The Art of the Creativity Centre

One of the ladies who works at the Creativity Centre.

Every day they come to the Centre to stitch pieces of fabric together, weaving designs onto cloths that are transformed into canvas of art. But the 10 women, five whom only work part time and come from surrounding homesteads, are stitching together so much more at the Bulembu Creativity Centre. They thread together pieces of their past, weaving them into their present, sewing them to the foundation of God’s Word, finding the ultimate creative process in themselves: healing, forgiveness and hope.

One of the beautiful advent calendars that are made by the ladies.

Jeanne Badenhorst, the Creativity Centre’s Senior Manager, began putting the Centre together with Leigh Puttkammer in August 2008. Starting with just three women, the Centre has grown in size and scope where numerous products are made and are available for purchase. Beautiful pillow covers, handbags, decorative art, and more are crafted together by the women of Bulembu. Many of them didn’t even know how to thread a needle when they first arrived at the Centre. It was up to Jeanne to give them the basic instructions. Now she has nine “masters” who help with newcomers, reducing the amount of training time, ultimately increasing output.

Jeanne with one of her favorite products.

Jeanne enjoys watching the ladies learn how to make aprons, cushion covers and broaches. She’s particularly fond of the love tree, which has hearts growing on it, and she’s constantly thinking of new and innovative items for the women to make.

“One new product I was thinking about is shopping bags,” she said. “Nice shopping bags because they’re a usable item. Have one for your bread, vegetables and so on and have a design of the bread on the bag.”

Embroidery hearts

Jeanne hopes the products will become available online and will have a larger distribution in Swaziland and South Africa but because they don’t have the capacity to supply shops with large orders, their focus is on what they can make for the guests who visit Bulembu. Many people who have visited Bulembu are often so impressed with the products they will return home and place orders for products to be delivered to the US, Germany, UK and South Africa. (To place an order and see items that are available, send an email to Jeanne@bulembu.org)

Jeanne also hopes to expand the Centre by adding The Striped Giraffe Café, which would be a deli-type of café for people to come from surrounding towns and cities to enjoy while spending the day in Bulembu.

While the items being produced at the Creativity Centre are important, and Jeanne certainly does want their crafts to stand alone in their uniqueness and quality, what is more important to her is the women who are part of the Creativity Centre.

Cute embroidery crafts made by the local ladies.

“I don’t want people to buy anything from this place because they feel sorry for us,,” she explained. “People must want the products. But I feel God’s vision though is to grow and train up the ladies of the Centre and invest in their lives for the next generation of embroiderers.”

Teach your children the ABCs with this great calendar.

These women, like so many of the citizens of Bulembu, come from broken homes and harsh, abusive backgrounds. The women at the Centre enjoy daily Bible studies and devotionals each morning and will often read the Bible throughout the day when they have a moment to themselves. One who has a particularly troubling history even sings while she works now, knowing she is in a safe place and that there is no need to fear. The Centre gives these women stability and fellowship, work and a craft, a Biblical and personal foundation as well as the chance to excel in art. What they make stitching, sewing, embroidering is not just something someone can buy. They are creating a new life, thread by thread, covering the past with crafts made of their own hands.

The ladies get together before work for devotions and prayer.

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6 thoughts on “The Art of the Creativity Centre

  1. The Creativity Centre was a wonderful surprise and a hidden gem when we visited Bulembu in March 2011. To see the camaraderie of the women working there under the direction of Jeanne’s gentle leadership was inspiring. The beautiful art and craft work we were able to purchase meant we could share Bulembu through special gifts for family and friends in Canada. Our own many wonderful purchases have beautified our home and are a reminder to continue in prayer for all who call Bulembu home.

  2. The ladies’ handiwork is truly lovely. Of course, it’s about more than their products, it’s about the process that brings them out of poverty and despair into God’s light of hope and healing. I remember meeting Jeanne soon after she arrived in Bulembu and shortly before I left; I’m so glad to know her vision has become a reality! May God continue to bless your efforts!

  3. You artwork is incredible. I think it would be wonderful if you could sell it all over the World, to let people know just who you are. Congratulations.

  4. This report is so very encouraging, and it is a story of success as well as forgiveness and initiative. I especially liked the phrase, “. . .finding the ultimate creative process in themselves: healing, forgiveness and hope.” And the ending phrase “. . .They are creating a new life, thread by thread, covering the past with crafts made of their own hands.” says so much. It is a wonderful story of healing and hope. It is my prayer that they will be successful and that their creative arts will sell – the way God has led in the past, we can expect great things yet to come. Thank you for this post — not only is it well written by the author, it allows us to have a secure hope for the future of the people of Bulembu.

  5. This is so exciting to read. I just wish we all had the opportunity to travel there to meet all the ladies involved. God Bless all of you for what you are doing.

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