Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Di-vine artworks

Vines of Hope project transforms old ice cream tubs and cable ties into beautiful art - By ESTELLE SINKINS

USING nothing more than old ice cream tubs, cable ties, ingenuity and passion, Robin Opperman and Ujala Sewpersad from Umcebo Design have created stunning artworks for the Diakonia Council of Churches’ Vines Social Justice Festival. Their efforts will be on show at the culmination of the organisation’s social justice season programme—a one day festival in Durban. The idea for Vines of Hope came to Opperman while he was enjoying a quiet cuppa in the peaceful courtyard at Diakonia’s premises in Diakonia Avenue. "I’ve always thought the space was perfect for some kind of public art project and I think we’ve managed to achieve a great deal on a fairly small budget," he said. Their efforts include making proteas and daisies from recycled plastic, as well as symbolic crosses and leaves, all of which have been turned into vines or masses of flowers and leaves suspended above the grass. Opperman admits, however, that when they began the project two months ago, he and his partner didn’t have a design master plan. Instead the works developed organically. Sewpersad made the flowers and then crosses were cut from plastic tubing by pupils at the Witteklip High School in Chatsworth.
"The crosses were originally intended for something else, but when we put them against the vines, we both thought: ‘Ooh’. And so they got used," Opperman said. "I think that what we have created is very organic looking, but it also fits beautifully with the courtyard setting, with the vegetation and with the Biblical connotations. "We are hoping to convince Diakonia to keep them up after the festival … perhaps make them the start of an ongoing, permanent collection of art at the site, or perhaps they could send them to the various congregations linked to the organisation," he said. One of the key aspects of the Vines of Hope project was to make it as inclusive as possible. "People have been collecting ice cream containers and then seen the pieces developing…people get attached to something they have invested in," Opperman said. Among the many organisations who have shown their support are the children at Tree Tops School in Essenwood Road, members of the University of the Third Age and Rashika Chanthkarun, who runs a tuck shop in Effingham Heights. All have collected icecream containers for the project.
Other people helped make some of the components of the artworks. "We had two workshops — one at Diakonia and one at the Vuleka Centre in Botha’s Hill—with people in the local community. "We showed them what to do and they were able to help us make flowers or other things," Sewpersad said. Visitors to the festival at Diakonia today will be able to enjoy a free music concert in front of the Durban Music School in Diakonia Avenue from 1 pm to 4.30 pm. The programme will include performances by the KZN Wind band, the Addington Anglican Church Gospel Choir, a local poet, singers from the music school, Davin and the Rhinos, Rene Tshiakanyi and the Music School Big Band. There will also be a social justice "flea market" in the courtyard of the Diakonia Centre, again from 1 pm to 4.30 pm. The Diakonia cafe will be open during the afternoon for light meals and refreshments. At 4.30 pm tea and scones will be served prior to the evening’s formalities, which begin at 5 pm in the Diakonia Hall with an hour long meditative session featuring choral music and carefully chosen messages and verse. The session will be led by a group from St John the Baptist in Pinetown headed by musicologist Dr Christopher Cockburn.
At 6 pm, in front the Diakonia Hall, there will be music from a lively youth gospel band, and the festival will conclude with the vines being blessed and symbolically lit up, courtesy of solar powered LED lights. With their social responsibility project now completed, the Umcebo Trust team plans to concentrate on a project they hope to do with Refugee Social Services, also based at Diakonia. "We want to make coasters from fabric … no one else, as far as we know, is doing it and it will allow many of the refugees, who have excellent sewing skills, to make a little money," Opperman said. He and Sewpersad also want to take stock of all the work generated by Umcebo. "Our repertoire has expanded in recent years and we are doing a lot of recycled work, but we don’t want to lose the bead work and wire work that we are known for …We want to get everything we do professionally photographed and catalogued, and to give ourselves time to go through the process properly," Opperman said. That means, for the first time in eight years, Umcebo won’t have a stand at the Design Indaba in Cape Town. But Opperman still hopes to have a presence at the prestigious design show. "We have been shortlisted for the World Design Capital event in Cape Town in 2014, so we have proposed an idea to them," he said. "We want to use the concourse of the ICC to do a series of workshops with the local community, who we hope to access with the help of the Black Sash. We will then build Umcebo chandeliers during the Indaba and hand these over to the ICC to start a community centred design collection.We’ve proposed it … we just hope they accept." • If you would like to keep in touch with Umcebo Design, check out their Facebook page Umcebo Trust and Umcebo Design.