Reverend Stephen Mzamane, the main character in Marguerite Poland’s latest novel A Sin of Omission, was trained at the Missionary College in Canterbury, England, before returning to South Africa. Based on a true story, the young Xhosa man, struggled to find acceptance among his own people and encountered discrimination from within the Church.
A group of Eastern Cape women, from the Keiskamma Art Project in Hamburg, found Stephen’s story so moving that they embroidered four magnificent tapestries last year, depicting its key events.
This community is close to Marguerite Poland’s heart, as she has known and worked with them for many years. The people involved in the Keiskamma Art Project are now in trouble. The conditions imposed on them as a result of Covid-19 has critically threatened the livelihood in their villages. Informal work has been impossible and hunger has escalated, with the breadwinners unable to earn the small income vital to supporting themselves and their families. Yet, their response to the present crisis is not about distress, but resilience. They have asked us to join them in creating a monumental artwork which will illuminate the ordinary and extraordinary battles of all of us dealing with the present challenges of a nation in lockdown – an artwork that will depict this historic period in our country. It will give a voice to us all, and especially to those who are otherwise voiceless, through sharing our stories.
As we moved beyond the three week and then five-week period of lockdown, calls for help have come flooding in from individuals, families and communities who have lost their livelihoods and can no longer support themselves because of the present crisis. Intense feelings of frustration, sadness, helplessness and hopelessness have overwhelmed me. Endlessly draining thoughts on how to support those in need have left me feeling burned out. I feel as though I have passed through the dark night of the soul. Two days of quiet have brought me back to my own teachings - the basic experience of being alive in the present moment and my trust in prayer and divine purpose.
The cry from the Keiskamma Art Project community and their courage has helped me to understand the process that I was going through – a lightbulb moment from within the recent dark recesses of my mind. I came to the realization that I am not alone in this struggle. The resilience and strength in facing the economic and emotional devastation caused by the regulations imposed on the Keiskamma Art Project community have spurred me on to put out a call to come to their assistance. As I start to move out of the dark night of the soul, I see fragments of meaning return, and they bring with them hope. Hope that by bringing awareness of this community in crisis to those who have the means, it will assist, even in the minutest way, to enable the creation of this monumental artwork. In so doing it will also support the livelihood of these people in need. Please answer our call by sponsoring or donating to The Keiskamma Art Project here.
We are also collecting crucial documentation about the realities of households affected not only by the Covid-19 crisis but by the historical neglect of very precious areas of our country. Should you want to share your story, whether ordinary or extraordinary, challenging, painful or inspiring you can share it here. With love and light, Di 083 390 4930