-stitching our lives together’

1st pic                         V-Day – One Billion Rising in the gardens at the Outreach Foundation 14 February 2013


Boitumelo Project has been operating in Hillbrow since November 2001 as a centre offering training and skills development. The project creates ‘a safe space’ where both men, women and youth can be involved in creative activities of arts/crafts development while learning key life skills to address the myriad complexities in their daily lives.

The project has participated in international collaborations concerning issues of environmental pollution (Naxos 2003), South Africa’s path to democracy (‘Journey to Peace’ 2004), the harsh realities of suburban life, identity, xenophobia (‘how we Bleed’ 2008), roots of violence (‘FairPlay’ 2010), poverty alleviation and eco-environmental awareness (Site_Specific Land Art Biennale 2011 and 2013).

Boitumelo Project strives for creative excellence and facilitating communication within communities in Gauteng and South Africa. The project uses the arts to nurture self-worth that enables product development which in turn supports product sales and income. This facilitates economic independence and combats poverty in an incremental way for participants.

3rd pic "Hemelvaart Karos’ Hereafter Exhibition at the Slee Gallery, Woordfees, Stellenbosch March 2013


The name ‘Boitumelo’ means to make a person smile or be happy, or bring joy to a person. The name itself is a very strong motivation for the artists and crafters to creatively explore artwork that will enable people to find this and or experience this.

For Boitumelo Project, to be involved in public art participation using the arts as a way of communicating to society by extending creative journeys and enabling the artist/crafters to explore different art-making methods. Their products and artwork are handmade through embroidering, weaving or knitting/crochet. This helps to express their needs and concerns about their social contexts pertinent to living in Hillbrow.

The aim is to creatively explore issues within the social responsibility role that the project has as a primary objective. If people do not have the choice to express what is happening in their immediate surrounds then it takes away their will to engage and care with the Global Village.

7th pic           Embroideries and Quilting in progress at Boitumelo Project during 2013


Some of the products Boitumelo Projects create include shopping bags made from bull denim embroidered and appliquéd with original imagery in 3 sizes. Laptop bags and cushion covers extend this range. They also make custom made bags which clients can order.

The ‘Karos vir die Karoo’ is a series of blankets made from leftover interior design fabrics. Each blanket is a unique colour and pattern design. They are available in different sizes. Furthermore, they also produce custom made blankets on request from clients but they currently do this only with the donated design fabrics that are recycled.

The company makes panels depicting various themes from Johannesburg .The panels vary in sizes, from small to large extended panels over a meter in length. They also make panels as orders for clients such as for instance a family who celebrated a 50th wedding anniversary in 2011 ordered a family tree panel for each family that included all the names of the children and family events.

Each product is designed and created by the individual participant. It is only when they receive the same orders of over 12 items that they set up a more stream-lined production.

6th pic      ‘Karos vir die Karoo’- a project to protect the Karroo and share creative skills with the communities along the N1


Naledzani Matshinge joined Boitumelo Project in 2001 and is currently the project coordinator for product development and sales. She has trained herself within the disciplines of craft making that is offered at Boitumelo. Naledzani attended a course in trauma counseling at Reginald Oswald Councelling Services from 2008 to 2009. She plays a pivotal role in helping the young men at the foundation, who lack a sense of fathering roles, to craft better lives for themselves. She does this through guiding and motivating them to accept responsibilities and challenges. Nale offers a lot of one on one councelling to many of the young men and women who have arrived in the city and feels completely alone without family and support.

 Mary Mawela joined the project in 2001 and is currently the project coordinator for implementing training. Initially she was not keen about the drawing and designing lessons offered at Boitumelo. She tells this story herself with much amusement. Mary is a cornerstone of the training at the foundation and is a strong advocate of creativity. She is attending the Fetola legends Program and is her financial abilities helps towards creating sustainability for Boitumelo.

Untitled            ‘ Hemelvaart Karos’ Hereafter Exhibition at the Slee Gallery, Woordfees, Stellenbosch March 2013


Boitumelo creates beautiful hand-made products and artwork that sets the tone for work that has historical value, has social relevance, reflects social change and the individual artists insight hopes and dreams. By carefully crafting not just a product or artwork, but also clearly developing the individual participant to reflect and express views and experiences of a very personal nature, this is what makes the end product special. This result is products and artwork that are authentic, not repeated, and defines the careful mentoring of each individual student/crafter in the project. The ethos is based on developing the individual’s own creative identity and through this journey she/he can discover and unlock their own hopes and dreams so that they can be realized.

       ‘Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil 3’ - Woordfees, Stellenbosch March 2013


Boitumelo has successfully participated in numerous arts competitions and exhibitions, including the Brett Kebble Art Awards Competition 2003/2004, the Johannesburg City Art Competition, 2004, a Women’s Day 2005 exhibition on Ansisters’ at Constitution Hill, the Waste Art Exhibition 2006, an ‘Urban forest and the wolf’ exhibition at the University of Johannesburg in 2007, Memory of Water at the University of Johannesburg 2007, and the Visual Learning International Conference in 2008, where Boitumelo’s quilt concerning ‘Trees and our stories’ was exhibited.

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 The Department of Arts and Culture, 2009.

‘Fair/Unfair’ was exhibited at Alliance Francaise, 2009; ‘FairPlay’ exhibition including the white shirts ‘violence of language of violence’ was shown at Constitution Hill, 2010.

Boitumelo Projects won the first Skaftien Prize for ‘Veiled Hope’ in 2011 and was invited to be part of the training and exhibition team for Site Specific International Land Art Event, May 2011. They have successfully participated in the Site_Specifc 2013 Land Art Biennale with performances, ‘die strandloper’ and ‘Vir Krotoa’ and facilitating the building of the mermaid called ‘Nellie’s Mermaid’ crafted from black wattle trees and the bark and braided linen flax for her hair.

Artworks are included in private and corporate collections in Canada, Britain and Germany.

 5th pic               ‘tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil 2’ - Woordfees, Stellenbosch March 2012

Theory of Change:

Erica’s involvement in the art making process at Boitumelo means that she gets involved and explores, investigates and teaches new techniques and craft ideas together with the crafters. The ability to collaborate on an artwork only has validity if it challenges the crafter and the viewer, thus the ideas of each project must be sufficiently researched. Through the creative process of making, the artwork becomes defined and the working together of many hands and hearts creates a clear path that can be defined be each individual and the intentions can then be communicated to the public collectively.

8th picPerformances including ‘Vir Krotoa’ Bitou Municipality, Site_Specific Land Art Biennale 2013

September 2013