In the month of July, we come together to commemorate Nelson Mandela’s birthday, with the 18th of July officially recognized as Nelson Mandela Day. This special day holds great significance as we reflect on the profound impact of a visionary leader who stood for equality, freedom, and reconciliation.
Nelson Mandela’s life journey stands as a testament to the power of perseverance and the unwavering belief in the possibility of change. His famous words, “It always seems impossible until it’s done,” encapsulate the essence of his resilience, determination, and the transformative impact he had on the world.
At Mash.T, we believe in upholding the values that Nelson Mandela stood for, and one principle that resonates deeply with us is his belief and utterance, “Everything seems impossible until it is done.” We have witnessed this spirit of possibility come to life in remarkable ways, most notably in the story behind our Hlabisa Bench.
The Hlabisa Bench is inspired by memories of Thabisa’s childhood visits to see her grandmother in KwaZulu-Natal. Marked by a distinctive silhouette, the undulating curves of the bench’s backrest mimic the rolling hills of the local landscape, while the legs are reminiscent of potjie pots (a round-bellied three-legged pot) her grandmother used, upon which are three interconnecting roomy seats inviting people to sit for a while.
When we conceptualized the Hlabisa Bench in collaboration with master weaver Beauty Ngxongo and renowned furniture maker Houtlander, the idea of weaving the backrest with ilala palm seemed like an impossible feat. Ilala palm is a natural material that grows abundantly around the area of Hlabisa, where the skilled weavers reside.
Master weaver Beauty Ngxongo, with over 50 years of experience using this weaving technique and material, initially thought applying it on the bench’s curved form would be unachievable. However, she embraced Nelson Mandela’s value system, believing that “it seems impossible until it is done.” Drawing strength from this belief, she embarked on the challenge.
Since the creation of the first Hlabisa Bench, several more have been produced, and Ma’am Beauty Ngxongo has successfully trained multiple weavers to apply this technique to the bench. The significance of this achievement transcended borders as the first bench was showcased at Revelations, a biennial Fine Craft and Creation Fair in Paris, and Centre Pompidou has recently acquired one as well.
This remarkable example exemplifies how, as a collective, we embody the spirit of Nelson Mandela in both small and significant ways. Commemorating his birthday in July is an excellent opportunity for us to pause and take stock of our progress, acknowledging how far we’ve come. It also serves as a powerful reminder of our innate human ingenuity and our ability to overcome challenges, turning seemingly impossible realities into examples of our limitless creativity.
As we celebrate Nelson Mandela Day, let us be inspired by his enduring legacy, and let us continue to dream big, daring to achieve what might appear impossible.