Sunday, November 11, 2012

Joe Slovo Township

My latest map quilt is finished. It is called Joe Slovo Township. it is 39 x 50 inches.

Some time ago I visited this informal settlement which is on the edge of Llanga Township in Cape Town. There we met a small boy , about three years old, in a sunny yellow T shirt who kept grabbing at my camera. Unlike all the other children who loved to have their photos taken in comical poses and then look at the result on the digital camera screen, this child wanted to be behind the lens. I showed him how to do it and he happily took photos of all his neighbours' houses. Good ones at that!  I always remember the child we know only as Joe Slovo Boy.

So when I was thinking of what the next quilt in my maps series would be, Joe Slovo came to mind. I began to read up on the history of it both before and after our visit. These shacks lie along side the Settler's Way, the main road in from the city to the airport and in the run up to the FIFA Word Cup attempts were made to improve housing for the residents. Cynics would say to make the road less unattractive for passing tourists.
Of course, to build better housing on a densely populated area of shacks means people have to be moved out so building can begin.  The plan was to remove the residents to transitory accommodation in Delft some 30km away. This was strenuously opposed as there was no transport or jobs in Delft and a High Court case ensued. When some building work was completed there was controversy about who was being allocated the housing. I often wonder what, in all of this, happened to Joe Slovo Boy.

The details of this story are  written on the city blocks part of the quilt which was then darkened with Neocolour Crayon and stitched over with freemotion quiting in the shapes of shacks. The writing is therefore a little more obscured than in my previous map quilts but still readable close up. The background is stamped and scraped with screen inks, the road painted with textile paint. Most of the fabrics for the shacks are either my monoprints of fabrics from the African Fabric Shop. The fence is paint and abacca tissue. The rail road and river is couched embroidery thread.

Of course, now it is finished, all I can see in it is its faults...!

9 comments:

Deborah Boschert said...

Helen! I think it's fantastic. I really love it. I love the full shot followed by your detail and your excellent description of the inspiration and process. Fantastic.

thesewinggeek said...

I think it looks very good.I wish I could see all the details that do not come through with just a photograph. We are always our worst critics...
The story behind the quilt is very intriguing. I often wonder about the places I have been and the people I have met especially in countries and places that are not similar to my home turf.
Maybe I just think to much. lol
I just found your blog not to long ago and look forward to reading future and past posts.

Kristin L said...

Those houses have so much character and really reflect the cobbled together "architecture" of such a place. When I compare this piece with your 12x12 Spaza Shop I can see a huge positive growth in your work. :-)

Leanne said...

Your quilt is stunning, I love the story and all of the details.

Gerrie said...

Wow, I love this. So much to look at and take in. Excellent color, value and composition.

Linda said...

Yes, we all see our own faults, but take a look at this quilt through someone else's eyes - someone who wasn't with you when you maybe missed opportunities and see the quilt as they see it.
Love all the people in their shanty huts!

Diane Perin Hock said...

Oh oh oh I just LOVE it. I look forward to seeing it in person as I know it has tons of intricate hand stitching... But for now I am bowled over by this.

Terry Grant said...

Yes, yes, to everything everyone else has already said! This is really a wonderful piece of art--so personally meaningful to you and so beautifully realized. Brava!

PS. the word verification is impossible. I hope this gets approved somehow!

Laura Liebenberg said...

Helen, this is a fabulous quilt! I travelled that road a couple of months ago for the first time in 15 years! You have captured the sunshine of my country and managed to convey the taste for life which is always evident whatever the circumstances!