Flower power for Graça Machel

17 June 2014 | Story by Newsroom

A bunch of handcrafted aloes that deck the dining hall at Graça Machel residence have "totally transformed the space and given it a unique identity", says Mary Van Blommestein, curator of the UCT works of art collection and the Irma Stern Museum.

Seven felt flowers were installed into the hall's niches in April, after the UCT Works of Art Committee commissioned the Keiskamma Art Project, based in Hamburg in the Eastern Cape, to create the colourful flora.

"The aesthetic appeal of the structure and beauty of the individual aloes from various regions in South Africa creates a powerful visual statement which celebrates our national flora and promotes an appreciation of the importance of eco-wise sustainable gardening evident in the courtyard planting of this residence," says Van Blommestein.

"Each aloe is first shaped with wire, covered with hand-felted wool, embroidered, and installed in hand-thrown clay pots. In total there are seven separate species in the dining hall: Aloe vryheidensis; Aloe ferosx; Aloe peglerae; Aloe arborescens; Aloe plicatilis; Aloe pearsonii and Aloe striata."

"Our main wish is to get more and more orders so we keep busy and create more employment to us the locals," says Khayalethu Nqono, one of the artists on the project. "I see my work on some social media sometimes and, yhu! My heart sings with joy. I see unbelievably beautiful handmade art that I was part of producing and that gives me hope."

Shaylok Khoza, another artist from Hamburg, enjoys working with Keiskamma.

"I enjoy my work so much," says Khoza. "The UCT commission was such a great order ... and we looking forward to have more commissions coming through so we can be able to create more employment for ourselves, and maybe one day be able to buy our own company car ... since we are currently struggling for transport to buy our raw materials from town."

Story by Yusuf Omar. Images by Michael Hammond.

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