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.