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DUTs Siyazama Project on the move in the USA

DUTs Siyazama Project on the move in the USA

Media statement by Nomonde Mbadi, Executive Director of Corporate Affairs

Professor Kate Wells is proud to announce that a special Siyazama Project collection, which was commissioned by Michigan State University Museum almost three years ago, is on the move around the USA once again.

Siyazama Project enables rural traditional craftswomen from KwaZulu-Natal to express their concerns about AIDS and all of its complexities through their beautiful beadwork. The project and its producers communicate and spread awareness on HIV/AIDS through creative workshops, local and international exhibitions, museum collections and research activities. Professor Kate Wells, Senior Design Lecturer at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) leads the project. This project was grown out of DUT’s Department of Visual Communication Design in the Graphic Design Programme, as part of the National Research Foundation (NRF) funded niche area ‘Appropriate Design Education for Sustainable Development’ under the focus area of ‘Design, Health and Community’.

This collection was produced in South Africa in the Graphic Design programme at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) in 2006. Dr. Marit Dewhurst (Harvard University) joined Professor Wells during this five week development process working with the rural traditional craftswomen of the Siyazama Project. This collection was then flown to Michigan State University Museum to be readied for a year and a half long exhibition under the leadership of Museum Directors Marsha MacDowell and Kurt Dewhurst. They produced banners and informational posters which together formed a beautiful exhibition which is both stirring and insightful. Design work, which emanated from a group of 2004 Graphic Design Third students, continues to form the backbone of the visual communication campaign.

This is still the case today with a new poster recently designed by Graphic Design lecturer Mthandeni Zama, who also created the original logo and original campaign for the Siyazama Project.

The Michigan University curators have now secured a new exhibition booking for this special Siyazama Project exhibition at the University of Illinois in the Spurlock Museum, which is situated on campus. This exhibition will begin in August 2010 and will continue until January 2011. “We are all delighted as this means more exposure for the rural craftswomen, which immediately translates into extra cash through sales of the dolls,” says Professor Kate Wells, Project Leader. Linda Rethman, the projects marketing agent continues to do an amazing job of work selling on behalf of the craftswomen, both nationally and internationally. Professor Wells points out that it also means that the projects methodologies, once again, are being transferred and acknowledged by a whole new audience.

Currently, in the USA, the Siyazama Project is on view at a public event at the Institute for Community Research in Hartford USA. This was arranged by the Michigan State University colleagues as well as by Lynne Williamson, Director of the CT Cultural Heritage Arts Program. This Institute for Community Research (ICR) is hosting an interactive public health forum, ‘Innovative Community-Based Intervention and Education Methods and Models,’ featuring presentations by an interdisciplinary group of artists, researchers, activists, and health professionals working in Africa, India, and Connecticut.

The forum in intent on providing first hand examples of challenges and successes that come from developing new ways of partnering with communities to address HIV/AIDS and other pressing health issues. Forum presenters include an impressive lineup of acknowledged experts in the field of using art to educate such Jeffrey Fisher, Steven Schensul, Lwendo Moonzwe, Fredrick-Douglas Knowles, Margaret R. Weeks, Jean J. Schensul and Colleen Coleman and Frederick Nakwagala amongst others. Please see for further details.

The Siyazama Project has been exhibited in several overseas museums and universities. These exhibitions have created excellent advocacy opportunities for the Project. Professor Kate Wells has, on many occasions, been invited to present her research at these venues. To date the Project has been on view at the Museum of Domestic Art and Design at Middlesex University, UK, the Museum of World Cultures in Gothenburg, Sweden, Brandeis Museum, USA, Michigan State University, Michigan, USA, UCLA,USA, and the Canadian Museum of Culture in Quebec, Canada. Most recently the Project which forms the central core of the Department’s ‘Design, Health and Community’ research focus area was on view at the University of Newcastle, Northumbria in the UK. This was part of an England and Africa Partnership (EAP) which brought together Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda, the University of Newcastle, Northumbria and the DUT in a project which saw the methodologies of Siyazama being transferred into both Uganda and Kenya.

The Project is currently working in collaboration with Konstfack Design School in Sweden and a team of designers called FRONT. This collaboration, initiated by Rene Padt and Ikko Yokoyama, Museum curators and authors, spearheaded a whole new approach for Siyazama as the results are envisioned to be seen in Milan in 2010.

“We continue to be proud of all the good work that the dolls are doing as they walk across the USA this year and next,” concludes Dr Wells.

For more information, contact Bhekani Dlamini on 031 373 2845 to facilitate the interview.