On Mandela Day 2013 – Madiba's 95th birthday, on 18 July – Design Indaba paid a visit to the community of Blikkiesdorp in Delft, outside Cape Town.
Last year Design Indaba was involved in an initiative that donated a portable library to the impoverished community of Blikkiesdorp, who previously had to cross a dangerous freeway to access the nearest facility (read more about the library project below).
We've been delighted to find that since then the library has been populated with books and is running exceptionally well, under the guidance of the community's dedicated librarian, Antonio Hilton Swartz. It has become, in line with its founding vision, a learning hub for the community.
This year Design Indaba headed back out to Blikkiesdorp with boxes of art and craft supplies to present a craft workshop to the children in the community. The library was the perfect venue – though it was almost too small to contain the excitement of the 40 children that participated!
With wax crayons, pencils, glitter, glue, buttons, fabric, felt, stickers and scissors, the children were “commissioned” to do a portrait of Madiba. Only the outline of the icon’s silhouette was given them to complete, with the rest left up to their imagination and creativity.
For the younger children, or those not quite so keen on artistic expression, there was the option to colour in the words “we (heart) Madiba”.
The result was a unique, beautifully honest tribute to the legendary Nelson Mandela on his 95th birthday!
In wrapping up the workshop participants stood together, holding up their artworks, to sing happy birthday to Madiba – in both English and Afrikaans. Before heading home each of the children got a takeaway meal to enjoy, with a small toy to take with them.
As we were leaving in the late afternoon, we were happy to see many of the children returning to the container library, armed with their school books and pencils, to finish their homework for the day in their shared community space.
When Andrew Gasnolar of the Boundless Heart Foundation recently approached Design Indaba to get involved with their Mandela Day project plans, we immediately seized the opportunity to reach out to our network to collectively harness the power of creativity for the greater good.
The idea was to gift the Blikkiesdorp community in Delft, outside Cape Town, with a portable library. Looking to current design trends, it was decided that a shipping container would be the most cost-effective way to realise this goal. Shipping containers are easily transformed, easily shipped and it’s a great way to repurpose an exisiting object.
With a very generous financial contribution from South African Breweries we collaborated with architect Y Tsai in using his expertise in container refurbishment on this project. While Tsai worked on the exterior of what was to become the Blikkiesdorp library, Cecile & Boyd’s contributed their interior design savvy to turn the inside of the shipping container into a warm, friendly space that is conducive to learning.
Throughout the process it was wonderful to experience how people and organisations from all corners offered their time and servies to realising the project. A special mention also goes to AM Cargo for transporting and lifting the container from the shipping yard to Blikkiesdorp. The interior also benefitted from little chairs and tables, generously contributed by Xanita.
When 18 July, officially Mandela Day, came around, it was a pleasure to see the container library brought to its new home in Blikkiesdorp. The library was enthusiastically received by the community, who will collectively be responsible for the library, its functioning and upkeep.
While a small gesture, the Blikkiesdorp project illustrates how a better world is possible through creativity and the kinds of positive change that can happen when the collaborative power of creativity is harnessed.