To prepare for the trip I have obviously packed my suitcases full of my sketchbooks, art supplies, finished quilts and the new thingamajig I have concocted to help making stitching on the plane easier. You may recall I experienced a little turbulence on the last plane trip I took and ended up spending too much time stopping my quilt-tin from ending up on the floor.
So here it is - I will take some pictures to show you how I get along with it, and let you know what refinements are needed once it has been tried and tested. I am just hoping it will fit over the tray table!
I also need to thank a lady named Sue who follows my blog, who came up with a great idea. She suggested I made a small fabric bag with a magnet inside and stitch this to a piece of elastic with a popper at each end. This can be stretched around the tray - or other items - to hold the tin in place. Sue - I have made one - and am going to try that out too! I did not have any elastic or poppers (they are all packed!) so I used the sleeve of an old shirt, a fridge magnet, a piece of tape and an odd bit of velcro I found in a box. It isn't pretty, but I hope it will be good enough to test the idea.
I'll let you know how it works!
So when I came to live in South Africa in 2005, knowing that it was eleven years after the official end of apartheid, I was shocked by what I saw. We lived in the most beautiful home I have ever lived in with incredible sea views and someone to clean it for me. Compared with my regular life in the UK it was sheer luxury. However, just a few miles away there was a hillside that spread for miles, covered in tiny tin and wooden shacks, each of which was smaller than my bathroom, with no formal roads, electricity or sanitation to service them. It looked like living in hell. It disturbed me greatly - and even now, in 2015, the situation is little better for so many people.
As I settled in to my new home I began to research how South Africa got itself into this tragic human mess. I began volunteering with different groups to try and make a small difference in people's lives. I made many friends with people from all parts of the city and listened to the stories of their lives - so different from mine. I learned about how the Apartheid regime controlled their lives with things like the Dompas, The Population Registration Act, The Group Areas Act, The Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act, The Immorality Act and the Natives Resettlement Act. It is a lot to take in.
One of the most visually striking places that helped me better understand the impact of apartheid on people's daily lives was the District Six Museum in CapeTown. Situated on the edge of District Six (a suburb close to the prime location of the CBD that is now bizarrely a mixture wasteland, a few isolated clusters of housing, a church, a mosque and the Cape Peninsula University) it is an extraordinary place. Visit their website and learn more for yourself.
Images from District 6 Museum and a new friend, Mr Noor Ebrahim
In 1950 the white-ruled South African Government brought into being two very significant Acts of parliament which had severe implications for the lives of the vast majority of South Africans. The Population Registration Act required every inhabitant of the country to be be classified and registered in accordance with their racial characteristics and the Group Areas Act, that assigned these different racial groups to different geographical locations - effectively prohibiting non-whites from certain desirable or potentially urban areas. If an area was occupied by persons of the 'wrong' racial group they were forcefully removed from their homes and 'relocated' to an area designated for their racial group. There was no option - and sometimes even families were split apart. There was obviously huge opposition to this, so during the forced removals armed police and lorries arrived, often accompanied by bulldozers. With little notice people often bundled their belongings into the back of lorries and watched as their home was raised to the ground. They were then taken to the new 'location' - always far away and with few, if any services or amenities.
Forced removals on a huge scale were commenced in the 1950's onwards across the country; from Cato Manor and Warwick Junction in Durban, District Six and Crossroads in CapeTown, Fietas, Prospect Township and Sophiatown in Johannesburg, Lady Selbourne in Pretoria, Bethany in Bloemfontein to name a few.
In CapeTown, District Six was one of the areas that became an issue. Historically it was an area close to the port where freed slaves had settled and had then developed into a vibrant, if rather run-down area where a mixed community of around 60,000 people all races lived. Mr Noor Ebrahim (the gentleman in the pictures above) at the District Six Museum remembers the day it finally happened to his family. A few days later his father returned to the pile of rubble that was his home, for a last look - and found his homing pigeons quietly waiting for him. They clearly had not understood.
In Johannesburg an area known as Sophiatown was an area where black South Africans had bought properties and lived in a multi-racial community of over 60,000 people. Over the years new suburbs grew up around Sophiatown which began to be occupied by white middle class workers and in the 1940's the perception arose that the multicultural suburb was far too close to a white suburb and plans began for the relocation of the entire population of Sophiatown. On 9th February 1955 the armed police arrived and the residents of Sophiatown were forcefully removed. The entire suburb was then demolished, rezoned a whites-only area and then reprehensibly renamed - Triomf.
The repercussions of these forced removals added to the already difficult lives of the majority of South Africans. Their lives were turned upside down. They were moved to smaller homes, often without amenities, further away from their work and the city. If they had animals they were usually not allowed to take them. Those who were classified as 'surplus to requirements' (yes - that is true) were relocated to the rural areas. Here they often found the land infertile and with no jobs nearby they were left virtually destitute. Far away from their communities and support systems people had to let go of their history and start afresh elsewhere. Those old communities now remain only in the memory of those who were once residents, like Mr Noor Mohammed.
I gathered my understanding of all this over my time here in South Africa, and when the title 'Dislocation' was posed for the 2014 challenge I immediately knew what I wanted to create. Having spent time with Mr Noor Ebrahim and so many others who have suffered because of the policy of forced removals I wanted to tell the story of their experiences. It is not something many people feel comfortable talking about, but to ignore it or hide from it means it is more easily forgotten. And that would be terribly wrong too.
To read more about how I made the quilt, click here.
However, please do not misunderstand my post. I love the New South Africa and its people. It is a most beautiful place, filled with delightful people who, despite much adversity, are positive, friendly and more often than not, go out of their way to be kind and generous. I will be leaving soon and will do so with a heavy heart.
Thank you for reading
As I am returning to the UK in the next few weeks I have been looking around for some good exhibitions to visit. Here are a few that struck me as being interesting (mine included). It is a purely subjective list! They all cover the next few months and some have already started. I am not sure whether I will manage to visit them all, but I am certainly going to try.
If you manage to visit please do leave a comment - it would be great to hear what you think.
Once you are settled into your seat and everyone around you has stopped trying to jam their most important items into the box above your head, it is the perfect time to break out your little Quilt-tin and settle down to some quality time with your work. No phone calls or any of those other pesky interruptions to get in the way. Enjoy the moment!
It was all going so well, until a large patch of turbulance gave me some time to reflect on the merits of balancing the tin on my knee. I was glad of the magnets and velcro I had put into the tin to hold everything in place - but keeping the tin from the floor needed more concentration than I wanted to give it. Which set me to thinking about some improvements to this stitching on a plane business.
As I sat in my seat I pondered how to make things even easier and looked around to see what I could utilise. The fold down tray and its little hook are really about the only things I could see that I would consistently be able to make use of. As I had no paper I needed to make use of the handy sick bag to scribble on and draw the plan I came up with.
My idea is to create a small pouch arrangement to suspend from the seatback in front of you. I'm not exactly sure how it will turn out yet, but in a few weeks time I will be returning to the UK, so I will make a prototype of my idea and write another post to let you know how I get along with it. If you have any ideas or suggestions I would love to hear from you!
In the meantime, I couldn't resist posting a few more pictures of the beautiful animals we saw. Thanks for reading.
I have been busy with this quilt for a few weeks now, and it is now finished!
I have really enjoyed developing this design and now have more ideas than time to create a new series.
Using the fabrics I created a few weeks ago (see here) and the ideas from my sketchbook (see here) I have been exploring different ideas for the 'elements' quilt - and this is it! I can't show you the whole quilt at the moment, but this is the sample I am going to submit to the jury, which demonstrates the fabrics and techniques I have used and gives you a flavour of the overall quilt. The sample measures 20cm by 20cm.
The title of my quilt: 'chrysopoeia'
which, I have discovered, means transmutaion into gold