Wednesday 22 November 2023

South Africa’s Bayeux Tapestry

 Ancilla writes: This time something a little different for us. It is not liturgical but a great example of perseverance and taking the time to preserve history. 

Located within the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria, South Africa is a famous tapestry depicting ‘Die Groot Trek’ or 'The Great Trek'. In 1836 and onwards Dutch settlers located along the coast travelled northward into the interior of South Africa. They styled themselves as “voortrekkers” which can be interpreted a number of ways: ‘pioneers’ being the most obvious chioce but also ‘pathfinders’ and 'those who trek ahead' gives more depth to what they did in settling in the interior or South Africa and the perils that came with it.

The tapestry was designed by W.H. Coetzer which began to be stitched in 1938 by nine women. It contains 3.3 million stitches highlighting these years of South African history and especially the role played by women in it. The tapestry took eight years to complete and consists of fifteen panels spanning the length of a long room.

What is admirable is unlike so much in our factory paced modern society this piece took years to complete. It must have seemed like an endless job at times. This quality is also seen in the Guild of St Clare. That is not to say that every piece we work on will take eight years! Rather that quality and prayerfulness is put into the projects. Both men and women are re-finding the path of how to make and mend liturgical items; though only the Holy Angels are counting the number of lovingly placed stitches we do. 

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