Union Buildings a tapestry of colourful blankets

2015-04-21 17:32
(Genevieve Quintal, News24)

(Genevieve Quintal, News24)

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Pretoria - The 9m-high bronze statue of former president Nelson Mandela at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Tuesday kept a silent watch over a tapestry of colourful blankets spread across the lawns.

The blankets are part of Carolyn Steyn's initiative, 67 blankets for Nelson Mandela Day.

"It started as light-hearted banter between Zelda La Grange [Mandela's long-time assistant] and myself where she challenged me to make 67 blankets for Mandela Day last year," Steyn said.

"I don't have 67 friends to help and I can't do it on my own, so I turned to Facebook and created a group at 03:00 one morning in desperation. The next day I woke up to hundreds of members and now we are thousands and thousands."

The goal was to collect 21 000 blankets by April 21.

Steyn said it was amazing to see how people got involved, from school children to people in old age homes and prisons.

"The deeper message is that we are binding our nation together with colourful threads and I think it's so powerful, especially at this time," she said referring to the recent attacks on foreign nationals.

"I think we are putting out a very powerful statement that we are anti-xenophobia in every form, that we are knitting together our society, that we are knitting together our nation and that we are all Africans."

She said this is exactly what Madiba would have wanted.

Steyn said she hoped they would establish a Guinness World Record with their attempt.

"The fact is we can't really say how much blankets we have, as more and more keep pouring in."

"To weave all these blankets together... could give us a better chance for the world's biggest blanket," said Steyn.

The lawns of the Union Buildings was a hive of activity on Tuesday as people walked around looking at the blankets. Some even lay down and took photos of themselves sprawled across one of the colourful display.

A group from the Discovery Fun Factory, a corporate pre-school in Sandton, arrived at the Union Buildings to hand in the 16 blankets they had knitted for the initiative.

"We took on this initiative because we have branded 2015 as our year of care," vice principal Yvonne Rammuki said.

"So when we heard about the blankets we thought all hands on deck - our staff, our parents."

The pre-school has a staff of 60 and just under 300 children.

She said some grannies and parents helped staff to knit.

"It took I would say a month, but it was like balls and balls and balls of wool," Rammuki chuckled.

Nelson Mandela Foundation chief executive Sello Hatang said the blankets would be distributed across all nine provinces to people who are in need.

"We will be  reaching out to centres. We will be reaching out to people on the side of the road. We will be going far and wide," he said.

Hatang said he was especially impressed by a group of women in Diepsloot who themselves had nothing, but were prepared to contribute to the cause.

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