As the busload of American tourists, each laden with woven goods and great good cheer, pulls out of the mission yard, the six women of the coop ulululululu wildly, clap and pat each other on the back laughing. “We will eat chicken for dinner this Sunday!” Gertrude tells me with her wide, gap toothed smile.
They are celebrating, for the $350 collected today will be their first full monthly salary in years. They thank the Lord that somehow this strange white woman, Judy, appeared at their door one day last December and offered to try to help them. They had no wool, no orders but they came daily to the studio because that is what they had done for the past 30 years. She came back and she found wool and she helped and she is still here now writing these words. The bus that just left is proof of a brighter future.
Regina and I sit together by her tapestry loom recovering from the excitement. I shake my head, shrug my shoulders and smile. She reaches her hand up, points to the sky and smiles with a slow knowing nod of her head.
It is the sound of the spinning wheel whirring as Anna spins the round coils of Karakul wool into yarn and the thump, thump, thump of Gertrude and Lindy beating weft into warp on the big frame loom that has helped me to become fully alive again after a year of breast cancer treatments. It is watching a woman in bright cottons walking tall across the lawn with a bucket of water on her head and the joy in Anna Mduli’s laughter, the hum, the rhythm of the Tsonga words that ebb and flow round the big studio. It is sitting outside on a bench beside the fire and trying to mix the perfect color in the rusty tin cup to add to the boiling cauldron before the wet skeins of white wool are lowered in. It is four-year-old Sampiwe curled by my side as we watch her grandmother's swift fingers move through the threads creating a flow of bright colors. Being daily in the presence of these rural African women in the studio of the Mapusha Weaving Cooperative on the grounds of the Catholic Mission in Rooiboklaagte, South Africa, is my miracle.