Hammarsdale, an industrial estate some 45 kilometres South-West of Durban, is surrounded by the beautiful rolling hills of Mpumalanga (place of the rising sun) and geographically forms part of the well-known Valley of a Thousand Hills. During the 1980’s and 1990’s it was a notorious hot spot of political violence and the trauma experienced by locals, during this time it still continues to affect the daily lives of many. Although peace now prevails, people face a myriad of social challenges such as crime, unemployed youth, drugs and alcohol abuse, HIV/AIDS and teenage pregnancy.
A community partnership with Media in Education Trust (MiET) and several other NGOs has brought about social change in their community, with a number of positive outcomes. People now feel their voices are being heard and various development initiatives such as food gardens and handcraft projects have created a new sense of purpose among the community. In one of the handcraft initiatives a team of local women joined the “Celebrating Change: Tapestries telling Stories”. The project and produced a door-sized beaded wall-hanging that tell the compelling story of survival and change in Hammarsdale.
The Team Leader’s Story
“My name is Veronica Ntombi Kumalo. I was born and grew up in KwaNongoma, KwaZulu-Natal. I attended school at Hlabisa and completed Standard 8. I am divorced and a mother to five of my own children and one foster child. Sadly, I lost my first born, who was murdered in 1995. I have 11 grandchildren. I worked as an operator in a textile factory in Hammarsdale until 1986.
Then I was trained in beadworking and started designing and making clothes, which is my present occupation. I also do volunteer work with MiET. I love sewing and beadwork and I am a regular churchgoer. I am dedicated to helping others in my community. I am currently an active member of the School Governing Body.
I want people to know that although Hammarsdale was a violent place in the past, it is now peaceful and people can move about freely. The downside of living here is that it is far from the city and transport is expensive.
I want people to know that I am happy to be divorced and finally free after too many years of being oppressed. Women should know their rights and exercise them. My dream is to become the Woman of the Year and to be recognised for uplifting my community and helping to alleviate poverty and hunger. I would love to share my skills with others, especially to teach women in my community how to sew and how to do beadwork.”
The Tapestry Story
Hammarsdale is renowned for its violent history especially in the years leading up to the 1994 democratic elections. Houses, churches, halls and shops were burnt. Thousands of people fled their homes. There was hardship, unemployment, poverty and conflict. However, through the hard times, we did not stop praying for peace. Because the buildings were burnt we prayed and worshipped under the trees and the tree and the bible here symbolise our faith.
Our prayers were eventually answered and the rain of relief came, bringing the rainbow of hope and the dove of peace which you see in the tapestry. People began to smile again and live normal lives. Businesses returned and new firms set up shop.
The rising sun at the top of the picture signifies the name of our place Mpumalanga (rising sun). The stadium at the bottom represents the new stadium which has been built, bringing employment. Crowds of people from outside come to spend their money here. Kids now learn to play various sports and people are gaining the skills needed for development.
Text taken from the catalogue: Celebrating Change: Tapestries telling Stories. Overport: Africa Ignite, 2007.