Preparations for the Massive Mandela Masterpiece (MMM) blanket portrait to celebrate the late former president of South Africa, Dr Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela’s centenary year at Zonderwater Management area are well underway. A team of 116 offenders began a scheduled dry run session as early as 7am on Thursday, 12 April 2018. The project involves the laying and sewing together of 3 066 crocheted blankets on an open field to put together a massive portrait of Madiba. When completed, the portrait is 7 956 square metres.
During the dry run, offenders had to carefully stitch the squares together and lay them on an open field covered in plastic according to the right measurements. The work was estimated to take at least eight hours but continued until six in the evening. To document the finished product, a drone was flown over the blanket to capture the portrait.
The crocheted portrait that will be exhibited on 24 April 2018 at Zonderwater consists of grey and black squares that precisely measure 1.6m x 1.6m, and is framed with the colours of the South African flag. Deputy Director Programme Design and Development, Nontobeko Redman, who is at the fore front of this project explained that the portrait was initially meant to be 4 764m² but the campaign received great response so the size of the blanket was increased.
The Madiba magic attracted ‘knitwits’ from all over the world, from countries as far as India and Australia. Management areas around the country participated and DCS alone crocheted more than 4 000 blankets for the project. Ms Carolyn Steyn said they received more than double of what they anticipated in 2017. “South Africa ran out of grey wool twice in 2017,” she said. The blankets used for the masterpiece are 3 066 and the rest will be used for decoration on the big day.
Mr Muzi Kunene, an offender incarcerated at Zonderwater Maximum is a team leader for the project. He said they had to do trial and error a number of times to practise for the dry run before they eventually nailed it. “You have to nurse the blankets and be careful when handling them, otherwise they stretch and change their original size,” he said. Zonderwater Maximum Centre was the first correctional centre to participate in the “67 Blankets” project that saw the organisation creating the biggest blanket measuring 3 377 square metres and was recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Mr Simon Matlala, an official at Zonderwater who is the overseer for the MMM project, together with Ms Pauline Kekana said that he was amazed at the dedication and change this work has brought to the offenders. His wish is for the project to continue to keep the inmates busy and motivated.
Deputy Commissioner Personal Development, Minette Plaatjies, acting Director Offender Sports, Recreation, Arts and Culture (SRAC) Baby Matsei, Redman, and the founder of 67 Blankets, Carolyn Steyn were present to witness the dry run.
DCS has been in partnership with the 67 Blankets since 2015. The blanket project gives offenders an opportunity to reach out to communities and make a difference in the lives of the less fortunate. After the display of the portrait the blankets will be distributed to the poor.
His Excellency, President Cyril Ramaphosa, Minister of Sport and Recreation, Ms Tokozile Xasa, Minister of Arts and Culture, Mr Nathi Mthethwa, Premier of Gauteng, Mr David Makhura, Executive Mayor of Tshwane, Mr Solly Msimang are some of the dignitaries expected to attend the centenary celebration at Zonderwater on 24 April 2018.