“This is South Africa” was inspired by a visit from family living overseas. This was back in the beginning of 2018, and took its first baby steps into the world in March of this year. It was not until July that I finally decided to put this idea onto fabric. I wanted to create something that will be enjoyed by visitors and expats alike. With so much to choose from, it was impossible to include everything of importance into a single quilt. The diversity of the nation; the beautiful countryside; the bushveld; the beaches; fauna and flora; sport; major tourist attractions – there is just too much. I hope that I have captured the essence of our country with the choices that I made. My family gave their input and opinions – thank you so much! I can truly say that this was a family effort.
Although the idea was daunting, and it took a long time to digitize, the result is certainly worth it!
About the quilt
I created panels that could be stitched as a pantograph without nesting the pattern. The colours that I used for the panels are significant to the area they represent.
- The bushveld of the Limpopo is a shade of brown, whilst the North West is green and lush (not when there is a drought!).
- Johannesburg had to be yellow, as it is the city of gold.
- Gauteng could have been a rainbow, but I settled for orange.
- The Karoo is a yellowish brown because it can be really dry, but also really beautiful.
- The beautiful Cape is in my favourite colour – blue.
All the appliqué was done on the quilt frame, using the repetition of the motif outline to set and attach the fabric. I really wanted to try appliqué on the frame, to take advantage of the machine embroidery method and essentially ensure that the quilting around the element was not difficult. Multiple runs secured the fabric which I then ruffled using the same technique you would use for a rag quilt: snip, wash and tumble dry. I did not make all the important elements in appliqué, and I am still undecided whether this was a mistake. When stitching this out on a solid background, as I did in testing the designs, I did not contemplate the impact of appliqué on the eye.
The filler designs have some significance too. Around the big five I wanted to keep it simple so as to keep attention on the animals. The spiderweb with the vuvuzela denotes the fact that this instrument is probably gathering dust in most people’s cupboards. The curvy design around Soweto and the towers represents the cultural diversity and patterns found in our cultures. The windy design around the coastal areas, and the Cape of Storms is just that – the wind! I chose to keep the stipple design in Johannesburg, because it is a complex, poorly planned city (the gold miners of the 1880’s did not expect the village to remain for long). It is the economic hub of the country.
A few learning tips:
- Contrast is important to make the detail of the elements visible e.g. the ostrich loses its detail quite a bit, and the leopard was always going to be problematic unless I used a washed out leopard print which is not exactly pretty.
- Glueing the fabric for the appliqué helps significantly.
The quilting was intentionally organic, meaning that I wanted a hand guided feel to it. Personally, I think I achieved this nicely!
Row 1 – Limpopo and Mpumulanga
Africa’s big 5
A quilt about South Africa most certainly has to feature the big five. Big game hunters named this group of animals because they are the most difficult animals to hunt in Africa.
The big five consist of:
The most temperamental of the lot is the buffalo. Game rangers have told me that it is the most difficult to predict the behaviour of a buffalo.
Row 2 – Gauteng and North West Province
Archbishop Desmond Tutu calls South Africans the rainbow nation, due to the diversity of the cultures of its people. At the Lesedi Cultural Village you will encounter people of Zulu, Xhosa, Pedi, Ndebele and Basotho origin. In this setting you will be able to appreciate the diversity between these tribes.
Overnight accommodation is in buildings resembling traditional grass huts.
Soccer World Cup
South Africa was the proud host of the 2010 Soccer World Cup. We also introduced the world to the vuvuzela. The vuvuzela, also known as lepatata, is a plastic horn, about 65 centimetres long, which produces a loud monotone note. Concerns about the constant intensities produced by the vuvuzelas during the 2010 World Cup matches were raised independently by representatives of international football teams, spectators and sports commentators. The noise levels that were demonstrated prompted various sporting organisations to ban the vuvuzela at future events and venues, even including future World Cups.
The Cradle of Humankind
Maropeng is the official visitor centre for the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site. It has links to other World Heritage Sites that also have important fossil remains relating to hominid evolution.
Maropeng means “returning to the place of origin” in Setswana, the main indigenous language in this area of South Africa.
Row 3 – Gauteng
Great white sharks
Shark attacks in the seas surrounding the country are not uncommon, but their primary diet is seals.
Gansbaai is one of the world’s premier white shark destinations. White sharks fled the bay last year after orcas hunted and killed five of them‚ including a rare female almost five metres long (timeslive.co.za). This had a major impact on the penguin population as the ecosystem was affected. Less sharks meant that there were more seals to hunt penguins.
Cage diving is not the only way to see a great white shark. They breach when hunting swift prey (like seals). By swimming close to the surface, they can reach speeds of up to 65 kilometres per hour and can propel themselves three metres into the air. To see a shark breach is a fairly rare occurrence and is generally only seen at particular times of the day and in certain conditions.
Incidentally, we also have a provincial rugby team called the Sharks, based in Durban.
South Africa was instrumental in the convening of the Rugby World Cup competition, but did not compete until 1995. We were not allowed to compete in 1987 and 1991 due to sanctions and sporting boycotts, but in 1995 we hosted the competition and won!
It is remembered as one of the greatest moments in our sporting history and was considered an important part of the nation-building process. In a movie released in 2009, Invictus, it appears that Nelson Mandela and Francois Pienaar (rugby team captain during the 1995 world cup) believed that rugby could unite the country.
Orlando towers and Soweto
The Orlando Towers are a distinctive landmark in Soweto. The power station was shut down in 1998 and the cooling towers was then converted into an entertainment centre. It is the site of the world’s first bungee jump between two cooling towers.
The pillars of the Constitution
The South African constitution was written by the constitutional assembly between 1994 and 1996.
It contains guarantees of equality more extensive than anywhere else in the world. At its heart are seven fundamental values which are represented by the pillars in the first courtyard at the Apartheid museum: democracy, equality, reconciliation, diversity, responsibility, respect and freedom.
The Voortrekker Monument is situated in Pretoria in a nature reserve. It commemorates the pioneer history of South Africa and the history of the Afrikaner.
The Monument was inaugurated in 1949. It was designed by architect Gerard Moerdijk. In the Hall of Heroes is the world’s longest historical marble frieze. A tapestry with more than three million stitches is housed in the Cenotaph Hall.
Today it is the most visited heritage site of its kind in Gauteng and one of the top ten cultural historical visitor attractions in the country. It is also the only Grade 1 national Heritage Site in Pretoria. The Monument also manages the Blood River Heritage Site.
On a good day, the monument is visible from kilometres away in Midrand.
Row 4 – The city of gold
An outcrop of gold reef was found on the farm Langlaagte in the 1886 leading to the gold rush in the area. The village that was established was dubbed the city of gold by the miners and was controlled by a committee in 1886. By 1897 the population had grown rapidly and in 1928 Johannesburg became a city.
Johannesburg is also referred to as Joburg, was named after Johann Friedrich Bernhard Rissik and Christiaan Johannes Joubert.
Row 5 – Cape provinces
The winelands of the country is well known, but it isn’t limited to the Western Cape. Though we think of the Western Cape when we refer to the wine route, the Northern Cape also produces wine. Wine tastings are also available in this area, with lovely restaurants at the vineyards to enjoy the scenery.
For most of the year Namaqualand is dry and barren, but the landscape changes dramatically in spring, between July and October. After the winter rainfall, the arid plains are transformed into a land of beauty and wonder. Stretching from Garies in the south to the Orange River in the north, and from the Atlantic Ocean on the west coast to Pofadder in the east, Namaqualand is home to a botanical work of art second to none.
The Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunsfees
Or the KKNK, is an arts festival that takes place in the Klein Karoo, specifically Oudtshoorn, around March every year. Oudtshoorn is also considered synonymous with all things ostrich in South Africa, though ostrich farms can be found all over the country. Though it is widely believed that ostriches are very tough, chicks are extremely vulnerable during the first few weeks after hatching. Any sudden changes in temperature, cold and wet weather could prove fatal, and they have problems with internal parasites. There is a beautiful story about a lonely ostrich at Londolozi that you can read here.
Another national sport is cricket, and our team is known as the Proteas. Unfortunately, since reinstatement as a full member to the ICC in 1991, South Africa has been unable to win a significant international tournament, despite being the clear favourite many times.
Row 6 – Down South
Table Mountain is a flat-topped mountain forming a prominent landmark overlooking the city of Cape Town in South Africa. It is a significant tourist attraction, with many visitors using the cableway or hiking to the top.
Cape Town is also home to parliament, and dolphins are often seen off the coast. The notorious winter storms of the Cape are the result of weather patterns that take place hundreds of kilometres south of South Africa. In the Early Modern Era, the first European to reach the Cape was the Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias on 12 March 1488, who named it the “Cape of Storms”. 26 ship wrecks lie at the bottom of the ocean surrounding Cape Point due to the gales of the cape. Perhaps a shipwreck would have been a good addition to this panel, but who wants to see a small Table Mountain?
I enjoyed creating this quilt, and I hope you enjoyed the story behind it.