It is an icy cold day in July when I arrive at the Thusong Centre in Bredasdorp to chat to Jacqui Grove of Mosaic Works. Jacqui is project manager of a beautiful mosaic art installation at the centre which is being done under the auspices of the Cape Agulhas Municipality’s EPWP program.
The three-month project is part of the municipality’s program to promote skills transfer, temporary job creation and future entrepreneurship in the Cape Agulhas area. A group of 11 youth were recruited from the local community to work on the project. Julia Moses (21) is the team leader of the group. Despite having a tertiary qualification, she was unable to find work locally and was very happy when this opportunity came along. “I learnt something new that I can use to create my own work,“ she says. “But I really want to learn more about mosaics so I can get better at it.”
The other members of the team agree. John-Will Valentine has already started to make mosaic mirror surrounds to sell for extra income and sees lots of potential in the mosaic business. According to Jacqui the group of young people have done really well with the project, creating a total of 60m² of mosaic murals and designs that depict a little bit of life in the Agulhas area, from fauna and flora to typical fisherman’s cottages, fishing boats and lighthouses. The main design in the reception area of the centre has a strong message promoting no violence against women and children.
The designs, equipment and material as well as expertise was provided by Mosaic Works, which is based in Cape Town. The company was started 16 years ago and pioneered the mosaic craft movement in South Africa. Nowadays the company focuses mostly on large scale projects with a training component such as this one. Several of the people trained on past projects have become part of the mosaic art community, which is Jacqui’s hope for these young people as well. Jacqui says the entire project was completed within the required three months. “It was a rush against time, but they managed to pull it off.” This is despite the fact that none of the young people working on the project had any former training or experience with mosaics. They were given a basic 3-day training session before starting to work on the final product, learning on the fly. The project was not without its challenges. “The biggest challenge was to get buy-in from the youth. It is very important that they use this for their personal growth and creativity, not just as a temporary job opportunity and stipend,” Jacqui says.
Four of the initial group dropped out, but the remaining seven youth are immensely proud of their achievement. “Most people see this as something new in our community,” Naideen September says. According to her twin, Nadia September (22) it was quite difficult cutting the shapes from the hard tiles (as the plasters on her fingers testify!) but that she really enjoyed working on the designs. “Just as you get bored with one design, the next one comes along and things get interesting again.”Naideen agrees. “Each design is challenging. You just need to start and keep on going until you’re finished.” The majority of the group would like to stick together and see if they can’t make a go of creating a mosaics business. “We’re still going to get rich out of mosaics!” Naideen laughs with a twinkle in her eye.