It was Jamaican spiritual teacher Mooji who said: “Don’t remind the world how sick and troubled it is. Remind it that it is beautiful and free.”
During the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, rainbows have been popping up all over the world – bright moments shared with strangers as many of us struggle with the current difficult reality.
International Yarn Bombing Day is celebrated across the world on June 11 and sees public spaces wrapped in colourful, creative fibre hugs. The idea is to wrap fibre, usually crocheted or knitted, around objects to bring a touch of warmth and whimsy to an urban environment.
As the Covid-19 crisis hit, the people of Howick in KwaZulu-Natal contributed to many causes and projects to ensure that the less fortunate had something to eat.
African Spirit, an NGO that empowers women through craft skills training and feeding programmes, jumped at the chance to alleviate the woes of the residents of Shiyabazali, an informal settlement perched above Howick Falls, by distributing food parcels and dog food.
Before the lockdown, crafters in the settlement crocheted, sewed and knitted goods for sale at the African Spirit shop, but that programme stopped, so now there is no income.
On food distribution day, Nonyamezelo Notshutsha’s grandchildren help push the wheelbarrows across the Umgeni River bridge to collect donated food.
“They like the outing,” she says, “and it is good for them to see the people who are helping us and say thank you.”
She told Judy Smit, who runs the African Spirit craft empowerment programme, that the crafters were bored: “We love to create and use the skills that we learnt in our craft training workshops.”
Understanding just how soothing it is to sit in the sunshine with fingers flying through colourful wool, African Spirit set to work to raise money to buy wool for the creative women.
Many in Howick cross the bridge each day to go about their business, and so the idea of a rainbow gift to the community was born.
“We want to thank the people of Howick for helping us, our children and our animals during this time. Without this help, we would be hungry,” says one crafter, Ignetia Tseka.
Another crafter, Patrecia Pherane, adds: “Lockdown has been very depressing; the rainbow colours make us happy! My favourite colour is green, so I enjoyed making those stripes. We saw the crochet in the streets a few years back, but did not understand what it was about. Now we are proud to be part of the rainbow bridge of hope.”
At dawn on Sunday, a small team quickly stitched the rainbow together, covering the railings in cheerful stripes with the intention to make passersby smile.
Street art is often used to bring people together and give us a moment to engage with strangers.
Some stopped to look at their surroundings for a moment and took photos with their phones. While there will be some who question the wisdom of wasting wool when there are cold people in need, most agree that this project is a welcome deviation from knitting blankets, beanies and scarves for charity.
Besides, happiness is also a worthy cause! Next month, the rainbow stripes will be removed and sewn together into blankets for the community.
. Are you keen to have a little rainbow in your life each day? Contact Judy to buy a snuggly multicoloured beanie or pair of gloves, and contribute to making sure that the crafters start to earn an income again and can get back on their feet.
. Call 072 147 5106 to order a rainbow, and follow African Spirit on Facebook at facebook.com/africanspirithowick/
. Donate to: African Spirit; Capitec account number 1474993719; use the word RAINBOW and your name as the reference