Homage to Handmade
  • Homage to Handmade
  • Sheroes in Soweto

In a tiny room in Soweto, a circle of teen girls with nimble fingers entwines yarns. Being here inspires self-revelation, a defining of who they truly are.

They talk of nursing parents dying of HIV/Aids, of caring for younger siblings in child headed households and of uncles and sugar daddies that rape. They ponder teen motherhood and debate safe sex. They shed quiet tears then embrace each other, giggle, compare hair weaves and sing Lira songs. They're young women on the brink of adulthood with an aptitude for growth, for wisdom beyond their years. They have an inner light despite the consequences of poverty, abuse and loss. This is their safe space to share, care and broaden their knowledge.

Whether it be embroidery, appliqué, knit or crochet, these girls are redefining handmade. They are not just reclaiming traditional handcrafts handed down through generations. It's not only a fun hobby or therapeutic art form. They're learning portable skills with their very own hands. When the hope of tertiary education doesn't materialise, these skills may lead to income generation.

By making scarf banners as placards against being violated, they're learning to be activists for women's rights. By yarn bombing public spaces with craft graffiti, they're learning to be peace advocates. By imagining symbols, they're learning the language of metaphor as universal dialogue beyond borders. By gifting friendship scarves to their peers in other African countries, they're learning not to fear the 'other' or have xenophobic attitudes. They're also learning that a gift made with love doesn't need reciprocation.

By up-cycling discarded fabric they're learning of eco-friendly design and to respect mother earth. Through collaborating on a patchwork mural they're learning leadership skills and to encourage each other. As fibre artisans, they're learning to tap into their creative potential and generate original ideas that have value. Interdisciplinary handcrafts offer imagination a medium for expression - creative literacy in education is so important.

Girls' education should include alternative approaches to learning alongside those offered in mainstream schooling. Developing their skill sets and creative interests through craftivism is vitally important - even if it is in an informal context such as Story Scarves. The true purpose of education is to engage minds, in any way possible. For an educated girl with transferable hand skills coupled with self worth, bountiful possibilities await. She will teach her daughters and ultimately impact her community in an uplifting way.

Stitch by stitch, with perseverance and exploration, confidence grows. These girls re-imagine their worlds through fibre artistry - momentarily escaping their daily problems. Each realises that the specialness of a one-of-a-kind handmade product is as uniquely special as the maker. That's a lesson worth teaching.

Take action! This post was submitted in response to Girls Transform the World 2013.

Comment on this Post


Hi, Stacey, this is so finely-woven. I savor each quality lesson. Thank you very much for sharing what you are doing. You are right, this is vital learning, lessons we cannot get in a regular standard classroom. Keep on!

Blessings, libudsuroy

''Every Day is a Journey and the Journey itself is Home.'' (Matsuo Basho)

'Savor' is so apt a word, Libudsuroy. Exactly what I was trying to get you to 'taste' when reading. It's vital that what we 'feed' girls is savored and enriches their knowledge. Thanks for your encouragement.

And I got a taste of a new word: "craftivism"! So succulent and filling :)

Blessings, libudsuroy

''Every Day is a Journey and the Journey itself is Home.'' (Matsuo Basho)

You are a majestic writer, a weaver, with a fine eloquence. I enjoyed your words, your metaphors, the interwoven encouragement.

keep penning Stecey.

Regards and lots of admiration. Aminah

Salaam Aminah

So encouraging, I will keep penning, Aminah. My belief in creativity and its incredible aptitude to teach life lessons for the girls I have grown to love as younger sisters, helps my words flow freely.

Your post has a mosaic of interesting images- the coarse hands, weaving the beauty and art in one, the grooming confidence of women and their perseverance. Yet the stories of pain and challenges faced by girls are painted so strong that they are almost visible.

My primary mode of expression has always been visual art so I suppose when I began writing three years ago my instinct was to describe through my eyes. I'm glad you can visualise what I see, Sangita. I also just had this thought - arts also have subliminal messages that lie beneath their surface. Thanks for reminding me of that :)

Stacey, I read with a pleasure and peace your words. This is amazing how you write and what you write about. Reading your post I can perfectly see how confidence grows inside these girls. They will become great women, I am sure!

Thank you for this post, All the best for you and these girls, Iryna

I truly hope so too, Iryna. I believe in them and try my best to instill that belief in their own selves too. Thanks for connecting with me. It's wonderful to meet you online.

This is one of the most beautiful piece I have read!

This is truly inspiring - to say the least. I feel strengthened, reinvigorated and rejuvenated by this touching testimony!

The girls I work with would enjoy reading this, it will inspire them, they would realise they have a sisterhood of supporters in other parts of the world!

Thank you so very much for sharing this.

Bless your dear heart,

"Working towards a just and equitable world for all persons, without recourse to status."

Heartfelt thanks, Vweta. I'm pleased my story inspired you. We're both fortunate to find each other here - it feels good to know you understand. The girls you're working with face similar issues as our group. Let them know that they are not alone. We send long distance love to all of them from SA xxx Ps: did you manage to download the Shero photo?

Terribly sorry. I thought I added that I was able to download both pictures in my last comment.

Thank you somuch. I downloaded them and am very eager to share it with the group when we meet again.

Keep doing the good work,

"Working towards a just and equitable world for all persons, without recourse to status."

I would gladly send you a group photo at the earliest.

Thank you so much!

Do takecare!

"Working towards a just and equitable world for all persons, without recourse to status."

Well done. A different approach with a positive outcome with elegantly written details. It was nice to read yet another wonderful perspective for an amazing outcome to strengthen the gifts these girls/women can share to empower themselves.

Kind regards,

Theresa VE

Dear Stacey,

I loved reading your story. The work you are doing is not only amazing but commendable. The story you shared and the way you shared it is truly inspiring. I am so overjoyed with your piece, that I am at a loss for words but can say how much I admire you for the work that you are doing with such a wonderful and new perspective on how to further empower these girls and the effect they will have on their communities as they continue to develop their self-confidence and self- expression.

Thank you so much for sharing your story, and I look forward to reading more about your work.

Warm regards,



What a beautiful, eloquent read! and inspiring!. It makes my heart glad to know that these young women have this venue to learn, to grow, to process. As a domestic violence/sex assault advocate and a substance abuse counselor, I know the value of learning with your hands. Whether it is embroidery - or in the Hawaiian culture, planting, taro -- the potential to transform is amazing. Thank you for sharing and for doing what you are doing.

In peace,


Thanks for encouraging and connecting, Beverly. There's so many opportunities for expression and healing held in our very own palms. What joy creating brings!

Dear Stacey: The work you're doing with these girls is amazing!! I absolutely believe in the power of making art to heal (inside and outside), in the power of the creative process of art as a healing force. They're also learning skills that will allow them to generate income and support themselves. Thanks for sharing Hugs,