Virginia Keppler
2 minute read
12 Aug 2017
6:45 am

Prisoners knitting a Madiba blanket so big it will be visible from space

Virginia Keppler

The massive portrait is being made to mark Mandela’s 100th birthday next year.

Inmates and prison warden's are seen on a section of the Mandela Masterpiece, which is a gaint face of Nelson Mandela made up entirely of crocheted blankets at the Zonderwater Correctional Centre, 11 August 2017, Cullinan. Picture: Jacques Nelles

To celebrate what would have been Madiba’s 100th birthday next year, the correctional services department (DCS), in collaboration with 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day, yesterday launched the Massive Mandela Masterpiece at the Zonderwater Correctional Centre.

Prisoners will be knitting a portrait blanket so big it will be visible from space. Carolyn Steyn, founder of 67 Blankets, said the face of Madiba would not only be visible from the sky, but also from space.

“Every blanket in black or grey, measuring 160cm x 160cm, will be a pixel and together, in the right pattern, the blanket will cover the prison’s sports field.”

A benefactor, who wished to remain anonymous, donated R14 million for the wool. About 150 inmates will be making the blanket, which will ultimately keep thousands of people warm. Steyn said she sat down for the first time in 2014 with 10 inmates, which later grew to a 100 inmates and resulted in 300 blankets being made.

“Last year, 80 correctional centres throughout South Africa took the journey stitch by stitch to help keep thousands of people around the world warm in the name of Nelson Mandela.”

She said that in 2014, they made the largest crochet blanket in the world. It measured 3 377m2 but it was not long before India beat them with a blanket of 11 000m2.

“We rallied our nation, our mothers, fathers and school children around our beautiful country and they made a blanket bigger than India’s blanket, measuring at a whopping 17 188m2,” she said.

DCS acting national commissioner James Smalberger said inmates were happy to knit the blankets because they say it gives them the opportunity to give back to the community.

“They feel it brings some humanity back into their lives. During the programme, inmates don’t have time for negative things in prison.”

Muziwendoda Kunene, project manager of the knitting team, said when they first started knitting, some of the others laughed and called them grannies.

Kunene, who is doing his master’s degree in project management, said running this project in prison served him well and was also part of building himself up. –