A Fistful of Freedom

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Top By: Fox, Kathryn Harmer
Period: 2000-2025
Date: April 2014
Location Made: East London, Eastern Cape South Africa
Project Name: Michigan State University Museum Collection
Contributor: Michigan State University Museum, Quilts and Human Rights, South Africa Quilt History Project (SAQHP)
ID Number: 15.0195
Layout Format: Nontraditional or art
Quilt Size: 29 3/4" x 29 1/2"
Fabrics: Various fabrics, sewing threads and wools, used tea bags, hand-made paper.
Construction: Fabric and fibre embedments using scribble stitch, free motion machine embroidery quilting and wrapped and twisted cord making.
Purpose or Function: Art or personal expression, Commemorative
Description: Kathryn Harmer Fox
A Fistful of Freedom
East London, Eastern Cape, South Africa |  Fabric, thread, handmade paper, used tea bags; fiber embedment using scribble stitch, free motion machine embroidered and quilted

Mandela was an incredible human being who made me proud to be a South African. He was a very rare politician" able to instill pride in the present, belief in the future, and forgiveness for the past. For this quilt I chose reference images that show his kindness, his humanity, and his strength of character. I wanted to show more than just the formal facade of this powerful statesman without ignoring his political message. I chose an image of an older man, one where his life is written in the many creases and furrows of his face. His inelegant hands (those of a boxer), raised in fists, are an expression of hard-won freedom rather than militant aggression. As he was able to unite black and white in hope, I included an image of Mandela's black-skinned hand clasping that of de Klerk's white one and lifting it in triumph. Lastly, I included the obvious symbols of barbed wire and his prison number; I firmly believe that it was during his many, many years of forced confinement that he became one of the greatest men of our time.
Related Items/Publications: "Conscience of the Human Spirit: The Life of Nelson Mandela," exhibit catalog, Marsha MacDowell and Carolyn Mazloomi, Michigan State University Museum, 2014, page 52.
Detail Images: No additional images uploaded
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