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conscience of the human spirit: the life of Nelson Mandela


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Photo of Awakening quilt  

Sharon Kerry-Harlan
Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, USA
Artist designed hand-pulled silk screens, discharged dyed cloth, glass beads,
vintage buttons, sequins, distressed cloth; painted, stitched, embellished

Nelson Mandela's passing awoke in the world a spirit of selflessness. It called forth in our minds
such accomplishments as ending apartheid and becoming president of South Africa. Mandela's
spirit lives in our hearts. Mankind celebrates his bravery, tenacity, and sacrifice. He left the world
better for all people.

Photo of Amandla! quilt  

Betty Leacraft
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Cotton, polyester batting, textile paint, cotton and polyester threads; pieced, quilted “in the ditch”

I have always had great respect for the late Nelson Mandela and his struggles against apartheid and the liberation of Black South African people. I watched his historic release from prison on television and joyfully cheered his equally historic election. As my idea for this quilt took shape I asked Godfrey Sithole, a South African Zulu living in my city, who has been a member of the ANC over forty years, about the significance of the colors of the ANC flag. He shared:
The flag is made up of equal horizontal bands of black, green and gold. The black symbolizes the people of South Africa who for generations have fought for freedom. The green represents the land, which sustained our people for centuries and from which they were removed by colonial and apartheid governments. The gold represents the mineral wealth and other natural wealth of South Africa, which belongs to all of its people, but which has been used to benefit only a small racial minority.

Central blocks contain ANC flags with connected black bands to represent Black South Africans joined in solidarity against oppression.

Photo of Mandela/Prince of Freedom quilt  

Mandela / Prince of Freedom
Cynthia Lockhart
Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
Silk screened and painted fabrics, upholstery textiles, lace, netting, wire, beads, braids, yarns, and miscellaneous fibers; hand and machine quilted, appliquéd, bias French edged, collage, draping and layering techniques

My artwork celebrates Nelson Mandela as an extraordinary humanitarian who fought for freedom for his country South Africa. Mandela’s quest and his life’s work cost him great sacrifice, however the reward was nothing short of miraculous. Imprisoned for 27 years for standing up against apartheid, he carried himself like a warrior Prince. With dignity and honor, he fought for the freedom and rights of Black people. The mask in this quilt depicts Mandela as a warrior wearing a crown. He also has a shield of protection around his neck just as truly the hand of God watched over Mandela in prison and through the turbulent freedom struggle times. The celebratory colors represent the joyful energy, victory and majesty of a Prince of Freedom, the former inmate who became the first Black President of South Africa. In this quilt I believe I captured his spirit of hope, joy and enthusiasm and hope that it inspires others to remember the power of a great man who had so much passion for his people.

Photo of Windows of Reflections quilt  

Windows of Reflections
Harriette Alford Meriwether
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Cotton fabrics, gold tassels; appliquéd, pieced, gold embellishment

I made this quilt to honor the life of Nelson Mandela, a man who has inspired me and the world, by giving 67 years of his life to fight for the rights of humanity. His life parallels that of Martin Luther King, who stood against injustices experienced by African Americans, here in the United States. Like King, I grew up in Georgia, and I am stained by the blood of many and stand on the shoulders of those who left a legacy; “we must never give up until justice prevails". The five panels show phases of Nelson Mandela's life. The quilt can be presented as a storyboard to describe the life of Nelson Mandela for all age groups.

Photo of Prison Time Transformation quilt  

Prison Time Transformation             
Patricia A. Montgomery
Oakland, California, USA
Cotton and batik fabric, digital images, oil pastel, cotton and rayon threads; textile thread painted, fused, free motion machine quilted

Nelson Mandela was prepared to die for what he believed in - democracy for all people. Instead he spent 27 years in prison, first at Robben Island than at Pollsmoor and finally at Victor Verster. His prison time transformed him from a rebellious leader to a statesman who saw his dream, democracy for all people, become reality.

Photo of Nelson Mandela, His Legacy quilt  

Nelson Mandela, His Legacy
Sandra E. Noble
Warrensville Heights, Ohio, USA
Cotton, lamé, organza fabrics; appliquéd and fused

When I began this quilt in 2013 I realized that, although I knew of Mandela and some of what he had done, I needed to know more about him. Because it was soon after his death, there was an abundance of materials available and discovered many facts about his life I did not previously know about. I gained deeper appreciation for Mandela and his spirit of forgiveness after all his tribulations.

For this quilt, I chose to highlight major accomplishments made by Mandela that solidified his prominence. When I design a fiber piece, I struggle to visualize the face of the artwork, how all the parts need to fit together, even before drawing the composition on paper. For this piece I needed to consider what colors, textures, and fabrics to best represent his accomplishments. I chose bright colors and incorporated these words into the design: Rainbow Nation, Nelson Mandela, 1995 World Cup Tournament, SA Springbok Rugby Team, Truth & Reconciliation Commission, 1st Black President Democratic South Africa, and Abolished Apartheid.

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