Today I had the honour of receiving two traditional Makoti iDollies to visit with me at my home for a while, (while we develop the ‘Nomkhubulwane’ women’s sacred puppetry project and workshops), from pioneering Professor Kate Wells, made by the women of the groundbreaking Siyazama project in KwaZulu Natal.
They say there are no indigenous South African puppetry traditions, let alone women’s puppetry traditions, but here she is – a living breathing animist vessel whose stories live in the fabric of her being. Makoti is 140 cm’s tall and her body effortlessly holds her own presence, she does not even require a manipulator to hold space. Kate told me that Makoti warns us not to get married, as she got HIV infection from her husband. These powerful i Dollie storytellers were created by ‘Lobolile Ximba, Bonangani Ximba, Sbongile Ximba, Fokosile Ngema, Celani Noiyjeza, Princess Noiyjeza, Tholiwe Sitole, Khishwepi Sitole, Gabi Gabi Nzama, Beauty Ndlovu and Princess Ndlovu. These women are often joined by their daughters, sisters and peers from their own communities in Muden, Msinga, Inanda, Inchanga, Nuyaswa, Hillcrest and Ndwedwe – all rural areas in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.’
About Siyazama: ‘This project enables rural traditional craftswomen from KwaZulu-Natal to express their concerns about AIDS and all of its complexities through their beautiful beaded cloth dolls. Expert rural craftswomen from the Valley of a Thousand Hills, Inanda Valley, Msinga region, and Ndwedwe informal settlements, undergraduate and postgraduate design students, health workers, doctors, traditional healers, People Living with HIV/AIDS, medical anthropologists, performers, musicians and marketing outlets work together on a multiplicity of levels in addressing AIDS awareness whilst engendering a ‘breaking of the silence’ and ‘straight talk’ approach. The Siyazama Project seeks to promote the role of design to affirm indigenous knowledge and skills as a means to disseminate vital information about HIV/AIDS amongst, and by, the most marginalised and vulnerable of people in South Africa – rural women.’ Excerpt from the website http://www.siyazamaproject.dut.ac.za/