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Conscience of the human Spirit: The life of nelson mandela


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Photo of Mandela-Forgiveness and Goodness Road quilt  

Mandela — Forgiveness and Goodness Road
Regina Abernathy
Shaker Heights, Ohio, USA
African fabric, fabric with African designs, cotton, and batik; pieced, appliquéd, and quilted

If there are dreams of a beautiful South Africa, there are also roads
that lead to their goal. Two of these roads could be named
Goodness and Forgiveness. — Nelson Mandela

I enjoy using a variety of fabrics with diverse colors, motifs, textures, and symbols to reflect
the complexity of the people, their joy and pain, struggles and triumphs of life, and the long and
complicated history of the continent. Thus the fabric helps to illustrate and complete the story told
by the quilt.

For this quilt, I placed the fabrics in rows or columns to represent the many roads that Nelson Mandela had to travel and to denote an incompleteness of journeys. Mandela’s life journey encompassed so many emotional highs and lows, so many twists and turns, and so many defeats and triumphs. Nelson Mandela was graced with the wisdom to understand that in order for South Africa to become a truly democratic and prosperous country for all people, there are additional roads that must be travelled by all South Africans. He knew those roads would be long, winding, and extremely difficult. Nevertheless those journeys can be accomplished and the largest road must be travelled with God’s guiding hand.


Photo of Madiba quilt  

Allyson E. D. Allen
Sun City, California, USA
Cotton, silk, velvet, hand dyed cotton, African prints, mud cloth, felt, tulle, and African indigo with
yo-yos, glass, pearls, and wooden beads, cowrie shells, dried seeds, African cutwork lace, mirror,
handmade clay face and hands, and photo transfer embellishments; machine pieced, machine and
hand appliquéd, embroidered

Madiba, Nelson Mandela’s clan name, and Dalibunga, Mandela’s circumcision name, are often heard in songs and stories about the South Africa leader. This quilt features several important events in South African history and in the life of Mandela, including voters standing in long lines for the April 1994 presidential election and one of the election ballots. With additional images of a South African
postage stamp and a rand, this is a visual and tactile document of Mandela history.

Photo of Rolihlahla quilt  

Reneé M. Allen
Ellenwood, Georgia, USA
Cotton, paint, beads, felt; machine appliquéd and quilted, hand beaded, embroidered

Rohilhlahla, in Xhosa meaning “pulling of the branch of the tree” or “troublemaker”, is the birth name given to Nelson Mandela by his father. As was tradition at the time that Nelson Mandela went to school, his teacher gave him an English name that was easier for the teacher to pronounce. His Xhosa name, however, prophetically told of his role in changing South Africa.

I have depicted Nelson Mandela here dressed in his Xhosa traditional clothing.  He is pulling the branch of a tree representing institutional racial segregation. He shook the tree and dismantled the apartheid system in South Africa. Mandela also created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to heal the wounds of apartheid.

Photo of Election Day, A Joyful Moment quilt  

Election Day, A Joyful Moment
Gwendolyn Aqui-Brooks
Washington, District of Columbia, USA
Felt, buttons, beads, acrylic paint, ribbons, cotton and silk thread, yarn, floss, various types of fabric;
all hand-sewn

I’ve attempted to depict the excitement of the day in Johannesburg, South Africa when Nelson Mandela
became president. The colors of the quilt represent the following: blue – the beautiful sky above the city;
orange – the hope for the future; and red – the strength exemplified by Mandela. The buttons represent
the numerous people in the street; the squares represent the houses and shops.

My poem here further describes the quilt story:
This is no ordinary day in Johannesburg.
The sun shone bright,
Bright was the sun,
Table Mountain stood majestically,
Shops and major stores were closed for the day,
Large crowds of people marched with placard that said:
“We Love Mandela”
“Mandela for President”
Women’s melodic voices could be heard singing.
What a lovely sound.
Little children were seen dancing, dancing, round and round.
Hands were clapping, clapping, clapping.
What a joyous day.
Nelson, Nelson,
Nelson Mandela had been elected President.

Photo of Madiba Remembered quilt  

Madiba Remembered
Carol Beck
Durham, North Carolina, USA
Cotton, silk organza, and metallic fabrics with Shweshwe “Madiba’s Range”
pattern cloth on the back, painted cowrie shells, hot-fix crystals, felt batting, computer printing on fabric; machine pieced and quilted

This is a fabric glimpse into the survival techniques and interests of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. The traditional Pine Burr quilt block pattern serves as the base background and symbolizes longevity and immortality. The stylized African continent overlay highlights several survival strategies during captivity and imprisonment, i.e. soccer, reading, and poetry. I used African Adinkra symbols to represent the love and deep respect so many had for Mandela as well as the words Madiba (Mandela's Xhosa clan name) and Tata (meaning "Father of the Nation"). On the front of the quilt in the four rectangles are stanzas of the poem Invictus by William Ernest Henley.

Photo of Madiba's World quilt  

Madiba’s World
Julius J. Bremer
Cleveland, Ohio, USA
Cotton, crystals, cowrie shells, glow in the dark thread; free motion quilted, fused and appliquéd
pieced, embroidered

Nelson Mandela had a profound effect on both his country and the world. His suffering was not for selfish reasons, but for the love he had for humanity and Africa.  It is inspiring how he used adversity and bigotry as catalysts to forge triumph for peace and equality.

In his presidential inaugural address, Mandela spoke of the things that all men desire, the God given rights to each and every one. As I created this quilt, I felt the love this man had for humanity and from that feeling I tried to incorporate, through the colors of the South African flag, the world of Madiba — the great and respected father of Africa.

Photo of Nelson Mandela, Prince, Prisoner, President quilt  

Nelson Mandela, Prince, Prisoner, President
Carole Richburg Brown
Cleveland Heights, Ohio, USA; 2014
Reclaimed fabric, colored pencils, upholstery fabric, fabric paint; appliquéd, pieced, free motion quilted

I recently ran across a quote by Edgar Degas, “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” I think that this quote could be restated as Art is not what you feel, but what you make others feel. I would like for my quilts to evoke a feeling from the viewer.

The life of Nelson Mandela, who spent at least three quarters of his life struggling to abolish apartheid, was quite difficult for me to create as a quilt. Sadness permeated my heart each time I began to sketch him marching, in prison, voting, and pounding stone. I felt the sorrow of when he read of the infidelity of his wife, Winnie. I thought about the 27 years he spent in prison.

I chose colors, lines, and textures for my quilt that I hoped would communicate a vision, soul, rhythm, pathos, and mood with which the viewer could connect. I also hope the quilt evokes a feeling of celebration for Mandela’s actions that abolished apartheid and for when he became president of South Africa.

Photo of Madiba quilt  

Dorothy Burge
Chicago, Illinois, USA
Cotton and beads; machine pieced, hand embroidered and beaded

In 2012, I toured South Africa for the first time as part of a restorative justice delegation from Chicago. The time spent in the county was truly educational, inspiring and humbling. It was an amazing experience to spend time in a country that was experiencing so much hope for the future. It was also inspirational to see how public art was made to document historical events, honor its heroes, and teach about justice.

Throughout the country, the love for Mandela was evident. School children spoke of him with pride, love, and respect. Anti-apartheid activists throughout the country and from all walks of life recounted the wisdom learned from Mandela's life and his teachings. Mandela's life has been inspirational to all people who are fighting against oppression and people who believe in freedom and equality. I wanted to create something that would honor the life of Madiba and pay homage to the traditional South African art forms of hand embroidery, hand quilting and hand beading.

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