Trading Trash for Treasure

By Shannon Wilson

Yellow, red, green and white patches, vividly meshed together in a sea of discarded plastic bags. Chairs stood in a circle as the room gradually filled with women wearing vibrant jumpers and headscarves. A stream of light coursed through the door and Charis Vleugels introduced herself and everyone to the crochet workshop for Trading Live for Mandela Week.

The early birds waiting for the workshop to begin.

The early birds waiting for the workshop to begin.

Trading Live for Mandela Week is an initiative involving groups of people sharing 67 minutes of their time, building relationships in the community and exchanging skills, talents or services with each other.

The finger crochet workshop was held on Tuesday July 27 at the Assumption Development Centre (ADC) in Joza. Vleugels developed the concept of doing crochet with plastic saying, “I noticed that there was a lot of plastic around so I decided to use what was easily available.” With the help of Jennifer Rushin and Masonwabe Nduna, Vleugels explained to the group how to begin making a curtain out of crocheted plastic and bottle tops. Nduna, who works at the Assumption Development Centre, translated the English to isiXhosa at intervals.

Vleugels held up demonstrations for the gathering to see and highlighted that instead of seeing the plastic as rubbish, she now sees it as a colour that she can use for a curtain or a doormat.

One lady in particular was no stranger to the idea. Dressed in a yellow dress with the headband to match, Nombulule Pona, stood up and displayed the blue, black and white matt that she had made out of plastic for her house.

Charis looking at jsldkf matt.

Charis looking at the matt Nombulule made before the workshop.

Eager to begin, everyone started cutting plastic bags in a spiral so as to make the best use of the plastic. Vleugels circled the room, helping where it was needed. Rushin sat with some of the ladies and demonstrated.

“Me and my granddaughter sometimes go and collect plastic bags so that I can use them to crochet,” says Rushin, who helped Vleugels with the workshop. She maintains that finger crochet is an inventive way to pass time and a great way to recycle plastic.

“I like to crochet and make things,” says Mavis Mama wearing the green hat she crocheted herself and rolling up a long line of plastic.

Vleugels greeting Mavis at the workshop.

Charis greeting Mavis at the workshop.

Iwazi Ntukela was the only man at the crochet workshop. Ntukela is 84 years old and he he enjoyed the workshop and the people there. There were intervals of laughter, chatter and silence as most of the group started on the final stage of making their crochet curtains.

Vleugels arrived in South Africa from Belgium in early 2015 to get involved in community work.

This was the first step of a process Vleugels hopes will result in more regular meetings where “ a group of people crochet and make more things for their homes.”

Everyone hard at work on their curtains.

Everyone hard at work on their curtains.


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