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Ansisters Event August 2005


Detail from the performance 'Patterns Outside My Head' by Janine Lewis, Rantebeng Makapan and Bonisile Nxumalo. As part of the FACE Ansisters 2005 event, Constitution Hill, Johannesburg.

Copyright © FACE 2005.
All rights reserved.

studio : participants : boitumelo sewing project


their story
Pyramid of Naxos
Journey to Freedom
Brett Kebble
JHB Art City Competition
FACE/Ansisters Project
Funding Partners
Working Partners


Physical address
Boitumelo Sewing Project,
30 Edith Cavel Street,
Hiilbrow 2038
Postal address
P.O. Box 17098,
Hillbrow 2038
Tel: 27 11 720 7011,
Fax: 27 11 725 2760,
Cell: 27 82 784 1289
Web (search for Boitumelo)

hillbrow church

Boitumelo venue in Hillbrow

HIV quilt

Working on the HIV quilt

women abuse quilt

Detail from the Woman Abuse quilt

Journey to Freedom

Detail: Journey to Freedom animation quilt

ansisters bowl ritual

Ansister bowl ritual documentation


Their Story

The Boitumelo Sewing Project was formed in February 2001 by the administration of the Outreach Project in Hillbrow, Edith Cavell Street. A Group of 30 students, mostly women, meets daily in a safe environment to learn and share crafts.

boitumelo group

The aims of the Boitumelo Project are to create hope of finding inner healing and facilitate communication within the group of women. The women are mostly unemployed mothers with several dependants. The arts and crafts project is trying to use the arts in a process of growing self worth, that could lead to products that will offer some income to the families, so that they can exercise economic independence.

woman abuse quilt

Woman Abuse
The collective human response to despair, poverty and illegal trade is to succumb to it on a very nihilistic sense of surrender. People who live in the greater Gauteng area perceive Hillbrow as dangerous. Many families suffer under tyrant partners and woman/child abuse is a reality . Boitumelo offers a safe space and alternatives to create a defense, even if it is just a collective sharing of pain as expressed in this quilt.

HIV quilt

Nelson Mandela said that if HIV suffering would have a face, it would be the face of a woman. This reality is played out with all the human tragedy in Hillbrow and most families are affected. HIV lurks like the wicked witch in fairytales of the past but it is the image of the grim reaper that cast its shadows on the buildings in Hillbrow.



During 2003 we participated in the Pyramids of Naxos Project, an international collaboration between artists that endeavours to raise the issues surrounding environmental pollution, waste management and recycling. This project was in collaboration with Etwatwa and Olievenhoutbosch Sewing Projects. Boitumelo also worked on a smaller pyramid weaved from recycled plastic, showing a clean landscape, reflecting what South Africa could look like if we all care enough. Exhibited in Naxos 2003 and sold to a private collector.


Journey to Freedom

FNB Craft Now 2004

FNB Craft award

During 2004 we started work on a Unisa Project called 'Journey to Freedom', celebrating our 10 years of democracy. We were selected together with Inthuthuka Sewing Project in Etwatwa to express our struggles and joys. These embroideries were reworked in the digital domain to create a backdrop for a musical performance by the Unisa choir on the 9/10th of July 2004 at ZK Mathews Hall. The quilts won a joint gold medal at the FNB Craft Now 2004 exhibition. During 2005-2007 the quilts will travel to the USA and participate in the Weavings of War exhibition that will be shown at 7 universities.


Brett Kebble Art Competition

Brett Kebble entry

Our first entry into the Brett Kebble Art Awards Competition 2003 was accepted and exhibited in the Cape Convention Centre during September 2003. This quilt called 'Hillbrow, a Life' was a collaboration dealing with life the harsh realities of a suburban life being recycled on emotional and physical levels. Slowly the women stitches their own lives back together against the backdrop of a big city, seeming with no compassion to its inhabitants. This quilt was sold to a private collector.

Our entry for Brett Kebble Art Competition 2004, a collaberation dealing with our identity as women in South Africa. 'Identity, Past and Future' is a response to our surroundings, Johannesburg. This entry has been accepted into the Brett Kebble Art Awards for 2004. This quilt was sold to the JCI.


Johannesburg Art City Competition

JHB Art City competition

We entered a quilt embroidered onto ‘mealie meel’ sacks, called ‘United we celebrate’ to the Johannesburg City Art Competition. It was selected as finalist during November 2004. This quilt will be photographed and the image digitally enlarge and will become part an outdoor exhibition on a building in Johannesburg City, 2005.



The ‘Ansister’-project is collaboration under the umbrella of Face. Face is an initiative of Hlumelo Theatre Project to create accessible gender appropriate platform, were imbalances could be addressed. This is part of a project that includes various artists and communities from Gauteng and South Africa.

ansister bowls

Bowl Ritual
At Boitumelo Sewing Project our bowl breaking ritual was performed at the entrance of an old 90-year-old church building in Hillbrow, Church of Peace. The process had profound positive affects on the individuals, which they recorded themselves after the breaking ritual.

The women at Boitumelo perceived this ritual as profound and building very strong emotional ties to their ancestors. The general feelings expressed was that of respect, accepting of the death of the ancestors and the messages that the ancestors passed on to the living, the present and future.

This process of the bowls inspired and affected the women and great enthusiasm was expressed to continue exploring our ancestors and role as women. I as a woman, mother, wife, am standing in the present, my mother and grandmothers stand behind me passing on the memories and information through me to my children who stands in front of me.

The ‘Ansister’ -project does not just offer the women opportunities to explore new ideas but also in the execution and making process we would encounter many obstacles, and finding solutions is part of this learning curve.

Interaction with Artists
The interaction with other artists is vital for creative development and personal growth, acceptance and sharing of history and experiences. It is vital for the women and artists to share and relate creative experiences in order to be able to respond to our social and physical dilemmas in life.


Funding Partners

  • Lutheran World Fund
  • Macshipping
  • First National Bank
  • Raith Foundation
  • National Arts Council


Working Partners

  • Craft Council South Africa
  • Imbali Literacy Project
  • Etwatwa Project
  • FACE/Ansisters Project - fe(male) activation through creative empowerment


Thank you

Emmah Mphahlele, Gloria Melula, Naledzani Matshinge, Ameliah Makhari, Florah Raseala, Mary Mawela, Erica Lüttich, Martinah Mashabela, Maria Pooe, Priscilla Glodile, Prudence Nkosi, Lindiwe Njotini, Dorothy Ndungane, Pinky Joxo, Nlokuthula Zuma, Nolukholo Tiyo, Rian Sebedi, Sam Kabini.

boitumelo group

Posted 24 June 2005,, author: Erica Lüttich.