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Keiskamma Art Project: Artworks stitching history into stories.

Constitution Hill:

An extraordinary exhibition of tapestries created by an artist’s collective in the Eastern Cape, is set to open on Heritage Day (24 September 2022) at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg.

Founded in 2000, the Keiskamma Art Project in Hamburg, Eastern Cape, produces major textile artworks, which aid in the archiving of the rural Eastern Cape’s collective memory and the preservation of oral history. This unique project has won numerous awards, including the Business and Arts South Africa (BASA) Award and the Chairman’s Premier Award (2011), which recognises sustained and extraordinary commitment to the arts in South Africa.

Marking twenty years since the launch of the Keiskamma Art Project, Umaf’ evuka, nje ngenyanga / Dying and Rising as the Moon Does, a retrospective exhibition brings together a selection of iconic pieces into one immersive experience. It is an inquiry, through embroidery and storytelling, into the fabric of society, the meaning of humanity and the stark realities of illness. This retrospective showcases the community’s conversations using art as a medium of expression and healing.

World-renowned curator and collector, Azu Nwagbogu, co-creator of Umaf’ evuka, nje ngenyanga / Dying and Rising as the Moon, says, “This retrospective exhibition foregrounds the traditional oral histories and acts as a loudhailer through which to amplify the stories and experiences by, and for the people who are otherwise not heard. Through simultaneous narration and documentation, we hope to foster a safe environment to promote healing and sharing to bring people and diverse communities together."

This year, Constitution Hill, a living museum that tells the story of South Africa’s journey to democracy, is observing the founding principles of our transformative Constitution. Steeped in history, Constitution Hill is a profoundly symbolic site. Against this backdrop, the Keiskamma artists have made three prototypes towards a beautiful, limited edition tapestry series titled ‘Our South Africa.’ In these exquisite pieces they reveal what they value most about our democracy and what the pillars of our Constitution – Equality, Freedom, and Human dignity – mean in their daily lives as women from an impoverished area of the Eastern Cape. The finished artworks, richly coloured, intricate, and thought-provoking, make up a symbolic narrative of possibility for a resilient community. Individually, the tapestries represent an intimate expression of personal hopes and dreams, manifested stitch by stitch.

Heidi Brauer, Group Executive: Brand for the Hollard Insurance Group comments “We’re proud to have been able to play a small part in bringing this immensely exciting project to life. The sense of possibility embraced by the incredible women of Hamburg, artists who pour their hearts and souls into their art, is an example to us all. The telling of these stories of South Africa’s past, provide important stop-off points in our collective journey towards a better future. We are in awe of these change-making creators, and so thrilled to be associated with them through this retrospective.”

Rob Brozin, Co-Founder of Nando’s, and trustee of the Constitution Hill Trust, says, “People need to see these incredible artworks. They are interwoven in and through our heritage. Exhibiting the artworks, especially in places of historical importance, will allow people of all backgrounds to engage with the remarkable human story of Hamburg as a village, and South Africa as a country.”

Jonathan Goldberg, the first official corporate sponsor for the retrospective, a leading voice in Labour Law and Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment, and CEO of Global Business Solutions, says, “The Keiskamma project is one of a kind and an example of what we can do in Africa, even in the most impoverished communities. These works of art are world class, and we are privileged to hang them in our boardrooms or foyers. They symbolise what we all fought for in South Africa and we should put our full weight in celebrating these artworks with our country, and in celebration of the 25 years since the signing of our Constitution. This not only exposes these works to the world and South Africa, but deservedly supports the project’s sustainability.”

For more information on acquisitions of the ‘Our South Africa’ tapestry series please visit https://keiskammaartproject.or... for more information about the exhibition please send an email to Pippa Hetherington or Cathy Stanley, co-curators at retrospective@keiskammaartproject.org

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