February in Toronto – cold, blustery, not a day to be out and about getting mowed down by sub-zero temperatures and a wind chill factor that made my bones shake like maracas. But there I was, being swept away from my salt-covered car, face down against the wind, dressed in layers upon layers of fleece, finding my way by ear, so-to-speak, to the small café’ in Little Italy where I was about to meet a young woman (40 is YOUNG to me, now) who, I would soon learn, was changing people’s lives.
“Eva!” I called to her, recognizing the purple scarf she said she’d be wearing. She was a wisp of a thing – in fitted jeans and a blue wool sweater – and radiated the energy of a Titan. Before I knew it, we were sipping Cappuccinos and talking about why we were there: she was excited about my new novel, Vessie Flamingo Outshining the Moon, and wanted to help promote it. “Women need to read this, talk about this, connect with their Inner Child … live authentically.”
Eva Gold, knew all about living authentically. She changed career and life paths from Executive Art Director at Times Warner in New York, to highly gifted holistic practitioner in Toronto. She turned a physically life-threatening illness that allopathic doctors told her couldn’t be cured, into a thing of the past. And, in keeping with her commitment to live with passion, joy, and teach women (and young women) how to strengthen and honor their bodies -- she began to tell me about an amazing experience she had that inspired a way of raising global awareness of African children with AIDS in a personally meaningful creative way. A project she called: Hop’nCloth.
“Hop’nCloth’ started the day my friend Fatima gave me the gift of a hand-embroidered cloth made by Maria of Kopanang, South Africa. Something very powerful about the cloth compelled me to close my eyes. I don’t remember how long I sat there with the cloth beside me, but at one moment I felt as if many hands were stretching out of the cloth towards me. They were children’s hands, moving like trees in the delicate wind. I burst into tears as I felt the hands, the children. I knew that I couldn’t keep the cloth. No space could contain such treasure. But, it was the perfect ambassador to travel the world and spread the message about suffering and about creativity, kindness, and compassion.”
And that’s what I saw so clearly in Eva Gold’s eyes: creativity, kindness and compassion. “Hop'nCloth,” she said, “is a name derived from the back-packing bus system in South Africa that allows travelers to hop on and off a bus at any given time, granting them flexibility during their travels. The idea is for the cloth to hop and travel the world. The cloth depicts the rich local iconography and symbolism of the South African community and, as in many communities, its embroidered art is the principle source of income for South Africans stricken with AIDS."
I learned that since the launch of the www.hopncloth.org website, in October 1, 2006, Maria of Kopanang’s cloth traveled from Toronto to Montreal, Quebec, inspiring individuals to express their experience of the cloth in a variety of creative ways – through artwork, poetry or music to parties, cooking, games, inventions, and more. “Creative acts come in many different forms,” Eva told me, “and we are open to their expression.”
I continued to listen with ardent interest as she shared stories about how the cloth inspired different individuals’ creativity.
“Local Artist, Shelley Roy from Dundas, Ontario is creating a series of individual handmade clay bowls as a meditation connecting to the spirit of the women in Kopanang. The bowls are to be exhibited in community environments to help raise Aids awareness. Toronto-based artist, Ferruccio Sardella, composed a painting, creating a dialogue with symbols from the cloth. And, an engineer in Montreal, Mathew Znojkiewicz, baked a series of breads to transform the wish of being nourished physically and emotionally for those who suffer from Aids.”
Then she told me about the women of Kopanang.
“Five and a half years ago, members of the Kopanang Women’s Group didn’t believe in themselves, nor did they expect too much from life, just the merest scrapings to feed their children if they were lucky, often at the neglect of themselves. Now, through their endeavors and own experience of transformation, they believe in both themselves and in a better life. They are shaping it. And, Kopanang products now find a home in the United States, Germany, Ireland, England, Holland, Belgium and Australia.”
“In November, 2002, two members traveled to San Francisco to install an incredible body of work measuring over 35 meters long, depicting the story of the Universe and evolution (Universe Canticle), exhibited in Johannanesburg at the MTN Head Office before leaving the country. In March 2004, the Kopanang Universe Canticle was exhibited at an international printmaking conference held at Rutger's University, NJ, which traveled from there to the VSO gallery in Atlanta for two months. The Kopanang Children's art class completed and sent off a body of work, including a portfolio of prints, to the Paint Pals International Exhibition at the Museum of Children's Art in Athens, for the Olympics, with a simultaneous exhibition at the Youth Art Connection in Atlanta.”
These were just some of the commissions Eva told me about that featured the beautiful hand embroidered artwork of these hard-working dedicated women. I could hardly wait to visit the www.hopncloth.org website and learn more about it. And, I invite you to do the same. For that matter – learn how you can register to have Maria of Kopanang’s inspiring cloth hop into your life for a three-week stay. You never know what it may inspire you to create; but, I can guarantee one thing -- you’ll be so happy you did!
Latest news: Hop'nCloth t-shirts have one of the images from the cloth printed in red or blue with a slogan under the image: "one hop at a time." They are available for purchase at: 714 College St. Toronto ON, M6G 1C3 Phone: 1-416-516-8880 or Email: info.article8.ca