A Story of Hope
While I was travelling back from my first trip to South Africa I read this inspiring story in Sowubona, the in flight magazine. Following up the story of this man’s vision for the freedom and prosperity of his home in Eastern Cape, I found that the women of the community had worked together to form a magnificent tapestry and now the community boasts a thriving arts centre.
Footprints To Freedom
A true story about Hamburg in Eastern Cape by Heather Dugmore(copied from Sowubona)
There was once a beautiful but destitute seaside village in the Eastern Cape of South Africa called Hamburg.
In the village lived a man called Vuyisile Funda who owned a red satin party dress and who used to wear it when he ran up and down the dunes in the early hours, making patterns in the sand.
Sometimes his footprints would create wave-like patterns at other times they would form a giant cross.
Vuyisile described himself as a very religious man. He would explain how God visited him just before dawn and instructed him never to be aggressive to anyone and never to talk about anyone’s business. When he felt anger or confusion God would instruct him to go to the dunes and run until the problem was released from him.
Vuyisile explained that while he was running he was never aware that he was making patterns in the sand. It was only when the problem was released that he saw the patterns God had manifested through his steps.
Vuyisile is no fictional character. He is one of the remarkable people living in Hamburg today.
Regrettably he no longer runs in his red satin party dress because a family member took it away from him saying that people would think him mad.
But he continues to make magical patterns in the sand.
‘I miss that dress,’ he explains when I meet him in Hamburg, ‘it was my way of showing the women in the village that I understood them and empathise with them and wish that they like me should run free.’
Freedom requires finance
In economically depressed regions freedom requires some kind of financial foothold and the women of Hamburg are uplifting their financial circumstances through embroidery. – these are epic collectable tapestries spanning many metres.
Five years ago Carol Hofmeyer, a medical doctor and artist, moved from Johannesburg to Hamburg struck by the beauty of this place – a never never land where black eagles roost in ancient crags overlooking the Keiskamma River that curls down to the sea.
But then she started to see the desperate situation of the people living in isolation and without any money.
Noseti Makubalo was born here in 1964. ‘For many years my life was very hard. My husband Hamilton have six children and after he was retrenched from East Driefontein Gold mine in 1998, (he worked there for nineteen years,) we struggled a lot.
He was a machine driller underground and returned home unable to see or hear clearly. He was not fit for work but too young to get a pension.’
Noseti like many of the women in Hamburg was schooled but unskilled and without career prospects.
It was especially dire for elderly women of Hamburg who were faced with no income while having to support many grandchildren as HIV/AIDS took its toll.
Carol launched the Emthonjeni Arts Project – a tapestry and art & craft centre aimed at giving local women skills.
Five years ago Noseti was one of the first women to join the project which put money in the pockets of many women and inspired them as artists. Noseti paints and does tapestries. The project has won the Brett Kebble Art Award. The project was sponsored by North and East Cape Department of Arts ands Culture.
The Keiskamma tapestry shows the history of the people starting from the San Bushmen a thousand years ago and ending with the elections. A hundred women made the altarpiece which is six metres long and four metres high. It is a combination of embroidery, appliqué and Xhosa beadwork and photographs. It is a vision that speaks of strength from within that can defeat despair and bring hope health and abundance. All this is expressed through bright coloured birds, fish, cattle and the image of the dune runner. It was inspired by the Altarpiece of the German painter Mathias Grunewald’s sixteenth century commemoration of St Anthony’s Fire. It is a tribute to the GoGo’s doubling as saints and the spiritual hope of life triumphing over death.
The history of this can be found in this video,