It’s been termed “the largest portrait blanket in the world”. It’s the face of South Africa’s beloved former president, Nelson Mandela, immortalised in wool – thousands of individual blankets of all colours from all over the world coming together to form the famous face of the man who brought so much hope to so many people. It’s going to cover more than 7000 (seven thousand) square metres – big enough to see from outer space.
It is with this incredible goal in mind that the non-profit organisation , 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day, will descend on the Zonderwater Maximum Correctional Centre in Cullinan on April 24, armed with more than 4000 (four thousand) blankets that been lovingly knitted and sent from all over the world.
It is here that this ambitious tribute to late President Nelson Mandela in his centenary year will be constructed. All blankets will be distributed to communities in need throughout South Africa with the help of Stuttaford Van Lines.
School children across the land, church groups, old aged homes, the Johannesburg Society for the Blind, 67 Blankets members in corporations as well as prisoners all around South Africa have participated in the creation of blankets for this project over the past year in preparation for the big event. Blankets have been received from as far afield as England, Wales, Ireland, the United States, Australia as well as hundreds of blankets made by 67 Blankets family members in India.
“Madiba’s 100 years reminds us that he continues to be an organic movement that people can engage with and take ownership of. We look up to his life lessons which are centred on empowering people, and allowing people to empower others. He remains a beacon of hope to our offenders, as we encourage them to stay focused on their goals and never give in to despair, “ says Carolyn Steyn, founder of 67 Blankets.
“On April 24 we will show the world how we are, stitch by stitch, keeping the legacy of our beloved Madiba – and the ideals for which he stood – alive. This is Mandela’s centenary year and what better way for us to pay tribute to our late great father of our nation than by displaying this massive portrait blanket in his honour for the world to see? The portrait will cover an area measuring over 7000 square metres – so big you will only see Madiba’s face from the sky and from outer space!” adds Steyn.
The Department of Correctional Services officially partnered with 67 Blankets in 2014 and Steyn is particularly proud of the work the inmates at Zonderwater have done in creating over 1600 blankets for the Massive Mandela Masterpiece.
“Zonderwater is a blanket making factory!” says Steyn adding that the initiative has enabled people living behind bars to contribute to a society that has been affected by crime and poverty. The rallying call behind prison bars is “Knitting Broken Lives Together”.
“Becoming history makers is turning to be habitual for inmates in South Africa as they are set to display the largest portrait blanket, themed the Massive Mandela Masterpiece. Knitting has demonstrated to the world that there is a soft side to those doing time behind bars,” says Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Michael Masutha.
“The partnership between the department and 67 Blankets has registered a number of accolades which, among others, include the world’s biggest blanket (2016) at Drakenstein Correctional Centre as certified by the Guinness World Records. Crocheting has significant psychological and social benefits, which can improve the wellbeing and quality of life of offenders. As a skill and creative occupation, it has therapeutic potential for the participants.
“As Correctional Services, we have a duty to create a just society by means of providing opportunities for inmates to make a positive contribution to our country through positive actions. Hence, crocheting does not only give inmates a sense of pride and has a therapeutic value for the inmates with significantly large psychological and social benefits, which can improve the wellbeing and quality of life of offenders. It also offers them a great sense of purpose to give back to communities they infractured,” says Minister Masutha.
He added that the partnership between DCS and 67 Blankets has registered a number of accolades which, amongst others, include the world’s biggest blanket (2016) at Drakenstein Correctional Centre as certified by the Guinness World Records. Madiba’s 100 years reminds us that he continues to be an organic movement that people can engage with and take ownership of. We look up to his life lessons which are centered on empowering people, and allowing people to empower others. He remains a beacon of hope to our offenders, as we encourage them to stay focused on their goals and never give in to despair.
MCC Aviation and Cheeky Media have come on board to film the Massive Mandela Masterpiece from the sky which will be transmitted onto giant LED screens on the prison grounds.
Entertainment for the day will include the Zonderwater Inmate Choir, Grammy Award winner Wouter Kellerman, Timothy Moloi, Craig Urbani as well as Moving into Dance Mophatong, who will be performing some spectacular Pantsula moves to excite and entertain the crowd.
Stuttaford Van Lines has transported the thousands of blankets from all around South Africa to Zonderwater Maximum Correctional Centre , where the inmates have been tasked with assembling the massive portrait. The laying out and sewing together of the Mandela portrait will take about two days. The inmates are currently doing practice runs every day in the buildup to the big event.
“Nelson Mandela lived his life by three principles: Free yourself, free others, serve every day. Now the baton of leadership has been handed over to us. It is in our hands now to make a positive difference,” says the Manager of Nelson Mandela Day Yase Godlo.
“This project is one way that people can take action against poverty and start making a difference – being part of something much bigger than themselves. What an incredible initiative to honour Madiba. He would have loved it, and he would be proud.”