They set out to create something positive, something artistic, something creative, something that the whole community could be involved in and as a result of an astounding group effort, 944 Prayer Flags of Hope will line the streets of Barrydale from 14 to 19 December.
The children and interns of charity orginisation Net vir Pret painted most of the flags under the guidance of their teacher, Cherie Dirksen, while the rest of the contributions came from local artists, businesses and villagers.
In fact, to illustrate just how village-focused this initiative became, we can today reveal that radio presenter turned axe-man Rueben “the screwman” Hart serves on the hanging committee.
Earlier this year Rueben played his axe in the Dung Beetle and Country Pumpkin restaurants and he is now part of the flag hanging committee that will in charge of decorating the Karoo Art Hotel and other places of interest.
The project is the brainchild of the prime genial Mez Karoo Kitchen owner Michelle Berry who, during the early days of lockdown, rediscovered a box of prayer flags she had made for a Barrydale in Bloom celebration of years gone by.
She instinctively knew it would be of great value and relevance as the world entered a strange space in time.
With her foresight a group of about 40 people united and focused their energy on sending out a message of optimism during the most uncertain winter in human history.
“A prayer flag has a positive connotation and during this time we thought it would be appropriate to do something that brings hope and reminds of the dreams we have,” said Michelle.
She was quick to point out that everyone she had approached to help with this idea had jumped at the chance to contribute. One of the first persons was Cherie and subsequently her under privileged art students became involved.
From sometimes unsung heroes at Net vir Pret like Herman Witbooi and Clarisa Esau to seaming sensations Richard Panaino and Katye Lovegrove, the willingness to contribute was overwhelming.
Even the local poetry society pitched in and their work will form part of the 10 flags from the town’s artists that will be on display at the Karoo Art Hotel in what is a very fitting reminder that the Barrydale Art Meander will also be in full swing during this time.
“It was a real community effort and we owe a lot of gratitude for a lot of people,” Michelle added.
She highlighted that a donation of table runner material by Arran Bastable of Barrydale Hand Weavers was very generous indeed and with the contribution from Colour Screen Fabric Paint in Cape Town they were all set for action.
As always, Ant Chidrawi of The Hub also contributed in his unique way by providing stencil work at no charge.
Flags of remembrance
Just a few weeks prior to the finalisation for the Prayer Flags of Hope, Net vir Pret and the community of Barrydale suffered a huge loss when beloved and respected music teacher Gari Crawford passed away following a stroke.
Gari had just completed a compilation of 10-years of music Net vir Pret created as part of their annual Puppet Parade.
“There was a general consensus that we wanted this project to be about hope and celebration of last 10 years of Net vir Pret, but we did not expect this sad setback,” Cherie explained.
Cherie made it her task to ensure that that flags representing the love that exists for the mentor Gari were created and that in doing so, the music maestro’s life would be celebrated.
She fought off her tears when she explained just how moving this final tribute to a much loved turned out to be.
Flags can become part of annual event(s)
Due to Covid related reasons the annual Puppet Parade was cancelled, although some of the the puppets that donned the streets of Barrydale over a decade will be on display in pre recorded puppet shows that will be broadcast online at certain times as part of the Barrydale Art Meander (BAM).
The 944 Prayer Flags of Hope that were created will be sold in bundles of 20 from the Magpie Art Gallery on December 19 and should any of these reasonably priced items go unsold, they will be utilised for 2021 celebrations.
All proceeds wil go to Net vir Pret.
Michelle noted that the flags will not be expensive and that Cherie might as well brace herself for the pressure related to producing such great volumes of excellence.
Cherie unofficially confirmed that they would double the number of hand crafted flags next year and fully supported the idea of creating these decorative gems annually.
“I was taken aback with Michelle’s idea and I immediately thought this could become a yearly event.”