These beautiful totem poles celebrate South African craftsmanship and heritage at V&A Waterfront


Eight beautifully handcrafted totem poles will form the cornerstone of the decor at the V&A Waterfront during this festive season, which were created by local communities across the country who are known for creativity – a warm celebration of craftsmanship and of South African heritage!

Totems are part of V&A Waterfront’s Joy of Africa to the world campaign, in which Africa’s most visited destination sets out to reinvent a festive season that celebrates its African roots. Local creations will star in the show and heroes will be celebrated, while providing visitors with a warm African welcome.

“Our goal is to take visitors on a journey of discovery beyond our neighborhood. We support local communities and respect where respect is due. Each totem pole is a beacon for many communities across the country, ”says Tinyiko Mageza, executive director of marketing at V&A Waterfront.

Here are the featured communities behind these magnificent totems:

Ukuziqhenya (Wow Zulu) by Africa! Ignite, made in Emazizini, Indanda, Ladysmith in KwaZulu-Natal

Africa! Ignite is a leading rural development agency based in KwaZulu-Natal known for its holistic programs that help rural communities create meaningful livelihoods.

The totem, Ukuziqhenya, displays the skills passed down through generations of Zulu craft culture. Beading, weaving, and embroidery showcase the expertise of revered KwaZulu-Natal craftsmanship, elevating it into this contemporary design piece.

Umthombo by African Art Center, made in Manguzi, Kwamashu and Greytown

The African Art Center was established in Durban in 1959 to preserve and support the development of arts, crafts and design, and showcases local creative talents.

Umthombo, which means “tree of the purest water” in isiZulu, was created using carved animals and wooden pillars, then decorated with wire.

Bring joy by Mapula Embroidery Project, made in the Winterveld

Mapula women use design and embroidery to capture their stories of hope, survival and prosperity. The fabric on which the artists’ stories are told through the embroidery is 100% cotton.

The embroidery stitch that Mapula women mainly use is called rod stitch, while some have started experimenting with different stitches, such as running or cross stitch, including French knots.

Umoya Wasekasi by Monkeybiz, made in Khayelitsha

Umoya Wasekasi, which is isiXhosa for “the spirit of the township”, is the story of Monkeybiz in Khayelitsha. Noloyiso Maphakathi, who beaded the sun and moon that are at the top, says that the sun symbolizes happiness in his Xhosa culture while the moon can, depending on its phase, predict luck or misfortune.

Having the moon and the sun at the top of the totem represents the cycle of life, which is made up of day and night; light and darkness.

Izintsika Zamandla (Pillars of Strength) by the Keiskamma Art Project, made in Hamburg

This totem pole celebrates the women who are the pillars of the Hamburg community and who have been the lifeblood of the Kesikamma Art Project for the past 20 years. The three concentric wings on each layer of this totem tell a story about women and their resilience.

Lead artist Ndileka Mapuma says being able to draw and create embroidery for the totem pole has been a great achievement for her.

Two berries by Ronel Jordaan & Projekt, made in Cape Town

The women who created this totem live in three of the Cape colonies. Those who work at Ronel Jordaan’s Capricorn Park studio are from Vrygrond and Masiphumelele, while most of Projekt’s crochet artists live in Imizamo Yethu, Hout Bay, having moved to Cape Town from Zimbabwe and Malawi.

This totem is inspired by the oceans. Coral, seaweed and jellyfish have been interpreted in felt and crochet shapes that fill this totem pole, with the idea that one must always look beyond the surface to find hope and positive reasons. to embrace change.

Life, love and happiness by Magpie Studio, made in Barrydale

The studio uses lots of plastic lids, hundreds of recyclable plastic soda bottles made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and other materials left in the trash, with the ethos behind their approach to being eco-friendly. environment or recycling.

All of the items used to make the totem pole were found and reused in Barrydale, including the PET plastic. They were cast in Hearts, Grass, and Barrydale Red Fin Minnows. A PET waterfall runs through everything Life, Love and Happiness, reaching its end in the lush flowering meadow on the lower layer.

Paivepo by Master Wire And Bead Craft, Zimbabwe Inspired

Even though bead and wire artist Bishop Tarambawamwe has lived in Cape Town for 18 years, he still considers Rusape, Zimbabwe, to be his home. The city lies along the main road between Harare and Mutare.

Working with flexible wire and a variety of beads in a myriad of colors, Master Wire and Bead Craft transform simple materials into intricate shapes.

For more information visit or follow the hashtag #JoyFromAfrica to be part of V&A Waterfront’s journey of change and compassion.

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Image / s: provided


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