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WHAT MAKES ME HAPPY! (article first published : 2008-03-9)

Due to open at the African Art Centre on March 19 is an exhibition titled What Makes Me Happy, from the Ntokozo Embroidery Group. This is an African Art Centre Project with five women creating their personal stories with beaded and embroidered fabric. The artists involved are Ntombikhona Hadebe; Zibuyisile Zulu; Siphindile Nkosi; Xolile Ndlovu and Themba Sibiya.

The artists describe the exhibition thus: What Makes Me Happy are simple things that most of us want: a beautiful wedding, a husband, a child, a house, a new car, a clinic nearby, healthy food, your children happy at school etc.

The Ntokozo Embroidery Group all started with Amazwi Abesifazane, The Voices of Women Project initiated by Andries Botha in conjunction with The African Art Centre where these women, plus many others, were invited to experiment with embroidery and beading. The aim was to use the medium to share their personal stories of memorable or traumatic events from their past using the techniques of appliqué and stitchery, embellished with beads.

Designers Leonie Malherbe, Hlengiwe Dube and Anthea Martin were the initiators of this project.

This led to the formation of The Richmond Farm Embroidery Group by Sue Dvora a visiting American who worked closely with Andries Botha and the African Art Centre. An exhibition of their works was held in 2004 at the African Art Centre.

“In 2005, a commission was received to make a beaded and embroidered flag for the New Constitutional Court from Design Workshop architects, so we invited the women to join the group making the flag,” explains Anthea Martin, director of the African Art Centre. “Because of the skills acquired during this huge project, we thought it would be an idea to use the experience gained to begin a new beaded and embroidered cushion cover. This was named the Ntokozo Embroidery project. This has been running for two years now but the skills of this group of women are much in demand and they have carried out beading on wedding gowns for a designer in Canada. The orders for these are ongoing.

“In between this, we were asked by the Carper Liber Bookclub in the USA to suggest a worthwhile group to support, so we again asked the women to make personal embroideries using the theme “What makes me happy”. This exhibition is the result of this.”

Well-known textile artist Odette Tolksdorf will open the exhibition and talk about visual documents of voices of women past and present. What Makes Me Happy opens at The African Art Centre at 17h30 on March 19. Thereafter, it will run until April 5. More information from Anthea Martin on 031 312 3805.




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