Spectacular tapestry depicts UP's colourful history

Posted on August 01, 2008

Irma van Rooyen, a BA Fine Arts graduate of the University of Pretoria and a recipient of the TuksAlumni Laureate Award, in collaboration with designer Calvin Mahlaule, conceptualised and executed the design of the tapestry.

The tapestry was started in 2007  and  fifteen embroiderers of the  Kaross embroidery initiative that operates in the orange farming district of Letsitele in the Limpopo province created the 15 x 1.2 metre tapestry. 

The work was executed on individual pieces of material to be appliqued later on the final 15m piece.  Embroiders had creative freedom in choosing colours and stitches and through the hands of Breacky Ndlovu, Nurse Machethe, Somisa Baloyi, Maria Raolane, Annah Mathebula, Rose Malungane, Reginah Vhukeya, Ester Ngobeni, Emely Shibiri, Rosemary Nkuna, Thandi Ngobeni, Annah Kongwane, Salva Makhubela, Lilly Sekgobela and Rejoice Ngobeni, using 10kg of yarn, a true work of art with VaTsonga soul was created. 

“The idea was to create a work of art that would portray the University and could be left as a Legacy for future generations,” says Prof Ramaranka Mogotlane, Vice-Principal of the University.

He added that a collaborative project like the centenary tapestry provides an opportunity for community engagement and underlines the University’s commitment of reaching out to all sections of society.

 “A project like this provides an opportunity of nurturing skills and talents in communities, albeit through an intermediary such as Irma van Rooyen, thus contributing to job creation and poverty eradication.  We hope that this work of art will not only inspire our students and leaders of tomorrow to develop their artistic and creative skills alongside their academic responsibilities, but also to develop a social responsibility in terms of becoming involved with communities and individuals beyond their normal sphere of existence,” comments Prof Mogotlane.

The tapestry is displayed in the library as the library is considered the academic hub of the university and is visited daily by hundreds of students.

The  Kaross embroidery initiative was established in 1989 with a handful of women by Irma van Rooyen to create jobs and opportunities mainly for rural women, this initiative now provides employment and an income for over 1 000 locals. The exquisite products produced are marketed locally and abroad and have become sought after items.

The University of Pretoria Centenary tapestry is, like the Bayeux tapestry that depicts the story of the Norman invasion of England in 1066, the needlepoint tapestry of the Great Trek in the Voortrekker Monument made by the ATKV Women and Mother Movement and  the Keiskamma tapestry in the South African Parliament that depicts the turbulent history of the Cape frontier region from the Stone Age to the advent democracy in 1994, a hand  embroidered work of art in which a specific part of history is captured.

Prof Somarie Grey, Executive Project Coordinator in the office of the Vice-Chancellor and Principal, came up with the idea of producing a tapestry after she has seen several embroidery projects in South and Southern Africa.

Click here for a short video clip of the event.

The creators of the tapestry unveil the work in the Merenski Library

prof mogotlane admires
Vice-principal, Prof Ramaranka Mogotlane and members of the SRC admire the tapestry

the kaross workers and tapestry
The Kaross workers and Irma van Rooyen

The tapestry in the Merensky Library is set to draw a lot of attention

Guests, including Edwin Smith and Prof Antony Melck, admire the tapestry

Copyright © University of Pretoria 2024. All rights reserved.

FAQ's Email Us Virtual Campus Share Cookie Preferences