What was started last week as a lesson in making quilts on the Londolozi Digital Learning Centre veranda turned out to be a deeply profound lesson of learning for all of us who were there. My memory keeps gently tugging me back to those beautiful few hours, as more than 20 of us gathered around and, inspired by Londolozi’s wild landscapes, weaved strips of scrap material together, surprising ourselves with what we created.
I often say that I continue learning far more than I ever taught, and so – shortly after the quilting workshop – I “journaled” some of the things that I learnt and I am privileged to be able to share them with you in today’s blog. By the way, my cutting-edge friends on the blog team call this “listography” but I just call it five things I learnt from an African quilt.
- Beauty comes from unlikely places
Seemingly lifeless objects or discarded “things” lie about all around us. In this case it was scraps of material (literally), but to see those individual scraps come together to begin to create exquisite handcrafted quilts was astounding. I am reminded that there is so much that can be achieved without having to consume new “things” off the shelf.
- The “old-fashioned” stuff still counts … maybe even more
I thought quilting might seem a little old-fashioned to our community of modern women at Londolozi. How wrong I was – on the day of the workshop we had a full house and five women who were on leave made special arrangements to come in to Londolozi on the day. My daughter often says that in 50 years time “yes you’ll need to know how to programme a robot, but you’ll also need to know how to run a sustainable houesehold garden.” There’s no doubt about it, whether it’s micro-farming, sewing or quilting, there is a renewed interest in skills that make us more self-reliant.
- We all see the world in our own different, yet beautiful way
As a teacher I know that there is true, inherent creativity in all of us. Oftentimes it takes the laughter, spirit and guidance of a group for certain individuals to feel comfortable with their own creativity. The unselfish sharing of ideas was an inspiration during this workshop, but more than that, as time went on, individual styles emerged based on each person’s ability to be inspired by those around them and then believe in their own ability to express themselves.
- The magic of sharing is growing
The social media revolution has been a catalyst for new social trends, “sharing” being one of them. Free learning, free sharing of ideas, online fundraising: these are all changing the world. So when Jane Laburn, from Johannesburg, said to me she would like to offer to lead a quilting workshop (for free) for the Londolozi community, I was not surprised, rather I was proud that amongst so much perceived bad news, there are these little stories of magic, sharing and community that are taking place more and more.
- A vision takes patience and planning
Sometimes we get so overwhelmed with the end goal, that we forget to see and plan how all of the individual parts will fit together. This quilting workshop was a wonderful example of everything that we do in life. Like so many things, an encouraging group, an inspirational facilitator, and an ability to “follow the process” step-by-step led to beautiful products in the making.
Now imagine beautiful hand-crafted quilts reflecting the colours and images of Africa, telling the stories of the crafters and being a source of income for the crafters as they continue to develop the Londolozi Women’s Cooperative.
I am sure the learning will grow wider, deeper and richer as the quilts evolve. Thank you for letting me share my thoughts and as soon as we have some finished products I will be sure to share photos on the blog.
Written by Maureen Groch (Gogo Mo). Photographed by James Tyrrell.