Mapula Embroidery Project

The women of the Mapula Embroidery Project have been telling their stories with needle and thread for more than 30 years. Sophisticated technical and visual artistry combines with social and historical commentary. Their creative ideas are generated from their imaginations, observations, lived realities and news in the media. Over the years their designs have matured into remarkable works of art. A work of 11 panels depicting the climate crisis was recognized with a 2022 Social Impact Award by the prestigious Rupert Museum (Stellenbosch, South Africa). Their award winning embroideries have not only been exhibited in South Africa but also all over the USA and Europe and are in many public and private collections.

Mapula is a local word meaning ‘Mother of Rain’ - and the project has brought relief, growth and hope. The income generated through the project has assisted the women over the years to clothe, feed and educate their children. Speaking with pride, Dorah Hlongwane explains - ‘My appreciation to Mapula Project for what it is doing in my life. I was not sure about how talented I am until I came together with the women in 2001.’ Another artist adds, ‘I have raised my four children with the money I make in this project and I was able to buy my children school uniforms and food. ‘This project helps lots of women. I am a single parent and I have three children. It has changed our lives.’


The Mapula Project was initiated in 1991 by members of the Soroptimist International Club of Pretoria as an income-generating, empowerment project for 14 women in an impoverished rural area in South Africa and has developed into one of the important community art projects in South Africa, governed by an independent Trust. The Sisters of Mercy have hosted the project in a classroom at their Adult Education Centre since its inception. Currently the project has about 170 artists.