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African Fear Dolls re-dress the lives of Cape City hom…


Every one of many thirty dolls on the centre of the desk is exclusive and handmade from recycled supplies. Collectively they’re the day’s goal for a dozen women and men who belong to the Souper Squad, an empowerment programme run by Souper Troopers, the Cape City homeless advocacy and repair non-profit organisation. 

Their creativity is subsequent stage: one doll wrapped in a cape imprinted with a smiling Madiba, one other topped with purple and black braids, one in a fuchsia shweshwe costume with a gold medallion at her neck. Able to be shipped to new properties, they are going to be tucked underneath pillows to take the concerns away from anxious sleepers. 

Produced from vibrant recycled supplies, every African Fear Doll is exclusive and imbued with persona and aptitude. Picture: Simona Stone

The African Fear Doll challenge

The African Fear Doll challenge started as a workshop in July 2022 and has since blossomed into an earnings producing stream for Souper Troopers and employment for the Souper Squad, a choose group of 25 unhoused people who find themselves contributors in a job creation and psychosocial help programme. Their progress for the reason that Squad’s inception 10 months in the past is extraordinary.

Of the 25 Squad members, 22 are clear and not utilizing the substances they have been hooked on, 20 not dwell on the streets, 25 have financial institution accounts and ID paperwork, eight have managed to avoid wasting for his or her future, 25 ship cash dwelling to their households each month and 25 have achieved the targets they set for themselves.

African Worry Doll. Image: Supplied / Ilana Sharlin Stone
African Fear Doll. Picture: Equipped / Ilana Sharlin Stone

Nice issues are available small packages

The African Fear Dolls are loosely primarily based on the handmade miniature dolls to which Guatemalan youngsters whisper their worries earlier than putting them underneath their pillows at evening; to be gifted within the morning with the knowledge and braveness they want. Making use of this idea, the group of Cape City makers have used their creativeness and camaraderie to create distinctively African dolls out of undesirable material scraps, stockings, paper clips, pompoms, tassels, beads and just about any small object of decoration. 

That is greater than an train in upcycling. Not solely do these discarded odds and ends develop into characterful dolls, the dolls themselves are injected with the love and sense of neighborhood that’s pivotal to this programme. “It’s nearly like they develop their very own personalities; it’s like they converse to you,” says Hans Moolman, who’s dressing a doll in brown shweshwe.

The dolls’ personalities are necessary, explains Odette Oliver, who supervises the manufacturing group and, since becoming a member of the Squad, has lived in a shelter for abused girls. “We would like them to look pleasant and welcoming; very content material, fulfilled and completely happy, however not so completely happy that they’re self-absorbed and can’t be there to offer consolation.” 

Whereas the Squad works, disco and ’80s tracks pump vitality and luxury via the workshop on this restored previous Woodstock constructing, the brand new dwelling of Souper Troopers. The work is split between two lengthy tables – one for making our bodies; one for dressing and hair. Phillip Slabbert, who has bought his personal small stitching machine to complete garment edges, has his personal area in a quiet nook, and fortunately works with headphones on. 

On the first desk, Werner Goerke – aka “The Arms Vendor” – unfolds paper clips into straight arms, paints them with brown acrylic paint and secures them between layers of cardboard. He passes them to Nuraan Julius, who cuts and hand stitches heads out of squares of stockings which are turned inside out and filled with the filling of previous pillows. 

The dolls’ our bodies are produced from recycled cardboard, the arms from paper clips and the heads from stockings. Picture: Simona Stone
Every doll is hand-crafted from donated supplies, from stockings to shweshwe offcuts to mini pompoms, in a course of that’s each inventive and therapeutic. Picture: Simona Stone

Eyes are home windows to the soul

From there they go to Tania Dilgee, the face specialist. There’s extra to this than placing heads on our bodies and stitching a mouth and two eyes. There are pupils, irises and eyebrows, and a slight deviation of a mouth or a raised eyebrow might make a doll look imply, quite than comforting. “I attempt to maintain the eyes equal, and the heads the identical dimension,” she says as she criss-crosses blue cotton throughout a doll’s torso, securing a head topped with a coil of black braids to a physique.

“When you solely knew the emotion that goes into these dolls, and what they signify,” says Kerry Hoffman, founding father of Souper Troopers. “There’s one thing transformative about them: the consolation they supply in addition to the therapeutic advantages to our manufacturers, a lot of whom have psychological and bodily challenges. 

“The inventive course of is therapeutic; it’s as if these tiny dolls are a manifestation of all of the goodness and hope that comes from treating homeless folks with dignity, love and respect.”

Oliver deftly wraps a circle of shweshwe round a physique, folding it into swirls of purple and black as she talks concerning the challenge. “Personally, I can say that the dolls have utterly modified my life. I feel my progress within the final three months is far more than within the final 5 years.” She takes nice pleasure in her work, together with her designs rising from the completely pencil skirts of her first dolls to flouncy frocks. 

Tania Dilgee, who does the intricate stitching of the faces, with a tray of dolls able to be dressed. Picture: Simona Stone
Werner Goerke, within the foreground, is the “Arms Vendor” who attaches the paper clip arms to every physique; working with (l to r) Denim Lourens, Maryna Hohls, Hans Moolman and Lo-Mandi Mulder. Picture: Simona Stone
The inventive group behind the dolls (clockwise from left): Maryna Hohls, Hans Moolman, Lo-Mandi Mulder, Phillip Slabbert, Sharon Petersen, Gideon Venter, Tania Dilgee, Renee Williams, Odette Oliver and Denim Lourens. Picture: Simona Stone
Denim Lourens, Maryna Hohls and Hans Moolman do the intricate hair and dressing of the dolls underneath work produced by Souper Troopers’ artists.(l to r). Picture: Simona Stone

Bejewelled and empowered

Maryna Hohls, famous within the group for her artistry, does the ultimate touches: jewelry (sequins and beads), the tying up of hair (produced from tassels, pompoms and mainly any fibrous materials), and catches any errors. “It’s good to be inventive; there’s no unsuitable,” she says, in a mushy voice. 

When the calls for are nice, everybody steps up, actually. Swedish singer Lykke Li’s I Follow Rivers  the Squad’s anthem – sees everybody on their ft, singing and dancing. “We thrive on one another’s energies and it’s at all times a collective effort,” says Moolman. In manufacturing, in banter and in life.

“I at all times obtain my targets right here in high quality and amount,” says Dilgee, whereas throughout the desk from her, a Basotho blanket-wrapped mini diva will get a beaded collar. “I take this dwelling with me and I discover that my life begins to work higher. We’re a tremendous group, and all of us pull collectively.”

Tiny dolls they might be, however the energy they’ve is gigantic. DM/ ML

African Fear Dolls could be ordered on-line for R90 every from the Souper Market on Souper Troopers’ website. Souper Troopers additionally welcomes donations of all supplies that can be utilized within the manufacturing of African Fear Dolls. 


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