Me And My Home: Mamotunusi Sekgamane

The craft of beadmaking has enabled this artist to support her children from her township home
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The Independent Online

My home is made from a mixture of timber and corrugated iron, and it has four bedrooms and a kitchen. I have decorated the house inside and made it full of colour, using overruns from the printing of paper labels of products such as matches and tinned beef.

I am very happy with the decoration of my kitchen. I have advertising posters on the walls that I bought from the people who sell fish, matches and fruit on the streets of Macassar.

When I prepared to decorate it, I boiled a paste of flour and water which I used to glue the posters on to the walls. The kitchen is lovely and colourful now, and I love to spend time in it. My favourite piece of furniture is my mint green kitchen dresser, where I display my teacups and saucers. I am very happy with this.

I spend my days beading, making beautiful dolls and caring for my children and my home. Sometimes I am able to spend time with the other bead artists and we sing and bead together. These are the good times in a life that is often very hard, in spite of the recent improvements.

As well as taking care of my two boys, I have to take care of myself as I am also ill, suffering from sugar diabetes and arthritis. Every month I have to take a minibus taxi to the clinic to get the medication that we need. Also, as well as doing my beadwork, I have to take care of and dress my son who is paralysed, and the nurse can only visit us once a month.

I was born in Mount Fletcher village in Transkei, an area which is now known as the Eastern Cape. My education was foreshortened; I never got as far as high school because I was needed to help at home with my family. In 1969 I married my husband, who was working at the time for a company called ExCom, based in Cape Town. Unfortunately, the company eventually closed down and my husband was left without work. He moved back to us in Transkei.

Now I am the mother of five grown-up children: three older boys and two younger girls. My youngest is 18, my eldest 32.

When my husband became unemployed, my eldest son moved to Cape Town to find work to help to support the family, as it was very hard for us to survive in those days. He worked hard and was a great support to us until tragedy struck; he was shot by a bullet and left permanently paralysed.

At this point I moved to Cape Town to care for him and sold sweets in the town to earn a living for my family. It was very hard, though, and I couldn't make enough to support us all, particularly because my eldest son needed special care, which took up a lot of time, making it even harder to put in enough hours to earn even a small income.

I am so lucky that Monkeybiz came along, allowing us to work at a skill in our own home, which is particularly important for me as I cannot leave my son alone at home. The organisation supplies 300 women in the Cape Town area with brightly-coloured glass beads and pays us for everything we produce.

In the beginning, I began learning how to bead, which is a traditional skill from this part of Africa, and very soon I was able to produce items for sale and bring in money to care for my family. Within a short space of time, I was able to produce three beautiful dollies every month and take care of my disabled son and my other children at the same time. His disability grant, combined with the money that I am able to earn, gives us a comfortable standard of living.

Now I am living in Macassar, in Khayelitsha, which is a township near Cape Town, with my two daughters and two of my sons; both sons are now ill, one paralysed, the other with TB. My youngest daughter is still at high school and the eldest stays at home to help me. They are both good girls and do the cleaning, cooking and washing for me. My husband and 29-year-old son are in the Eastern Cape.

In the past, it was difficult to think of people in other countries with such wealth at their disposal while we lived in such terrible poverty. Since the transition, though, we have hope for the first time in South Africa, and there have been many changes that have improved our lives greatly.

South Africa is a very beautiful country, although there are no lions and elephants roaming the streets, as you might think.

It is a developing nation these days and there have recently been many changes and improvements in the lives of poor people here.

Many people now live in houses made of brick, and we also have electricity and water. So life is much easier for us in many ways, and happier.

Monkeybiz in London

To support Live8's focus on poverty in Africa, a selection of fine art, craft and design galleries across London will be showcasing contemporary African craft, with profits going to provide jobs and education for HIV and AIDs-affected communities in Cape Town and KwaZulu-Natal, as well as providing long term trading opportunites for Africa's poorest communities.

Beaded animal sculptures, wire birds and twisted metal flowers from non-profit community groups such as Monkeybiz will be on sale from as little as £13; profits go towards providing jobs for the artists.

African Contemporary Craft for Live8 will be on show at Flow Gallery and selected galleries across London including Rebecca Hossack, Sarah Myserscough and The Hand.

For more information call Flow Gallery (020 7243 0782; www.flowgallery.co.uk).

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