- written by Neil Sawers, board member
You’re en route to Hamburg on the coast of the Eastern Cape.
First, to East London. South African Airways will fly you there from Johannesburg or Cape Town. You’ll descend over one of South Africa’s informal settlements, make your way through a small terminal, then to your rental car, a short block away.
Uh oh! What’s this? The steering wheel’s on the right? Yes! They drive on the left in South Africa. Carefully, you navigate to the closest Pick n Pay store to buy groceries. Then you’re off west on Route 72 connecting East London with Port Elizabeth. It’s a good highway with plenty of passing lanes and you might catch glimpses of the Indian Ocean.
In an hour and a quarter you reach the Hamburg turnoff, and gravel. If you’re lucky the road will be graded. If it rains, the road becomes a quagmire.
You follow this road, interrupted by beautifully patterned Nguni cattle, scores of sheep and goats, a few small donkey carts, at least one large tortoise, and several children walking home from school. At Hamburg you hit pavement through the village and down to the sea.
Hamburg is rural South Africa and home to the Keiskamma Trust and its Art Project. And when you stay and volunteer in Hamburg, as my wife Marilyn and I have done, you pick up the rhythm of the place and its people.
That rhythm, that vibrant pulse of life, is on full display in the new Imbumba Exhibit at the McMullen Gallery, main lobby, the University of Alberta Hospital. “Imbumba” in the Xhosa language, is a bean seed, representing the unending cycle of life, renewal and growth.
What you will see is a remarkable collection of tapestries that capture the essence of the people and the place they live. The experience is enhanced by Gallery Director Tyler Girard’s uncanny ability to set these exhibits in such a way that they flow effortlessly from one to the next, capturing my memories of what it’s like to be there with the Xhosa people, by the Keiskamma river, and the ocean beyond.
You have until Easter Sunday, April 21, to catch this story, this picture of Hamburg at the McMullen Gallery. Please don’t miss it. And tell your friends. You might even discover a tapestry that would find a place in your home.