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England and Africa Partnership in Uganda
Siyazama Project

For the past decade the Department of Graphic Design at the DUT has been actively involved in building its research profile by the undertaking of extensive community outreach interactions in both urban and rural KwaZulu-Natal. Through the England and Africa project (EAP) the Departments reach has gone as far as rural Uganda where in 2007 the methodologies inherent in the Siyazama Project are being piloted amongst rural craftspeople from three regions. Further to this more community interaction is currently taking place in the KwaSani project which is based in the Southern Drakensberg, KwaZulu-Natal.

The work to date has produced significant community engagement with students and supervisors working within community projects as diverse as shelters for street children and homeless people (the Ark in Durban) to informational design as a preparation for death at the Highway Hospice. More recently, the department has had BTech students working with health care professionals and traditional healers at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) Medical School and at local rural hospitals working with staff and students of the Durban University of Technology’s Department of Environmental Health (Staff: Joy Kistnasamy + Graham Barrett).Further to this voluntary outreach work has taken place at the Dream Centre AIDS Hospice in Pinetown. In all of the above-mentioned projects the main thrust of the research and design work is concerned with the fight against the HIV/Aids pandemic. It is within this area that the department’s longest established community engagement project – Siyazama is situated. The Siyazama project (, which was established eight years ago, is a unique intervention that endorses the pivotal role of design in affirming indigenous knowledge and creative skills as a means to disseminate vital information about HIV/AIDS amongst the most marginalized of people in South Africa – rural women.

The programme works with traditional beaded cloth doll makers. Beadwork and doll making in KwaZulu-Natal has its roots in a powerful tradition to visually record experiences, collective memories and social messages. The project has engaged the women in updating ‘traditional’ styles to develop products that compellingly communicate contemporary concerns, encouraging the women to render pictorially their understanding and concerns with regard to HIV/AIDS whilst allaying their ignorance, fear and superstition.

The advantage of having this project in a Graphic Design department is that students are employed as graphic designers and translators on the project and are often required to work on the project’s communication design needs. These design needs are once again “embedded” in the mainstream course and produce work as diverse as pamphlets, brochures, posters, photography and website design for the project.

In this way students work in an environment that affirms the indigenous knowledge of the community while at the same time continually being made aware of the scourge of HIV/ Aids in the production of design work that can help make a difference.

As a further example of our broad outreach policy here is a list of some of the completed research projects undertaken by B.Tech students:

    • Samantha Robertson: The Development of complementary HIV/AIDS training material for the KZN traditional healers treatment literacy campaign (UKZN/DUT)
    • Desmond Smith and Liesel Gevers: Development of graphic materials for hospital communication: a collaboration project between Osindesweni Hospital and the Environmental Health students.
    • Kailash Maharaj: The psychological impact of electronic media on children and youth.
    • Karishma Rajkomar: Hands of desperation- a campaign for street children.
    • Aalia Christopher: Remarketing Death: a campaign to create awareness of the Highway Hospice daycentre and its services.
    • Brett Montanari:  The Suffering – a documentary film on AIDS sufferers

Victoria Robertson: Living in ruins…the repercussions of AIDS and poverty on children.

  • Cindy Mothilal: New marketing strategies for the Siyazama Project.
  • Sibusiso Sosibo: Testa: Know your status.
  • D’Rene Fisher: The Ark – home to 900 homeless people – the study of a city shelter.
  • Latha Ravjee: A Masters study of graphic design for social justice in South Africa.
  • John Griffin: Earth for Sale – an audio visual campaign for environmental awareness.
  • Debbie Solomon: Ethics in South African media and society, and its affects on children.
  • Justin Farrell: A study of available support systems for children with cerebral palsy in rural areas within Pietermaritzburg.
  • Jean Shange: Olwethu: An awareness campaign for HIV and AIDS orphans in the Durban region.