Tapestry on display in Lecture Room Harbour Whale Museum

Tapestry on display in Lecture Room Harbour Whale Museum

Art and History Project 2018

Story of Zwelihle Tapestry

During March 2018, Zwelihle in Hermanus was the site of unrest and violence, with residents unhappy about issues that include a lack of jobs and limited access to opportunities. Tourism is a key driver of financial opportunity, and capitalising on its job-creation prospects in Hermanus was one of the main aims of the Art and History project that commenced in June 2018 by a group of residents working with the Youth Cafe in Zwelihle.

In increasingly-polarized societies, the need to find common ground with other people is ever more urgent. As privileged South Africans, we believe that Hermanus’s sense of place and exquisite natural beauty are its obvious selling-points. However, without a deeper understanding of the factors that persuade poorer communities to give up their homes to move to a new place in the hope of improving their prospects, we cannot hope to unite and be custodians of this beautiful town.

Drawing inspiration from the Bayeux tapestry format, we wanted to create an artwork that showcased stories of all people who live in Hermanus, in an effort to allow them to be heard, understood, and respected. An initial meeting was held in Zwelihle with the aim to create a place for people to work together, meet each other, and tell the histories and stories of the places where they have their homes. It was the premise that, in making this Zwelihle tapestry; that simply being involved in making art and telling stories, would improve our understanding of each other and give participants a sense of being part of South African life and history.

The making of the work displayed, involved Keiskamma artists training unemployed people in Zwelihle to embroider and appliqué. The intention was for this transfer of skills to assist Zwelihle residents to generate their own income. We decided to begin in Zwelihle as it had suffered the brunt of the 2018 unrest, but the plan was to give all communities of greater Hermanus a chance to participate in the making of a long tapestry of different stories. The intention was for the final tapestry to reflect the history of Zwelihle, Hawston, Mount Pleasant, and central Hermanus. The Mount Pleasant Tapestry was completed and then COVID intervened

The Hermanus Art/History Project co-ordinators.

Kathie Buley, Christa Clark, Alyson Guy, Fikiswa Gxamesi, Gillian Hahn, Angela Heslop, Carol Hofmeyr, Ann Mapham

Kathie Buley pjbuley@telkomsa.net Angela Heslop aheslop@hermanus.co.za