More than a 1000 guests gathered at Zonderwater Management area on 24 April 2018 to witness the unveiling of a 7 956 square metre portrait blanket of the iconic anti-apartheid leader and first president of a democratic South Africa, Dr Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. The blanket, named the Massive Mandela Masterpiece (MMM) was a contribution by 67 Blankets for Mandela Day in collaboration with DCS to celebrate what would have been Madiba’s 100th birthday this year.
The colourful portrait consists of more than 3 000 squares of wool blankets that were stitched together and laid out on the Zonderwater sports field in the morning of the event. The gigantic image, larger than the size of a rugby field could not be comprehended from the ground. Guests viewed the breath taking artwork on two big screens through the lens of a drone flown over it to capture the image from above.
“The collage of colour, beauty and artistic symbolism that this portrait displays speaks of a nation seeking to repaint itself in the image of arguably one of the greatest icons ever known to humankind, Tata Madiba,” said Minister Michael Masutha about the Massive Mandela Masterpiece.
Minister Masutha used the platform to advocate for inmates who are on parole or those who have served their sentences to be considered for employment opportunities. He said they should have equal access to employment and other forms of economic activity where they can apply some of the skills they learned from participating in various training programmes offered in correctional centres. He said that this would ensure that they are successfully reintegrated into society and become a positive influence in their communities. Of the 70 000 potential workers, consisting of ex-offenders and parolees, only two percent is afforded the opportunity of employment, Minister Masutha said.
Deputy Commissioner Personal Development, Dr Minette Plaatjies marked the day as highly successful and appreciated the hard work of all officials and inmates in making the MMM project a success. Deputy Director Programme Design and Development, Nontobeko Redman, who was the coordinator of the project on behalf of DCS, thanked officials who volunteered to coordinate the project in the regions, and 67 Blankets ambassadors and knitwits who went to some of the facilities to teach inmates how to crochet. She applauded the inmates for their willingness and commitment to the project.
Oupa Masita, an inmate, crocheted most blankets and has a trophy to show for it. “Knowing that my blankets are going to keep 67 underprivileged people warm this winter makes me very proud. It is a way of giving back to the people I have hurt outside,” said Masita who is serving a 20 year sentence at Zonderwater Management Area for robbery.
Mrs Graça Machel was amongst the dignitaries who attended the unveiling of the MMM. She echoed Madiba’s words saying, “it seems impossible until it’s done.” She applauded Carolyn Steyn for making a difference with the simple idea of knitting and keeping Madiba’s legacy alive.
National Commissioner Arthur Fraser, DCS senior officials, founder of the United Democratic Movement, General Bantu Holomisa, and Kgosi Leruo Tshekedi Molotledi of the Royal Bafokeng nation were some of the prominent figures that graced the occasion.