Mandela Day 2013

On Mandela Day 2013 – Madiba's 95th birthday, on 18 July – we paid a visit to the community of Blikkiesdorp, outside Cape Town. Here's what we got up to.

Part of the Project

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. 

This year we 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!

While we were there we chatted to Jerome Daniels, representative of the Blikkiesdorp 4 Hope organisation, who shared with us what the container library has meant not just to the children in Blikkiesdorp, but to the community as a whole. He says that the children's pass-rate in school has increased by 15% since the library has opened.

Librarian Antonio Hilton Swartz echoed this sentiment, adding that the library is helping to empower the children by giving their education a boost. Swartz is loyal and committed, offering after-care classes in the library and helping children wherever he can in the library, as well as with their schoolwork. 

"For the people, by the people” is the library's motto, says Swartz. 

Daniels added that the library is a testament to the power of design – the reality of a design that, at one point, was just an idea on paper.