"stitching our lives together"

Boitumelo Project is situated in Hillbrow and a group of crafters have been meeting every week since November 2001. They have embarked on outreach initiatives and workshops, sharing their knowledge, skills and human experience with other communities throughout Africa.

At a recent project called Site_Specific the Boitumelo Project participated as artists, facilitating and teaching craft development with 40 community crafters from the Bitou Municipality. Boitumelo Project has won several awards for artworks exploring collaborations, addressing past histories and developing individual creativity, a sense of self and economic independence.

The main focus of Boitumelo Project is to explore the serious social issues being faced by inhabitants of Johannesburg and key outlying communities of Gauteng in need. They directly tackle a number of social needs in terms of community development directly in Hillbrow, Diepsloot, Soweto, Kagiso and Siteke in Swaziland. Boitumelo offers training to participants in sewing, embroidery, colour exploration, crochet and knitting, paper mache, weaving, mosaic and sewing machine skills. Project participants also actively engage in discussing and working through social issues,

including family relations, group work, social awareness, and environmental pressures, creating a wide variety of products that are eventually sold as functional items and well-respected art.

The residents of Hillbrow deal with myriad problems including high incidence of HIV/AIDS, domestic abuse, violence, refugee influx, the degradation of urban environments, and high levels of unemployment and poverty. The explorative and skill-building workshops which Boitumelo project facilitate addresses many of the above mentioned social issues through the conceptual lens of fairness, unfairness, and powerlessness which city residents face. The project enables workshop participants to explore these social issues, engage with them on personal level, and develop effective skills for dealing with these in a more informed manner.

Boitumelo Project has been operating in Hillbrow since November 2001. It is a safe space where about 60 wo(men) meet on a regular basis to learn and share craft skills. The four facilitators have had a wide range of experiences, having been through the Boitumelo training themselves and are constantly upgrading their skills by attending workshops at other organizations. Currently training is generously supported by Rand Merchant Bank in Project Management, Writing Skills and Training Presentations including exploring idea of

a ‘Legacy’ and Old Mutual offers training in Financial Skills, Budgets and Website Development.

The project has participated in international collaborations concerning issues including environmental pollution, South Africa’s path to liberation and democracy, the harsh realities of suburban life, identity, xenophobia, violence, and poverty. Boitumelo has also successfully participated in numerous arts competitions and exhibitions nationally and internationally.

This includes:

  • Brett Kebble Art Awards Competition 2003 and 2004
  • FNB Craft Now 2004 Award - won a joint Gold medal
  • Exhibition called ‘Ansisters’ at Constitution Hill, 2005
  • Waste Art Exhibition 2006
  • The Sculpture Prize at the Erkhuruleni Art Competition for ‘Ubuhido’ (Red Riding Hood)
  • Exhibition called ‘Urban forest and the wolf’ exhibition at the University of Johannesburg
  • Visual Learning International Conference in 2007
  • The Joburg Artbank commissioned an artwork on the city of Johannesburg and this was on exhibition at the Johannesburg Art Gallery, 2008
  • 'Mama Jozi' Artwork including a poem won third prize for Gauteng and was sold to Department Arts and Culture, 2009 
  • 'FairPlay' exhibition, white shirts ‘violence of language of violence’ at the Old Fort, Constitution Hill, 2010
  • Won the first Skaftien Prize for ‘Veiled Hope’ in February 2011
  • 'Site_Specific' an International land Art Event held in the Bitou Municipality, May 2011 

Boitumelo Project creates hope, finding inner healing and facilitating communication within communities in Hillbrow, where it operates as well as offers crafters from other communities the opportunity to participate. The project uses the arts in a nurturing manner to develop self worth that leads to products that will offer income to the families in order to help them along the path to economic independence, combating poverty in an incremental way.

Click here for our intergrated annual report