The Keiskamma Art Project

The Keiskamma Art Project is part of the greater Keiskamma Trust, a South African not-for-profit organisation founded in 2000 by Dr Carol Hofmeyr. It is dedicated to the holistic care of the communities that live in the area. “When my husband and I moved from Johannesburg to the Eastern Cape, I was pulled into the lives of the community in Hamburg, both medically and socially,” says Carol, who is a qualified doctor with a Masters in Fine Art. “I saw a community struggling to survive after many years of neglect and discrimination. So I decided to teach anyone who wanted to learn how to make art, and we started making embroidered objects.”

From this small start, with the help of countless people who offered to teach and assist, the Keiskamma Art Project was born. “Later we realised that the community needed help in the education of their children so as to help them escape the cycle of poverty, and so the Keiskamma Education Trust was started.” The trust has evolved to support four branches in its work: the Keiskamma Health Programme, Education Programme, Music Academy and Art Project.

With most adults in Hamburg and the neighbouring villages being unemployed, the Keiskamma Art Project helps develop skills that can lead to employment or help local youth and women be self-sufficient. Training is done in embroidery and sewing primarily, as well as ceramics, wire art and printmaking.

The totem, Izintsika Zamandla (Pillars of Strength), celebrates the women who are the pillars of the Hamburg community and have been the lifeblood of the Kesikamma Art Project for the past 20 years. Lead artist Ndileka Mapuma says that being able to draw and create embroidery for the totem was a huge achievement for her. “I didn’t know anything about arts and craft when I joined the project in 2003,” she says. Now she counts sewing and painting amongst her other creative skills. “This job gives me pride, because through it I can educate my kids, put food on the table and we can build homes.” 

Nozeti Makhubalo, also a lead artist, echoes this sentiment. She hasn’t looked back since joining the project in 2000, when an aunt’s neighbour told her that Carol was looking for people to join her embroidery project. “I drew the women on this totem celebrating 20 years of the Keiskamma Art Project to show the joy it has brought us,” says Nozeti. “The women are dancing and singing – they are happy.”

This totem was proudly made by:

Top                                              Middle                                           Bottom                                        3D wire, felt aloes and botanicals
Bonelwa Paliso (embroiderer) Ndileka Mapuma (lead artist) Sanela Maxengana (lead artist)  Siyabonga Maswana (wire shaping)
Nomfundo Makhubalo (embroiderer) Zaziwe Nyongo (embroiderer) Ncomeka Gedze (embroiderer) Nombulelo Paliso (felter and embroiderer)
Nozeti Makhubalo (lead artist)   Nombulelo Paliso (lead artist) Nomthandazo Mbiko (felter and embroiderer)
    Nosiphiwo Mangwane (embroiderer) Vuyelwa Nxadi (felter and embroiderer)
    Sanela Maxengana (lead artist)  Zukiswa Zita (felter and embroiderer)

Production manager
Cebo Mvubu

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