Ufafa Valley Fabrics – too beautiful for words
The exhibition, in the KZNSA’s mezzanine gallery, is the launch of the textile range and UFAFA VALLEY, the new brand name of Woza Moya, Ixopo’s crafting division. It will feature enormous dramatic fabric drapes fronted by beautiful portrait photographs of the embroiderers, knitters and crafters, taken by Angie Buckland.
With funding from Rotary Global Grant a year long project was undertaken to develop the crafting team at Woza Moya. Angela Shaw of the KZNSA was commissioned to advise on range planning, product design and market presentation. “It is the KZNSA’s mandate to grow the creative economy in KZN, and to bring the wealth of talent we have in the province to market. We jumped at the opportunity to share design and market insights, and to directly contribute to high-end handmade product that could be exhibited in the KZNSA gallery and retailed in our shop.”
Over the course of a year Shaw made monthly visits to work one-on-one with the crafters and the admin team. Together they worked on viable new product direction, building on the remarkable work and phenomenal training of former Woza Moya artist and embroidery teacher, Leonie Malherbe. “Crafters were given helpful guidelines on colour, shape and product engineering, but the focus was to build individual’s creative confidence so they can work independently and learn to trust their own design instincts.”.
Woza Moya Ixopo was established in 2000 by providing home-based health care in response to the devastating impact of HIV/Aids in the region. Woza Moya has developed an holistic and integrated approach which includes child care and protection; sustainable livelihoods; early childhood development, and youth development, which directly impacts on 2000 people and benefits closer to 8000.
The craft enterprise as part of the sustainable livelihoods programme is a cornerstone of the organisation. The culmination of a thorough and carefully-managed multi-pronged process was a range of hand-embroidered images, originally designed by Leonie Malherbe, which have now been digitally printed onto fabric to be made into a contemporary product range.
Named after the countryside the organisation calls home, the new Ufafa Valley range gives a voice to a group of tenacious and vulnerable women disenfranchised by poverty and hardship. Originally the project came out of a need to create disposable income for women to have sufficient travel money in order to get to town to collect HIV / Aids medication. This project differs from similar endeavours as the starting point was not harnessing existing handiwork skills in order to create a sustainable income – but to teach skills to a group of women who had none.
After a decade of training, guiding, sharing and enabling, the women of the valley are now designers of a range of exquisite fabrics which, to those who have been part of the journey, is cause for celebration. This shifts the perception and magnitude of their work into a whole new direction of potential and growth.
With input from commercial designers the embroidery designs have been converted to prints that are now available as stationery and textile ranges. The fabrics will be developed into interior and clothing lines to generate income for the crafters, and sustainability for the organisation. The fabrics are a printed version of crafter’s own embroidery work. The embroideriers then do freestyle embroidery onto the fabric to add texture and depth, and to enhance their own designs which have been coverted to prints.
Director, Sue Hedden is ecstatic with this new chapter and sense of accomplishment this means to the crafters: “Through this creative process dignity is restored as the women grown in self-confidence and self-esteem. The crafters are now proud, affirmed and independent women!”
As part of the training, makers and the admin team visited the KZNSA gallery and shop in Durban, plus other craft retailers, to get a sense of how their product comes to market.
The new fabric collection will complement the existing range of adorable soft toys, known as the Sock Monkeys; hand embroidered goods (cushions, bags and hoops); printed cards and knitted wares (scarves and beanies).
The organisers wish to acknowledge the Rotary Global Grant and Dr Marion Spence and John Hinks who have made this project possible.