The Mama Project

The Mama Project

From Sara Stackhouse

In August 2017, a group of female artists from Boston will travel to Cape Town to collaborate with a group of South African women for a community art project exploring motherhood, dignity, culture & connection.

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Sara Stackhouse posted a new update:
over 1 year ago

Update #7

Dear Mama Project supporters,

We returned from Cape Town Thursday night.

The week leading up to our departure included a spectacular trip to The Fugard Theater with all of the Mama Project participants. This was the first time any of them had ever been in a theater. The Fugard partnered with us to make this experience count-they gave backstage tours to our group, held a question and answer session with one of the artistic leaders, and brought our group out to stand on the stage! The production, King Kong, was stunning and relevant--about the rise and fall of a South Africa boxer who faced difficult choices and their consequences. It was an evening full of dance and song and fantastic performances. The Mama Project ladies were transfixed and energized, posed for photos in the lobby, and left the theater in a packed taxi singing at the top of their lungs!

Two days later, on Saturday 19th, we held our final exhibit at an African restaurant at the lookout in Khayelitsha. On display were the Mama Project full sized "beautiful self portraits", their hand made lanterns, the Women's Day celebration garden full of paper flowers, the accordian books ladies had made, page by page, each day, and photos of our trip to the Fugard. The photographs taken by each woman were out on tables and strung across the space on clothes lines. All of the participants wore t-shirts that said "The Mama Project" on the front, and "ARTIST" across the back. Before guests arrived, there was a spontaneous dance party with a conga line and dance circle.

Then, they greeted their guests-family and community members, volunteers from HOSA, Sibongile, and leaders from other local NGOs, and showed them their art. We gathered together and six of the women presented about the project. We then watched a 12 minute short film put together by Austin de Besche, who documented the entire Mama Project on film. We culminated with a shared meal, gave each woman a goody bag with art supplies and small gifts, and had many photos and tearful hugs goodbye.

The pride and sense of community was palpable. Friends who work in Cape Town shared that they rarely see a mix of races and cultures working together this way, and so many barriers broken down (religious, cultural, racial, geographic, economic, lingual). One of the participants shared that she had been struggling with drug abuse and depression this last year, and hadn't come out of her house for 5 months. At the exhibit, she presented her book with humor and pride. Her husband told me afterwards that he was stunned that she got up and spoke in front of anyone--that he had never seen her do anything like that. Several participants shared that this project was life-changing for them. It certainly was for the US Mamas who participated.

Before we flew home Wednesday night, a small group of us did a final trip to the 7de Laan settlement and met with the women there to debrief on the project. They told us that they have a new sense of one another and their community and they plan to keep the project going on their own. They are forming a monthly Mama Project club where they will share their stories, cook together, and sell food from a stall so they can collect funds that will allow them to do outings and projects together. They are also going to create a calendar using their Mama Project photographs to sell. They asked if we could come back next year to do another life-changing Mama Project--this one focusing on telling their stories through theater and performing arts.

Separately, the Xhosa ladies from Khayelitsha, Malmesbury, and Langa, have all asked for a continuation of the project. One friend from Khayelitsha shared that this project was like a sermon to her, giving her new life.

Our next steps are to recover (phew!), to contact the Fugard Theater about partnering on the next phase of the Mama Project, and to stay in touch with the South African Mamas to see how their work develops there, and to send some support to them.

I am committed to returning next summer, and will begin fundraising later this fall.

Meantime, on behalf of all of us, Thank you, Enkosi, Danke! You have made a real difference in the lives of women who struggle daily, and helped bring light into their lives. The world needs more of this, and you helped make it happen.

With gratitude,

Sara and all of the MAMAs
Rosalyn, Auntie Kathy, Aunty Maggie, Toema, Samantha, Ashre, Kay-lee, Elizabeth, Charmaine, Geneva, Abigail, Judith, Gladys, Auntie Joan, Justine, Linda, Bukelwa, Lulama, Ribecca, Thembisa, Aluta, Nwabisa, Nozuko, Eyethu, Violet, Alli, Lori, Bobbie, Tracy, Anne, Danielle, Emily, Sarah, Cynthia, Natalie and Sara

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Sara Stackhouse posted a new update:
over 1 year ago

Update #6

Dear Mama Project Supporters,

The last few weeks in Cape Town have been truly astonishing and The Mama Project has exceeded our expectations.

We kicked off with a Women's Day event where we expected about 30 people, but had 45. The Xhosa ladies came in traditional dress, and the 7de Laan community ladies packed 13 women into an 8-seat van to come! We also had visitors from Holland, England, Germany and all of our US Mama Project Team. Each group brought traditional foods and shared stories about why they brought these specific foods to share--we had steamed breads, Cape Malay curry, lasagnes and apple pies, and samosas. The Xhosa ladies did several boisterous dances and songs for us, one which translated into "If you strike a woman, you strike a rock"! We made a big "I celebrate women because..." garden on the wall, and each woman made paper flowers sharing the things they celebrate. It was an incredible and joyful day.

We have held 4 days of workshops since then:

-Beautiful self: a day where we shared stories about our mothers and made full-size beautiful self portraits.

-What I see/What I make: a day where we shared stories about food we make to share with others and learned how to make samosas from Toema, then we broke into teams and did photography treasure hunts throughout the 7de Laan and Khayelitsha communities, capturing things that were beautiful, things we were afraid of, women we admired, etc. We shared a feast of the samosas we made and a mutton curry. Gorgeous friendships, photos, and sharing of people's homes made this a really special day.

-Our struggles/Our joy: an evening where we shared our struggles as women, then did a joyful snail dance in the Khayelitsha dusk. Then we broke into teams of people from different cultures and made gestures that shared our power and love, which we shared in front of the rest of the group to great whoops and hollers, followed by ice cream.

-Our Light: a peaceful evening sharing the now printed photos and reflecting on them, eating braai meat from Town 2, and then making laterns. We lit the lanterns in the dark and shared what light we have to give to the world.

Each woman also made one page of an accordian book for each day together.

I am not exaggerating when I say that this week has been life changing for everyone involved. People have crossed community barriers that have long been a taboo and be-friended women who speak other languages, have different religions, and come from different cultures and continents.

While much of the world is cracking and breaking, we are, in a small but powerful way, mending things together through art and food and community. This is all possible because of your support. THANK YOU!

Tomorrow night we take 45 women to the Fugard Theater to see King Kong!, the quintessential South African jazz musical. None of these ladies have been in a theater before. The Artistic Director of the Fugard has arranged a back stage tour and Q&A for our entire group before the show. It should be a pretty awesome night.

Then Saturday we host an exhibition and celebration of our work open to the community. I'll post again after that with some links to photos.

Meantime, please know that your contributions have made something amazing happen.

With light and love,

The Mama Project

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Sara Stackhouse posted a new update:
over 1 year ago

Update #5

Dear Mama Project supporters,

We are packing this evening and we leave for Cape Town on Thursday to begin the Mama Project. After dreaming about this project and working on it for so many months (years, really) it is hard to believe it is actually about to happen! Our team of 7 female artists and their families will all arrive in Cape Town between this Friday and August 8.

Here are some of our plans:

Kick-off: Two kick off events are planned with women in Khayelitsha and in the 7de Laan community on August 9, which is National Women's Day in South Africa!

August 10-18: We are running a series of creative workshops for women, during which we will explore what it means to be a mother, share our cultures, and make art together. This includes photography, book making, lantern making, singing, cooking, drawing and painting, storytelling and more...

August 17: All of the participants will visit the Fugard Theater for a tour, a talk with cast members, and a performance of King Kong, the quintessential South African jazz musical (for real). Most of the women in the project have never been to a theater before, so this should be an amazing evening.

August 19 we have rented an exhibition space in the Khayelitsha township and will hold a big public sharing/exhibition of all the work we have created together!

Food, music, art, community. It doesn't get much better than that!

In preparing for this work over the past few weeks, I received messages from two of our partners on the ground and wanted to share them with you:

From our partner Justine at Hope Southern Africa:

"I printed the invitations yesterday and gave to the three ladies that came to bible study yesterday, who were SO excited! One of them said it was a God send as she had been thinking for a long time that she had this urge to express and share her life and her story and just didn’t know how. She was adamant she wants to be there for the whole time!"

From our friend from Sibongile Day & Night Care Center in Khayelitsha:

"This is lovely! This is lovely, I am now more than excited, we all are!"

We can't wait to see what happens on once we get there. What we do know is that working with these communities, bringing together people who are different from each other to create, express, and connect, is truly a gift for everyone involved, and is an extraordinary opportunity. And it is possible because of your support!

We will keep you posted with photos and news.

Thanks from the bottom of our hearts for your generous support of the Mama Project. Here we go...

on behalf of the Mama Project team

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Sara Stackhouse posted a new update:
about 2 years ago

Update #4

Hi Supporters of The Mama Project,

I just returned from CultureSummit 2017 in Abu Dhabi. There I met amazing artists and cultural thought leaders from every corner of the Globe. My belief that art changes lives and countries is stronger than ever. I came home incredibly energized about The Mama Project and what can happen when you bring people together to explore ideas, culture, and build new relationships.

Some updates:
1. We have been working with our partners at Hope Southern Africa and Sibongile Day & Night Care Center to recruit and engage South African women to collaborate with us and participate in The Mama Project in August, and have been talking with them to identify some questions we want to explore together as we gather to share culture, learn from each other, and create art. Our final sharing will be an exhibit on August 19 and we are already shaping some of it over skype and email and facebook messenger.

2. Our Boston team-Anne Rearick, Lori Taylor, Cynthia Good, Bobbie Steinbach, Tracy Rieur, Sarah de Besche, and me (Sara), as well as Austin de Besche who will do some filming, have met a few times to do preliminary project design. In Cape Town, we'll be joined by young artist Danielle Shay, and have been talking with the Fugard Theater and iSango Ensemble about some possible workshops and outings we can do together.

The Mama Project is off and running, and would not be possible without your incredible support. THANK YOU SO MUCH! In a time when the "other", walls, and fearful language dominate our media, you are helping to make a project about connection, relationships, hope and art with women from very different parts of the world --this feels like a radical and important act. Thank you for supporting The Mama Project!

More soon.

for The Mama Project

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Sara Stackhouse posted a new update:
about 2 years ago

Update #3

Hi Mama Project supporters,

I am so thrilled to say we have reached our goal!

Thank you all so so much for your incredible support of this beautiful project. Special thank you to a few major donors who stepped up this month and assured this can happen.

The world is ever more divided, and this project, small but mighty, is about connection, shared humanity and hope, and feels even more important now. Thank you for contributing!!!!

on behalf of The Mama Project

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Sara Stackhouse posted a new update:
over 2 years ago

Update #1

Hello Mama Project friends! I posted about this project about a month ago and am so happy to have so many supporters already-we have raised $4,500 so far. Note that over the holidays, we received several checks from family and friends who donated directly, not using Fundly, and we raised $1,500 this way, so we were able to reduce the total Fundly donation goal from $16,000 to $14,500! We have about $11,000 to go overall. If you can help us, we welcome any gift, large or small. This unique project for women from the townships in Cape Town and women from Boston, working together, will happen in August, and any donation is most welcome. Here's to 2017 being full of hope and light!
--Sara, for The Mama Project

Photo is from one of our project partner communities, 7de Laan, taken by Sara at Christmas 2016

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