I visited the Mapula group in 2009 and was charmed by the needle women who are as delightful as their tapestries. Mapula cloths are beautifully hand embroidered and are highly collectible wall hangings. It was a warm autumn day when we traveled to The Winterveld with Janétje van der Merwe, who works closely with the group to promote their work. It was a delight to give the women gifts of bundles of embroidery floss collected by women in Canada.
Mapula means Mother of Rain and was founded in 1991 by Soroptimists International Pretoria and the Sisters of Mercy in the Winterveldt, North West of Pretoria, South Africa. Emily Maluleke carried out embroidery training. There is a great need for an income-generating project in this desperately poor area. There are about 80 women in the group. Their sole income is from the sale of the embroideries that support entire families.
Mapula textiles have become highly collectible and have been exhibited in Greece, Germany and England and have won many awards, including the overall gold at the prestigious FNB Vita Craft Now Millennium Awards Exhibition in S.A.
The Mapula Embroidery Project was represented at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington DC in 1999.
HRH Queen Elizabeth was presented with a Mapula cloth during her visit to South Africa in 1999 and Mrs. Zanele Mbeki, wife of the past President of South Africa, purchased 65 Mapula cloths as gifts for the spouses of the Visiting Heads of States during the World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002. President Obama was presented with a beautiful Mapula tapestry at the White House in 2010.