Saturday, February 13, 2010

Keiskamma Art Project

The Kalk Bay Modern Gallery has, as I have mentioned before, a policy of supporting social upliftment schemes and projects.  After discussing the Ekoka group and the life-enhancing workshops they have been involved with, I thought it would be appropriate to look at some of the other projects that KBM supports.
The Keiskamma Art Project is one such scheme and the story of how a small community arts project slowly transformed into the thriving Keiskamma Trust is an inspirational account of how art really can make waves, especially when it comes from the heart.
[click on the link below to view the Keiskamma Trust’s homepage]
The Trust aims to address the challenges of widespread poverty and disease, particularly HIV/AIDs. The Keiskamma Health Program provides the only HIV/AIDs treatment in this part of South Africa and currently has nearly 200 people on anti-retroviral drugs.
The Art Project, the inspirational spark from which all this developed, was started in 2000 by Carol Hofmeyr, a qualified doctor, in the village of Hamburg in the Eastern Cape. Taking a hiatus from her profession, she had originally decided to settle there and create her own art but found that she couldn’t ignore the poverty and the suffering of the local community. She started working with a few of the women in the area teaching them to embroider in order to make an income.
Since 2000, the project has grown in leaps and bounds and is now running under the capable leadership of Florence Danais, Nomfusi Nkani and a dedicated team of 11 local managers: Buyiswa Beja, Veronica Betani, Nokuphiwa Gedze, Nozeti Makhubalo, Nonzaliseko Makubalo, Nombuyiselo Malumbezo, Ndileka Mapuma, Cebo Mvubu, Novuyani Peyi, Caroline Tyibilika and Pumla Zita), 10 women and 1 young man involved in the project who have over the years developed the skills to assume management positions thanks to the mission of the Project to grow local skills.
The Keiskamma Art Project has worked on some truly incredible artworks. In 2004 they exhibited their first truly notable artwork, The Keiskamma Tapestry at the National Arts Festival. This incredible embroidery portrays the history of the Eastern Cape focusing on the Xhosa people and is 120 meters in length and 0, 5 meters wide. A small section of it is displayed below.
One of their most monumental and inspiring works is the Keiskamma altarpiece which has toured North America. Made up of embroidery and photographs this piece is modeled on the 15th century Isenheim Altarpiece by Grünewald. It is divided into 3 panels, one of which is featured below. 
[click on the link below to view an interesting review on the altarpiece]
The power of the Keiskamma Project has spread internationally and has attracted the attention of world famous artist Damien Hirst who, in collaboration with the London White Cube Gallery has donated the proceeds of one of his paintings to the Trust. [To see his beautiful work, Psalm 5 Verba mea auribus on the White Cube website, click on the link below.] 
Many beautiful handmade Keiskamma products can be purchased at the Kalk Bay Modern Gallery.
 (An image of the early Keiskamma work for sale in their first shop. These successful products still form the majority of the worker's income.)

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