Lulama Patience Sihlabeni
Medium of Work:
The artisans of eKhaya eKasi (“Home in the Hood”) make some of the most fanciful and eye-catching artwork imaginable, but the group has a serious mission: to preserve and develop bead and wire sculpture in South Africa. Most of the Khayelitsha-based collective’s members come from other provinces, imbuing the beaded items with a rich background of tribal diversity.
eKhaya eKasi’s subject matter is mostly African. They create animals, which African tribes have always revered and honored, as well as plants like the protea, South Africa’s national flower. Sculptures are made of two basic materials: colored glass beads and wire. The artisans twist, crimp, and otherwise manipulate the wire into sculptural armatures that mimic a range of subjects, some regional, but many with an unmistakably universal appeal. A Volkswagon bus, for example, topped with a surfboard, is instantly recognizable across any number of cultures.
eKhaya eKasi is located in Khayelitsha, a township created through the forcible relocation of Blacks during Apartheid and home to over 750,000 people, most of whom live in extreme poverty. eKhaya eKasi operates an art center and boutique, to showcase folk art to tourists and generate income. In addition, the artwork creates income that allows the center to operate literacy, nutrition, and health programs for children and seniors. eKhaya eKhasi impacts more than its, artisans; it also lifts an entire community.