In 2007, long-time resident, Di Young had an inspired idea that initiated the Sedgefield Mosaic Art Project. She gained support from Sedgefield Tourism, Sedgefield Art Society, Sedgefield Ratepayers, Knysna Municipality and local business.
Together they formulated a business plan for the venture. It was an idea whose time had come and in 2008 the project began. Here’s the reason it became such a success.
1.Sedgefield’s local NPO, Masithandane had already proven its worth in managing and bringing to fruition many other important projects so it was a “no brainer” to give the umbrella charity the opportunity to become the implementing agent for the Sedgefield Mosaic Art Project.
2. The primary objective was to make the venture a job creation project teaching skills and creating jobs for some of our locally unemployed people. It would provide crafters with practical mosaicking techniques so they could generate an income for themselves and for Masithandane who would be providing all the materials and a workshop space.
Additionally, they would be given an opportunity to attend business training at the Cape Craft Development Institute and Tsiba College gaining knowledge to be self-employed if they wished.
3.The Sedgefield Mosaic Art Project would initiate positive interaction between our less advantaged communities, the CBD and the village.
4. The mosaic artworks would become a tourist attraction offering something unique and attractive to draw local and overseas visitors to the sleepy village hardly ever mentioned in tourist brochures about the Garden Route.
5. It was a creative way of showcasing the town’s environment in harmony with its natural beauty, this being the subject and intention of the many of the mosaic artworks.
As the Sedgefield Mosaic Project got underway, Knysna Municipality gave it a boost by offering homeowners a R600 deduction on their rates for one month if they chose to have their house number mosaicked.
Margie Ford was the first mosaic teacher. Others would follow, Linda Southey and then Petricia and Christo Pieterse. Many artworks were commissioned, by private individuals, as well as business and Municipal entities. Items large and small became targets for mosaics such as flowerpots, mirrors, trays, birdbaths, picture frames, murals, tables, business logos, etc. As they gained expertise and confidence, the mosaic team were able to offer workshops at Masithandane providing a morning of fun for adults and children alike as they were guided through a process to create their own mosaic artwork.
The mosaic team created a “Children’s Wall” a large artwork, approximately 40m², for the Smutsville Community Hall. It portrayed the values of education, tourism, marine life and heritage.
All kinds of opportunities arose to further the role mosaics played in creating interaction in the town. The Tree of Life” placed outside Sedgefield Library was a joyous collaboration between the Masi Mosaicists and a group of Smutsville children. The library had its own relevant mosaic on an outside wall done by members of Sedgefield Art Society assisted by trained crafters.
In 2010, to celebrate Sedgefield being awarded “Citta Slow” status by the governing body in Italy, the Sedgefield Mosaic Art Project was commissioned to mosaic some giant tortoises.
This led to Slow, Citta and Skillie being placed in prominent places around village, one outside the tourism office, another on the Island at the entrance to the bowling club and the third, on the corner of Jan Van Riebeeck and Paul Kruger Streets right near the Saturday markets.
These stunning mosaics draw attention to all the free-roaming tortoises that roam the Island and locals know they are an integral part of the Sedgefield environment and therefore, appropriate symbols for our Slow Town. The speed limit on the Island is 40kph for good reason and notice boards warn all and sundry to look out for tortoises crossing the road or ambling about on the broad verges.
The striking Marinara Mosaic at the Swartvlei river-mouth was commissioned in 2011 to celebrate the inauguration of Sedgefield’s Slow Festival, an outcome of being awarded Slow Town status.
Sadly, the artwork was vandalised but fortunately funds became available in 2012 to repair the damage and create a more resilient version of the original.
Close to the entrance of Sedgefield Municipal Offices is a 2m high construction of recycled metal and mosaics consisting of a father, mother and child with a dog symbolising the value of family life. Against the outside wall of the Town Hall is a Moth War Memorial and bench.
At the town circle, a flock of guinea fowl mimic the live ones that perpetually meander on our verges, around the lagoon and through our gardens noisily keeping track of their youngsters reminding us they were here first and belong here too.
Before the 54 International teams of Expedition Africa began their arduous 5 day race around the Garden Route in May 2016, they collaborated with local NPO, Masithandane and their mosaicists. This included children who had been trained to help them with a specific mosaic art project at the Mosaic Village and Outdoor Market.
The event had been organised in cooperation with Masithandane Chairperson - Jacky Weaver, Sedgefield Tourism - Belinda Hobson, Ward Councillor - Louise Hart, Ratepayers' Chairman - Philip Hendrikse and Team leader of the Mosaic Art Project - Petricia Peterse.
The aim was to create mosaic flags to commemorate all the teams who were participating in the event for the countries they represented. It also gave them an opportunity to acclimatise and have some fun interacting with the locals, and in the process, leave a memorable legacy of their adventure in our part of the world.
After the flags were mosaicked, the Sedgefield Mosaic Art Project team took over to complete and consolidate the flags into a cohesive artwork in the form of a pathway ending in a map of Africa displaying all the adventure teams' flags. The finished artwork was to be unveiled by the winning team after the race.
The fabulous Africa Adventure Race Flag Map was unveiled the following weekend, by the winners (happily for us) a popular local team, Featherbed Painted Wolf, made up of John and Mark Collins, Darren Berry and Jeannie Dreyer.
The project had raised over R22000 for school bursaries that would assist children with transport to secondary schools in George or Knysna.
Sedgefield currently has only primary schools which has prevented many children from lower income homes from pursuing higher education since the bus service that used to transport them cancelled its service despite intense efforts to keep it running.
A single heart 2x5m² (raised high on the north side of Sedgefield near the traffic lights symbolizes that Sedgefield is a town with a lot of heart. This is a truth few will refute especially experienced when the wildfires swept through Garden Route in June 2017.
Sedgefield somehow missed the flames that swept through so many areas around and beyond the town although it came close. However, using the Town Hall and kitchen as the hub, its’ residents rose to the occasion in spectacular fashion supplying hot food, drinks, lip-ice, toiletries, clothing and lodging for victims of the fire (including pets) and sustenance for the fire-fighters for days on end.
Long after the flames had been brought under control, a group of volunteers formed "Rebuild Eden" and used local places around town offered to them that could be turned into warehouses. Empty garages, unoccupied shops, a building and a house were used to contain all the necessities collected for people who had lost their houses and everything in them.
These volunteers selflessly gave of their time for months to sort through the truck loads of donations that came from around South Africa and beyond, to make it easy to distribute it out in an orderly manner to those who needed virtually their whole home’s contents and personal belongings, replaced. It was done with a sensitivity and kindness that was deeply touching to behold. Read the story of the June 2017 Garden Route Wildfires here.
Later that same year, Masithandane was awarded funds by the National Lotteries Commission to create an interactive outdoor marine themed park of mosaic artworks. Called the “Octopus Garden Under the Sea” it was set out in the open in the precinct of the Scarab Market.
With so many large artworks requiring mosaics, the Mosaic Team asked for help from the community resulting in many of the town’s folk getting involved with the project to get it done in time for the first pre-booked activity.
Although not quite finished, the venue was first used on the evening of 1 August 2017 for a most appropriate presentation of Heathcote William's epic poem, Whale Nation, performed as a deeply moving monologue by actor, David Muller.
Subsequently, the venue has served for many more enjoyable musical and drama evenings with families relaxing and enjoying the balmy outdoors surrounded by fabulous mosaic artworks reminding us of ocean life right on our doorstep.
This outdoor marine themed park is freely accessible and can be visited to enjoy the artworks at any time. The giant octopus not only provides seating but can house a projector inside it from which movies can be shown. There’s a mosaic hopscotch for young children to play on. If you are passing through Sedgefield, it’s worth a visit.
The Octopus Garden under the Sea can be accessed from the Scarab Market on the left-hand side of the Engen Garage alongside the N2 before you enter Sedgefield from the George side. A family can take a break from a long road trip and have a picnic there.
There are places to buy takeaways or to have a sit-down meal right there. A self-guided tour brochure is available from the Mosaic Table Restaurant on the right-hand side of the Engen Garage. A guided tour with one of the Masithandane Crafters can be arranged if booked ahead of time.
From the outset, the long-term goal has been for Sedgefield to get recognised as the Mosaic capital of Africa. That might be some ways away but to become the Mosaic capital of the Garden Route is very doable! Furthermore, it is totally in sync with the citta slow tenet of “support development and infrastructure that reflects your town's unique character and quality of life whilst committing to sustainability”.
Like so much else, the Sedgefield Mosaic Art Project was brought to a standstill by Covid 19 but gradually life is returning to a tentatively hopeful, slightly breathless “new normal”!
Public benches have noticeably become popular as subjects to be mosaicked in memory of a loved one who has passed on. Each one is unique and attracts a lot of interest as it first appears placed somewhere around the lagoon. I have noticed people examining them carefully before sitting down. They tell a personal story as well as being stunning artworks.
A new injection of enthusiasm was introduced to the Sedgefield Mosaic Art Project on Friday afternoon, 31 March 2022 when local luminaries and invited guests attended Masithandane’s new collaborative Mosaic launch celebration hosted by Russell Kuhn of the Mosaic Table Restaurant where it is part of the popular Saturday Mosaic Village and Outdoor Market.
With renewed vision the group have some magnificent mosaic artworks in the pipeline. The first was the SEDGE 1 Lovebug Beetle at the slipway on Kingfisher Drive, an ideal vehicle for a selfie or group photograph for holidaymakers and locals alike. It has already proven to be irresistible.
Part of the new initiative also includes mosaic styled clothing and accessories by Jane Simon that will be available at the Mosaic Table Restaurant and at a stall at the Mosaic Village.
The latest Mosaic sculpture coordinated by Genevieve Melville with Masithandane was supported by Helen Gerber of the Knysna Art Society, Visit Knysna and Knysna Municipality as part of the Knysna Art Project. The historic boat housing the mythical little creature was donated and pays tribute to the fishermen, most of whom could not swim, who rowed out through hectic waves into a big ocean at Gerickes to bring back the fish that provided them with a living and a means to feed their families.
Christo Pieterse designed the form for the mosaic and made the chock for the boat that houses a giant form of the tiny creature. Sophia Ngumo, Ricardo Baadjies, Petrus Kiewiets are the mosaic artists guided by the leader & design artist of the team, Hyla Hartlief.
The long-anticipated special mosaic, Sedge 2 was celebrated at Myoli Beach on 19 April 2023 with the launch of a little creature unique to the Garden Route and found in only a very few of its rivers. It is recognised and honoured for its resilience in the face of multiple threats to its environment. In a prominent position, at the foot of the dune where people walk to access the beach, this artwork is a reminder that this creature’s existence depends on our contribution to keeping the ocean and estuary as healthy and clean as possible.
Classified as a fish, the Knysna Seahorse is the only estuarine seahorse in the world. It is endemic to the Swartvlei estuary. The setting and the backdrop of the "Sparkle of Myoli" seahorse fondly named Nellie campi, offers the perfect photo opportunities that visitors will love to take advantage of to recall their holiday memories.
There are currently over 70 mosaics to be seen around Sedgefield and the mosaic theme is far from over. There will be others added by Masithandane and private individuals in the years to come. Members of the Strandloper Project have been collecting sinkers, fishing net and other discarded fishermen’s objects from the sea with the intention to incorporate these into a Starfish helping people to realise that one small action can have a huge impact on the sea.
Next to the Seahorse is a mosaic bin to encourage those going onto the beach to collect any plastic and other rubbish they can carry back to place in container supplied. The artwork will thus carry powerful messages – increasing awareness to recycle, to protect our marine life and will help to keep the beach free of harmful debris.
There are further options available for the Sedgefield Mosaic Artwork Project if shops come on board by putting mosaics on their walls facing the N2 or mosaiced flower-pots - to showcase more of Sedgefield's outdoor activities and natural beauty with scenes such as paragliding from cloud 9, Stand-up paddling on the lagoon, windsurfing along Myoli Beach, birding among the reeds, walkers hiking to Gericke's, fishermen fishing on exposed sandbanks at low tide, people canoeing on the lagoon etc. Bomber Webb, local owner and editor of the Edge has long had the counter at the entrance to his premises, mosaicked with the name of his newspaper.
Mosaic artworks are a unique offering to visitors to the Garden Route sure to create curiosity drawing people off the N2 to investigate them and increase feet through the doors for shop owners. Perhaps willing Sedgefielders could contribute to such an endeavor (with a specific description on their donation for the project).
It could really inject the mosaic vibe with new life and put Sedgefield on the map as a Mosaic town. With a big enough impact more people would notice and be drawn to take a break in Sedgefield. The new mosaic route maps are available for everyone. More feet coming into town and not just passing through, would effectively give local business a boost.
And it should not be forgotten, this Sedgefield Mosaic Art Project is a win-win situation for Sedgefield Tourism and the Business community, and invaluable for Masithandane, keeping their crafters employed and any money that can be added to the NPO's coffers is put to good use.