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12 images that show how Indigenous culture in Canada is being preserved

OVER THE THREE-DAY Aboriginal Cultural Festival in Victoria, Canada, I witnessed the great pride of elders as they watched their children and grandchildren dance, drum and sing, celebrating and preserving their rich culture.

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This carving stands on a pole at Songhees Point. It depicts the importance of children and the spirit of this sacred site to the Songhees First Nation. This area is also known as Pallatsis, meaning “place of the cradle” in the Lekwungen language. When children were able to walk on their own, parents put their cradle along the waterfront to ensure them a long life. This was the launch site of 3 canoes that participated in the ‘welcoming of canoes’ ceremony and traditional protocol of approaching a First Nations territory and asking to come ashore. A young boy is seen walking behind this pole to join his father (not pictured) before they departed in the canoes for the ceremony and to open the 2015 Aboriginal Cultural Festival in Victoria, British Columbia.

 

We were a mix of Indigenous people, some in colourful regalia, and non-Indigenous people that included local mayors, business leaders, and myself. We paddled in sync to the shared traditional territory of the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations to ask for permission to come ashore, a time-honored protocol. It was a historic day, as this had never been done before in the history of Victoria.

Chief Ron Sam of Songhees First Nation welcomed us ashore and stated the significance of the canoe ceremony when he said:

“You know I think it’s important, the acknowledgment, when we’re all in a canoe, pulling in the same direction. You know, I think that’s what we want to achieve on a daily basis.”

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George Taylor, emcee of the Aboriginal Cultural Festival and director of Le-La-La Dancers of Kwakwaka’wakw First Nation sings and drums as he leads a procession of 3 canoes across Victoria’s Inner Harbor in the canoe ceremony. Ten-year-old Matthew Everson seen beside George wearing a ceremonial blanket and mask participates in this historic ceremony.

 

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Chief Ron Sam of Songhees First Nation looks on as Gary Sam, a dancer from the Songhees Nation greets the canoes, he then performed a paddle song to welcome us ashore.

 

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A young drummer from the Esquimalt First Nation joins his grandfather (not pictured) on stage at the 2nd annual Aboriginal Cultural Festival in Victoria, British Columbia.

 

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Lason Taylor performs as a young grizzly bear at the Aboriginal Cultural Festival in Victoria, British Columbia. Lason is a 3rd generation member of the Le-La-La Dancers First Nations dance company. The Le-La-La dancers are from the Kwakwaka’wakh First Nation in Northern Vancouver Island. They have been sharing their culture and traditions through song and dance under the direction of George Me’las Taylor locally and around the world for 27 years. The passing of stories from generation to generation is how their rich culture has survived and will continue to survive.

 

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A drummer stands beside elder Ray Qwulshemut Peter, director of the Tzinquaw Dancers group from the Cowichan First Nation, as they sing and drum at the Aboriginal Cultural Festival. This group presented songs and dances that were taught to them by their elders. They shared a song that was sacred to them and asked that no one record or photograph the performance. Several elders that lead dance groups stepped aside and asked the younger generation to sing and drums their songs. George Taylor spoke of the importance of the “passing of the drumstick” and teaching children and youth so that their traditions, songs, dances and stories may be carried on.

 

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A young boy drums as he performs with the Tzinquaw Dancers from the Cowichan First Nation at the 2nd annual Aboriginal Cultural Festival in Victoria, British Columbia. Children learn their traditional songs, dances and stories and participate in ceremonies and at festivals from a young age.

 

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Amber Wells shares her story through a hoop dance. Amber’s father, Alex Wells is a 3-time world champion hoop dancer and has taught Amber the basics of this dance to which she has added her own elements.

 

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Matthew Everson on stage at the 2nd annual Aboriginal Cultural Festival in Victoria, British Columbia. Matthew is a 2nd-generation dancer in the Le-La-La Dancers First Nation Dance Company.

 

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Kelly Robinson of Nuu-chah-nulth and Nuxalk First Nations displays a raven mask that he carved from yellow cedar. Kelly shared that his favourite animal to carve is the raven as it the light bringer, it brings light to the world. Kelly comes from a family of carvers as his uncles and grandfathers also work with this art. This mask is used for dances or ceremonies such as the potlatch.

 

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Young Michael Sheena of the Pauquachin First Nation shows off a drum he made from cut pieces of deer hide. He learned how to make rattles and drums from his grandfather, Virgil Bob. Virgil shared the month-long process of preparing a hide, such as putting the fur in a special solution and the scraping of fur. Michael comes from a family of artists as his grandfather’s sisters, Alva and Iona are weavers and jewellery designers. Michael was with his aunts and grandfather in the artist booth. I learned that Michael and Virgil also use elk and bear hide for their instruments.

 

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Jason, Lason and George Me’las Taylor, 3 generations of the Le-La-La Dancers First Nations dance company. The Le-La-La dancers are from the Kwakwaka’wakh First Nation in Northern Vancouver Island.

 

It was an honour to be in one of 3 First Nations canoes during the historic Welcoming of Canoes ceremony. Watch a short 30-second video of my experience.

 

For authentic Indigenous cultural experiences, attractions and events in Canada, visit:

Aboriginal Canada

  • A guide to Indigenous tourism in Canada

Aboriginal Tourism BC 

  • A non-profit agency that works to support and promote a culturally rich Aboriginal tourism industry in British Columbia.

 

A portion of this article was published in part on Matador Network. I was a guest of Tourism Victoria but as always all opinions are strictly my own.

Pamper, don’t ride, an Asian elephant in Thailand

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Pampering a rescued Asian elephant at Elephant Nature Park (ENP) in Chiang Mai, Thailand was one of my favourite experiences in 2015. We joined them in the river and helped them stay cool by throwing buckets of water on them. It was a heartwarming experience and wonderful to watch them play freely after their ‘bath’.

ENP is a sanctuary for rescued elephants from the tourism and entertainment trades in Thailand. Every elephant has a heartbreaking story. To help, you can visit ENP as a day visitor or overnight guest or you can stay longer and volunteer.

Also, don’t ride elephants in Thailand, South Africa or anywhere. They are wild animals even if born in captivity. In order to ride an elephant in the tourism industry they need to be ‘broken’ and there is a lot of evidence that states the process is very cruel.

If you love elephants that much and want to be close to them, please consider visiting them at Elephant Nature park instead. You can walk with them, bathe them and even have your photo taken with them.

Read: If you love elephants, don’t ever ride them. Here’s why. 
Visit elephantnaturepark.org

Whale watching in Victoria, British Columbia

One of my favourite things to do when I visit British Columbia is to go on a whale watching tour. I’ve been to BC several times and have been on many whale watching tours in Victoria, Tofino and Vancouver, British Columbia.

While on a sunset whale watching tour in the waters of the Salish Sea near Victoria, we were surrounded by a family of orca whales. Suddenly, an orca whale came out of the water to check us out.

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A wild & free transient Orca whale (also known as Killer Whale) in the Salish Sea, the waters near Victoria, British Columbia.

 

Shortly after the above photo was taken, a mother and baby orca swam under our boat, twice. We also had a rare opportunity to watch Orca whales as they taught their young how to hunt for porpoises and saw a humpback whale and seals. It was my favourite whale watching tour to date.

Mother Orca teaching her young one how to hunt for porpoise.
Two orcas in the water near Victoria, British Columbia with Race Rock in the background.

 

A humpback whale tale against the sunset in the Salish Sea near Victoria, British Columbia

I highly recommend Eagle Wing Tours in Victoria, British Columbia for these reasons:

  • They are Canada’s first carbon-neutral, eco-adventure whale watching company
  • They partner with the Songhees First Nation, traditional territory of Victoria, to offer the Songhees Nation Cultural Tour
  • They contribute to conservation and education
  • They have several tour options and boats available. I enjoyed the tour on the Goldwing.

Watch: Killer Whales swim under our boat 

Read: A Close Encounter with Orcas in British Columbia

 

Unity Through Art and Culture in Santa Fe, New Mexico

I am drawn to learning about the world’s cultures. It is the reason I travel and attend events that focus on art, music and dance. I believe artists and performers are the keepers of traditions, stories, cultural beliefs and the identity of people.

The Folk Art Alliance brings this together beautifully as they play host to the International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In one weekend in July, you meet artists from around the world and learn about their art and culture. It is also an opportunity to make a difference with your purchase. In 2015 there were 173 artists from 57 countries represented at this truly international market.

Mariano’s Tree of Life yarn painting (pictured below) was chosen as the theme image for this year’s market. I had a chance to speak with his son Cilau about this piece.

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Tree of Life and Abundance by Mariano Valadez Navarro of Mexico

 

 “On the left side we have the feminine side, on the right side, we have the masculine side they represent the balance of the opposites and how it always takes two opposite forces to create life. In this case, it’s a girl that’s also following the traditional path. When we see the tree, representing the tree of life and its abundance, it’s abundance is represented through the different living creatures that are living on the tree. Small things such as the bees are important because the bees are a metaphor of ourselves, the bees are hard-working animals, they live in the community, and they are the caretakers of the queen bee. In our case, we work really hard in the corn fields, we live in the community, and we are the caretakers of Mother Earth as if it was the queen bee. When we see the moon, the moon is the biggest feminine figure, the fire represents the masculine figure, again two opposite forces that unite and create life. The ones that are in the hands of the male represents the prayer wand that is used for healing physically and spiritually, but also for channelling the healing energy. This is mainly to honour life, and it’s duality.” – Cilau Valedez

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Yarn painter Mariano Valadez Navarro of Mexico demonstrates his art at his booth at the market. Mariano’s art focuses on the Huichol culture. I would never have believed that his art was created with yarn if I hadn’t seen it for myself. It is full of detail and colour.

 

 

Grandfather Fire guides initiates on their Shaman path to higher knowledge, a yarn painting by Mariano Valadez Navarro.

 

I noticed the art of Manisha Mishra and was particularly drawn to her Tree of Life paintings. When I was in India in February, I met an artist whom I commissioned to create a Gond art painting of the Tree of Life and animals I had seen on my visit to India. Manisha’s paintings reminded me of it, so I stopped to chat with her about her work and purchased a tree of life with a peacock. Manisha is a Madhubani painter from Behar in North eastern India.

I’m not sure what it is about the Tree of Life that I love, maybe it is the fact that it is an important symbol in many cultures around the world. I wear a pendant of one around my neck, and it has become a part of my logo.

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Here’s what Manisha says about the piece I purchased, pictured below:

“This painting is showing the peacock on the tree of life, the peacock is a symbol of love, and we say that all your wishes come true under the tree of life. In our tradition, we get married to the tree before getting married to the groom. So we say that the tree takes on all the bad omens, so you live happily ever after. That is a Hindu philosophy” – Manisha Mishra

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Mudhubani artist Manisha Mishra
artist Manisha Mishra from India

 

Wandering the market, I came across these forged-metal cow bells made by Janmamad Salemamad Luhar of India. Knowing that every piece at the market is handcrafted, I was intrigued to find out a bit more about them. I learned that each bell has its unique sound and that cows were outfitted with them so their owners would find them again just by recognizing the sound. This is an ancient art in Janmamad’s community.

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Janmamad Salemamad Luhar of India.

Being from Canada, I was happy to see the Indigenous culture in Canada represented at the market. I met up with Haida artist Gwaii Edenshaw of Haida Gwaii and learned about his art. Haida Gwaii is an archipelago on the North Coast of British Columbia and is made up of about 150 islands.

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Portrait Moon, made of abalone and silver by Haida artist Gwaii Edenshaw. The moon is Gwaii’s father’s crest and is significant in his culture as it governs the seasons.

 

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Dogfish Mother made of 22kt gold, platinum and abalone by Haida artist Gwaii Edenshaw. He says “It embodies the dignity of our women”.

 

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Haida artist Gwaii Edenshaw

 

With my 2nd visit to the market and with many of the artists returning, it’s also a reunion of sorts. I was happy to see Khin Maung Htwe of Myanmar again. I wrote about his puppetry after the market last year. If it wasn’t for the market, I might not have known about a 600-year-old tradition and his puppet theatre in Yangon. I can’t wait to attend a performance when I visit my paternal ancestral home of Myanmar in Yangon this October.

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Khin Maung Htwe and Tin Tin OO

 

I followed the sound of the djembe, a drum that originated in West Africa and came upon a booth of Nigerian drummer, Akeem Ayanniyi. I was reminded of his performance on the market stage last year.  It was wonderful to see people joining in and making music together with the drums at his booth.

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Akeem Ayanniyi makes traditional West African drums that are played for ceremonial occasions and religious functions. Traditionally drums were used to communicate between villages. Various beats were meant to communicate birth, death or celebration. Akeem is from a highly respected family of drummers and drum makers, going back nine generations.

 

I couldn’t help but feel like I was travelling the world as I saw a diverse display of folk art and heard a myriad of languages spoken. When I hear languages from around the world especially ones I recognize from places I’ve travelled to, it brings me back to those places like India, Cuba and Morocco.

I was especially happy to see returning artists from South Africa Xolile Ndlovu and my dear friend Lulama Sihlabeni. If you knew me, you would know about my special connection to this beautiful country and people that began with a chance visit to eKhaya eKasi Art & Education Centre in Khayelitsha in December 2012. It has since deepened through 4 more visits to South Africa and by spending time with the women of eKhaya eKasi after starting a mobile photography program there. Hearing isiXhosa in a place, I didn’t expect to hear it brought me right back to my times spent in Khayelitsha.

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Bead and wire art from South Africa as represented by Lulama Sihlabeni of eKhaya eKasi Art & Education Centre.

 

Nowhere else in the world can you experience this under one ‘roof’, the Santa Fe sky. If you are ever in Santa Fe in July, make it a point to attend. It is truly a one of a kind market that unites people through art.

Beyond Cape Town, in the ‘Heart’ of Khayelitsha

About 30 minutes from the centre of Cape Town lies Khayelitsha, a Township, home to over 1 million residents. In the heart of Makhaza, a neighbourhood in Khayelitsha is eKhaya eKasi Art & Education Centre. It is home to The Heart of a Woman Project in South Africa, a women’s mobile photography and digital literacy initiative I founded in May 2013 and several other programs.

All photos by the Andrea except where noted.

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Lulama Sihlabeni, director of eKhaya eKasi Art & Education Centre, stands in front of this multi-purpose community centre in Khayelitsha.
View from the rooftop of eKhaya eKasi in Khayelitsha, South Africa - Dec. 10, 2012
The view from the rooftop of eKhaya eKasi Art & Education Centre where I first visited in December 2012. eKhaya eKasi imeans ‘home in the hood’ in isiXhosa, the predominant language in this Cape Town Township. The neighbourhood has modest brick houses and informal dwellings. The informal homes are made of corrugated metal, tin and wood and residents share a communal water source and toilets. This Township was established during the apartheid era in 1985 and is Cape Town’s largest.

 

Women make bracelets for a Cape Town company at eKhaya eKasi, a non-profit multi-purpose community centre that offers programs that address unemployment, illiteracy, poverty, health and HIV/AIDS. The skills development programs teach women, mostly mothers and grandmothers, arts, crafts and entrepreneurship. eKhaya eKasi contains an on-site art boutique where participants may sell their work to the tourists that visit. Sales provide revenue to the centre so the programs may continue as well as offers an opportunity for the women to generate an income so they may provide for their families. Women are often the sole providers and caregivers in the Township and face challenges such as high unemployment rates, alcoholism and domestic abuse. The centre also acts as a haven for residents, especially for women and gives them a chance to socialize
Women at eKhaya eKasi make bracelets for Cape Town businesses. Programs that address unemployment, illiteracy, poverty, health and HIV/AIDS are offered. The skills development programs teach women, mostly mothers and grandmothers, arts, crafts and entrepreneurship. There is an on-site art boutique where participants sell their work to the tourists that visit. Sales provide revenue to the centre so the programs may continue as well as offers an opportunity for the women to generate an income so they may provide for themselves and their loved ones. Women are often the sole providers and caregivers in the Township and face challenges such as high unemployment rates, alcoholism and domestic abuse.
eKhaya eKasi also provides space for social services and community meetings. Women in the skills development program serve soup to residents for the Meals on Wheels program. The Elders seated in this photo meet to discuss their burial society. Burial societies are designed to help ease the costs of a funeral by operating on a monthly contribution. The estimate is that two thirds of households in townships participate. The ability to give their family a dignified burial is a significant cultural event and expectation for most black South Africans.
eKhaya eKasi provides space for social services and community meetings. Women in the skills development program serve soup to residents for the Meals on Wheels program. The Elders seated in the photo met to discuss their burial society. Burial societies are designed to help ease the costs of a funeral by operating on a monthly contribution. The estimate is that two-thirds of households in townships participate. The ability to give their family a dignified burial is a significant cultural event.

 

Veliswa Wowo, a married mother of 4 and a founding member of The Heart of a Woman Project in South Africa photographs live chickens in Khayelitsha. Inspired by the model of education and empowerment through the arts, I founded The Heart of a Woman Project, an initiative that partners with non-profit organizations focused on women’s empowerment and skills development. The goal is to educate women impacted by poverty in mobile photography, technology and social media using donated previously owned iPhones. It aims to empower women to have a voice, a creative outlet and sustainable income through the sales of photographic products. I returned to eKhaya eKasi in November 2013 to pilot the program with 9 participants over an 11-day workshop.
Veliswa Wowo, a married mother of 4 and founding member of The Heart of a Woman Project in South Africa, photographs live chickens in Khayelitsha. Inspired by the model of education and empowerment through the arts, Andrea Rees founded The Heart of a Woman Project, a development initiative that partners with non-profit organizations focused on women’s empowerment, poverty alleviation and skills development. The goal is to educate women in mobile photography and social media using donated previously owned iPhones. It aims to empower women to have a voice, access to the Internet, a creative outlet and an opportunity to earn income through the sales of photographic products and photo-based campaigns. The program began at eKhaya eKasi in November 2013 with 9 participants over an 11-day workshop.

 

Work clothes hang on a clothesline outside a shack in an informal settlement that we photographed in Khayelitsha. Informal settlements are areas with makeshift dwellings crammed together. Residents do not have access to water in their homes or on their property. They must walk to get water from a communal water source and use communal toilets, which are often in disrepair, and the toilets unclean.
Work clothes hang on a clothesline in an informal settlement that we photographed in Khayelitsha. Informal settlements are areas with makeshift dwellings crammed closely together. Residents do not have access to water in their homes or on their property. They must walk to get water from a communal water source and use communal toilets, which are often in disrepair. Participants in the program are active on social media and use their photos and voice to share Township Life.

 

Yolanda Nkatula, a married mother of 2 pauses to photograph a ‘Stop Woman Abuse’ mural on Walter Sisulu Road in Khayelitsha in November 2013. Many of the fences are painted with street art and showcase anything from advertising a local business to addressing social issues.
Yolanda Nkatula, a married mother of 2 pauses to photograph a ‘Stop Woman Abuse’ mural on Walter Sisulu Road in Khayelitsha. Many of the fences are painted with street art and showcase anything from advertising a local business to addressing social issues.

 

Aviwe, a participant in The Heart of a Woman Project photographs children in Khayelitsha as a curious resident looks on. Shortly after this photo was taken we were warned by shopkeepers and residents to not continue on this road as we neared an informal settlement. They were concerned our iPhones would be stolen. Two men often accompany the women on their photo walk in the Townships.
Aviwe Dalingozi, a participant in The Heart of a Woman Project, photographs children in Khayelitsha as a curious resident looks on.

 

Retsepile Tom, founding member of The Heart of a Woman Project photographs an informal settlement. The population of Khayelitsha is speculated to be over 1 million people. It is difficult to count the numbers as there are several areas where informal settlements are housed. This one has an approximate population of 11,000 people.
Retsepile Tom, a founding member of The Heart of a Woman Project, photographs an informal settlement. This settlement has an approximate population of 11,000 people.

 

Participants, Yolanda Nkatula and Esther Mahlasela share a laugh at a bus stop in Khayelitsha.
Participants, Yolanda Nkatula and Esther Mahlasela, share a laugh as they pretend to be waiting for a bus at this Khayelitsha bus stop. We stopped to discuss the art of capturing street photos.

 

Yolanda Nkatula and Aviwe Dalingozi photograph the mural on a shipping container, home to Mama Blessing Hair Salon in Khayelitsha. The Townships have become like cities and are made up of small commercial shopping malls and independently owned businesses. These businesses sell their goods and services in shacks, shipping containers or simply on the sidewalk. With high unemployment rates in Khayelitsha, it is necessary to find economic opportunities. Most of the containers and shacks are painted with colourful murals with many honouring their strong beliefs.
Yolanda Nkatula and Aviwe Dalingozi photograph the mural on a shipping container, home to Mama Blessing Hair Salon in Khayelitsha. Several small commercial shopping malls and many independently owned businesses can be found here. These companies sell their goods and services in shacks, shipping containers or simply on the sidewalk. With high unemployment rates in Khayelitsha, it is necessary to find economic opportunities. Most of the containers and shacks are painted with colourful murals.

 

Participants walk back to the van after a day of photographing Township Life for the postcard image.
Participants walk (and dance) back to the van after two days of photographing Township Life with the goal of one of the images becoming a postcard.

 

Esther sits at the project’s laptop to take her turn learning how to adjust the brightness of the screen. As she placed the pointer on the slider to lower the brightness, she accidentally dragged it too far and the screen went into complete darkness. Development programs give participants the opportunity for peer-to-peer learning, to solve problems and work together. I returned to eKhaya eKasi in May 2014 for 2 weeks to offer further training. Workshops focused on basic computer skills, social media and photo editing.
Esther Mahlasela (red hat) sits at the project’s laptop to take her turn learning how to adjust the brightness of the screen. As she placed the pointer on the slider to lower the intensity, she accidentally dragged it too far, and the screen went into complete darkness. Development programs give participants the opportunity for peer-to-peer learning, to solve problems and work together. ThoawSA workshops focused on basic computer skills, mobile photography, social media and digital literacy.

 

A participant in The Heart of a Woman Project in South Africa folds greeting cards, the newest product that launched in May 2014. At the end of the 11-day workshop in November 2013 each participant was given 200 postcards of one of their images to sell in the on-site boutique at eKhaya eKasi. Both products are currently sold in the boutique, globally through the website and at The Backpack, an award-winning hostel in Cape Town. It was revealed at the first anniversary photography exhibition and celebration in November 2014 that this program is the highest income generator.
A participant in The Heart of a Woman Project in South Africa folds the newest product, greeting cards. At the end of the workshop in November 2013, each participant was given 200 postcards of one of their images to sell in the on-site boutique at eKhaya eKasi. Both products are currently sold in the shop and globally through the website.  Postcards are available at The Backpack, an award-winning hostel in Cape Town. It was revealed at the first-anniversary photography exhibition in November 2014 that this program is the highest income generator.

 

The women get familiar with Hubspace Khayelitsha. Hubspace provides a co-working environment for entrepreneurs in townships. They host a variety of workshops and events for their members.
The women get familiar with Hubspace Khayelitsha. Hubspace provides a co-working environment for entrepreneurs in townships. They host a variety of workshops and events and offer advisory service and business support for their members.

 

Nwabisa Ndongeni, project leader of The Heart of a Woman Project talks about the program to tourists visiting the centre on tour with Uthando South Africa, a responsible tourism organization.
Nwabisa Ndongeni, the project coordinator of The Heart of a Woman Project in South Africa, talks about the program to tourists visiting the centre with Uthando South Africa, a responsible tourism organization.

 

Nwabisa Ndongeni a mother of 2, photographs Henry at the Site C taxi rank in Khayelitsha as Thoban Joppie, a member of the Cape Town Instagram community offers some tips. On June 1, 2014, the women hosted the inaugural #InstameetEKASI in Khayelitsha with members of the Cape Town Igers (instagrammers). It was wonderful to see these two communities come together in their mutual love of mobile photography and Instagram. The ladies enjoyed their time, appreciated the tips and look forward to another InstameetEKASI.
Nwabisa Ndongeni, mother of 2 and founding member, photographs Henry at the Site C taxi rank in Khayelitsha as Thoban Joppie, a member of the Cape Town Instagram community offers some tips. On June 1, 2014, the women hosted the inaugural #InstameetEKASI in Khayelitsha with members of the Cape Town Igers (instagrammers). It was beautiful to see these two communities come together in their mutual love of mobile photography and Instagram. The ladies enjoyed their time, appreciated the tips and look forward to another InstameetEKASI.

 

Henry, Site C. Photo taken June 1, 2014 by Nwabisa Ndongeni at InstameetEKASI. Nwabisa is one of the founding members of The Heart of a Woman Project mobile photography program at eKhaya eKasi and a leader in the program. She has been teaching the 3 newest participants since October 2014. Photo by Project Leader Nwabisa Ndongeni.
Henry, Site C. Photo was taken June 1, 2014, by Nwabisa Ndongeni at the inaugural InstameetEKASI. Nwabisa is one of the founding members of The Heart of a Woman Project mobile photography program at eKhaya eKasi and the coordinator of the program. She has been teaching the three newest participants since October 2014.

 

Velisa Wowo, a founding member of The Heart of a Woman Project mobile photography program at eKhaya eKasi proudly displays a framed image of her photo of a shoe repairman in Khayelitsha. This image is Veliswa’s series 1.0 postcard and greeting card and was taken with a donated previously owned iPhone 4s. I surprised the women with framed photos of their ‘postcard images’ in June 2014. They are on display at eKhaya eKasi and were admired by the community and guests at the 1st anniversary photography exhibition and cultural celebration at the centre on November 22, 2014.
Velisa Wowo, a founding member of The Heart of a Woman Project mobile photography program at eKhaya eKasi proudly displays a framed image of her photo of a shoe repairman in Khayelitsha. This picture is Veliswa’s series 1.0 postcard and greeting card and was taken with a donated previously owned iPhone 4s. The women were surprised with framed photos of their ‘postcard images’ in June 2014. They are on display at eKhaya eKasi and were admired by the community and guests at the 1st-anniversary photography exhibition at the centre on November 22, 2014.

 

Busisiwe Dalingozi, a married mother of 2 goes through her iPhone photos and shares them on social media. Each participant has her own Instagram, Twitter and Facebook accounts. The ladies use social media to share images of Township life and connect with supporters around the world. They also share the events taking place at eKhaya eKasi such as the Uthando tours, a wedding and a luncheon for Arun Gandhi and Gandhi Legacy Tour that visited in June 2014. To connect with the women on Instagram and Twitter, search for hashtag #thoawSA (The Heart of a Woman Project South Africa).
Busisiwe Dalingozi, a married mother of 2, goes through her iPhone photos and shares them on social media. Each participant has their own Instagram, Twitter and Facebook accounts. The ladies use social media to share images of Township life and connect with supporters around the world. They also share the events taking place at eKhaya eKasi such as Uthando tours, a wedding, and a luncheon for Arun Gandhi and Gandhi Legacy Tour that visited with Uthando in June 2014. To connect with the women on Instagram and Twitter, search for hashtag #thoawSA (The Heart of a Woman Project South Africa) or #eKhayaeKasi.

 

 

This is a collage of the women’s photos taken over the first year of The Heart of a Woman Project in South Africa. It was debuted at at the 1st anniversary photography exhibition and cultural celebration at eKhaya eKasi on November 22, 2014.
A collage in the shape of a heart of the women’s photos taken over the first year of The Heart of a Woman Project in South Africa. It was debuted at the 1st-anniversary photography exhibition at eKhaya eKasi on November 22, 2014.

 

The Eza Kwantu Cultural Group performs at The Heart of a Woman Project First Anniversary Cultural Celebration and Photography Exhibition. Eza Kwantu is a local youth group of vocalists that sing in isiXhosa.
The Eza Kwantu Cultural Group performs at The Heart of a Woman Project First Anniversary Exhibition. Eza Kwantu is a local youth group of vocalists that sing in isiXhosa.

 

the heart of a woman project - south africa
“Photography is more than art; it is empowerment, it is a creative outlet, it is a voice, and it is a source of income for a group of women from a Cape Town Township” – Andrea Rees

eKhaya eKasi generates income through product sales in its on-site art boutique, business to business orders and through tourism.  The art boutique focuses on handmade crafts such as shwe shwe heart ornaments and bags, bead and wire products and photography products by artists in the women’s skills development programs, from the community and other areas of South Africa.

The goal is to draw tourists into a community that did not previously have tourism attractions, to offer cultural exchange and to provide economic opportunity to the artists and residents that partner and work with the centre.

Every sale and visit offer travellers an opportunity to visit projects that are making a difference in their communities, contribute to the local economy and make a difference with your purchases.

Visiting Cape Town?

  • Visit eKhaya eKasi for more information and to arrange a visit.
  • Travel with Uthando South Africa to visit eKhaya eKasi and other development projects on a half-day tour.
  • Stay at The Backpack, an award-winning Fair-trade hostel suitable for all ages.

 

Outside of Cape Town

 

16 Instagrams of our Family Trip to South Africa

In November 2014, I returned to South Africa for my 4th visit, but this time with my husband and 2 sons (ages 9 & 4) in tow. My father also joined us for part of the trip.

If you’ve been following me for a while you would have heard of a women’s mobile photography development initiative I founded, The Heart of a Woman Project. The South Africa project is based at eKhaya eKasi Art & Education Centre, a non-profit community centre in the heart of Cape Town’s largest township, Khayelitsha.

On November 22, 2014, we commemorated our 1st anniversary with a mobile photography exhibition and cultural celebration and was thrilled to have my family with me for this very special return trip and for 2 weeks in South Africa.

at eKhaya eKasi Art & Education Centre, Khayelitsha, South Africa.
at eKhaya eKasi Art & Education Centre, Khayelitsha, South Africa.

 

Cape Town Tips: 

  • Go on a meaningful and inspiring tour to development projects in the townships with Uthando SA. Uthando is an award-winning fair trade tourism organization doing amazing work. Your tour directly helps the development projects you visit. Visit eKhaya eKasi.
  • Visit the V&A waterfront for shopping or a meal, they have a great playground
  • Visit Boulders Beach in Simonstown but get off the path and take the boardwalk down to the beach for the best view of the penguins. Swim or splash in the ocean and have a picnic.
  • Visit Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope, you may see ostriches and baboons.
  • Visit Muizenberg and watch the surfers or go to the nearby waterslides or mini golf.  There is a playground at the main beach and plenty of restaurants. Have a falafel at Yoffi’s
  • Visit the smaller and less busy St. James Beach, they have those colourful beach huts (change rooms) too and a great tidal pool for swimming.
  • Drive Chapman’s Peak drive and stop at the lookout points
  • Have fish ‘n chips in Kalk Bay, try Kalky’s or Lucky’s.
  • Catch the sunset from Signal Hill

 

In Cape Town, Khayelitsha and the Cape Peninsula:

A stunning view of Table Mountain, Lion's Head and Signal Hill on the approach into Cape Town. #iphoneonly #familytravel

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The underpass at St. James Beach. #blackandwhite #bw #CapeTown

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Love the #streetart in Woodstock. #streetphotography #CapeTown #iphoneonly #travel

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Family Friendly Safari:

There are an overwhelming number of places to choose from for a safari in South Africa. Not all places are created equal and are family friendly.  Some lodges welcome children 6 years of age and older while others children have to be 12 years of age and older. I chose Naledi Game Lodges for our family safari as I had been there a few times and enjoyed the intimate atmosphere and South African family owned safari lodge. My sons were 4 and 9 years old at the time and were welcome on all the game drives.

What I love about a safari in a private reserve:

  • You get the knowledge and keen eyes of the guides and trackers
  • Someone else does the driving so you can enjoy the scenery and take photos
  • You often get a closer look at the wildlife as you go off-road to follow the sound of the cracking branches by the elephants or follow the lion pride as they look for their next meal.
  • The drives are 3 hours each but you stop for drinks, snacks and a bathroom break, bush style. My boys fell asleep for a short nap every game drive (early mornings) but didn’t miss any of the action.

 

Tip: If you visit Naledi Game Lodges, make sure to visit Rosie’s hide while there, it overlooks a waterhole. Enjoy the sounds of the bush and see what comes by for a drink. Have you heard of Africam, 24-hour webcam streaming from South Africa? Naledi has 3 webcams on their property, one at Rosie’s, one overlooking the river at Naledi Enkoveni and the newest one is a cat cam (ground level). It was great to show my boys the cams before their visit and we have watched them since our visit.

Naledi is an award-winning luxury lodge, but I think you would be surprised at how reasonably priced it is. They have 2 lodges, we stayed at the Naledi Enkoveni lodge. At the time of our visit I hadn’t stayed at Bush Camp, I have since stayed at both lodges and cannot decide which I like better, both Bush Camp and Enkoveni are a real treat.

Travel Tips: 

  • Spend 1-2 nights on the Panorama route to enjoy God’s Window and Blyde River Canyon on the way to Limpopo.
  • Stay at  Tsanana Log Cabins at the Africa Silks Farm near Graskop in Mpumalanga. It’s a great place for families on the Panorama route and you can take a tour.
  • Have pannekoek (pancakes) at Harrie’s Pancakes in Graskop
  • Visit the Giant Baobab tree also known as the Glencoe Baobab near Hoedspruit. It is said that the tree is over 2000 years old. There is a small restaurant on the property, they also serve wonderful pannekoek.

 

Two yellow billed hornbills in sihouette against a South African sunset. #safari #em1 #MeetSouthAfrica #naledigamelodge

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Giraffe gang. On safari in #SouthAfrica #em1 #naledigamelodge #familytravel

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Yellow billed hornbill. Saw this on safari with Naledi Enkoveni in #SouthAfrica. #naledigamelodge #safari #em1

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Until next time,

Andrea… and my wandering iPhone

 

Note: Images marked #iphoneonly were taken with an iPhone 6. Images marked #em1 were taken with an Olympus OMD em1 and pro lenses.