Brenda Schmahmann conducted extensive and meticulous research and fieldwork to produce a book that reveals the history as well as the motivations and ideas that underpin the making of its works. Magnificently and comprehensively illustrated, this volume is the first to be devoted to the Keiskamma Art Project and is destined to be the authoritative book on this remarkable project.
Many of the Keiskamma Art Project’s large-scale works rework well-known paintings and other art from the West, such as the Bayeux Tapestry, Picasso’s Guernica and the Ghent Altarpiece. But they do so in such a way that they highlight issues of concern to people in South Africa. Engaging with the histories of Xhosa speakers and the long-term effects of colonisation, the works are also concerned with twenty-first century challenges such as the impact of HIV/AIDS or the threats posed to the natural environment and flora and fauna within it.
Carol Hofmeyr emphasizes how collective work can enable significant improvements in people’s lives: ‘Over the 16 years we have worked together, many volunteers have taught and shared skills and we have built a close and caring community of embroiderers, designers, artists and friends – a collaboration that has become global. A group of over 100 women and a few men who are uniquely skilled in making art using textiles and especially embroidery shows that when people work together a miracle of transformation can occur.’
The book is valuable not only to art historians, but is an inspiration to anyone with an interest in the visual arts or rural development in Africa. Published by Print Matters it will be on sale at the Museum and is also available at all good bookstores
* For a glimpse of the Johannesburg opening and Intsikizi series: www.youtube.com/watch?v=4q3LPOFPKsk&feature=share.
Visit www.printmatters.co.za or www.keiskamma.org for further information.