The Chicken Challenge: A community collaboration which changes lives

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Just as Sappi Southern Africa grows more than trees, the Chicken Challenge has ensured an income and a new way of life for a number of local crafters.

Nelspruit-based artist and founder of the Chicken Challenge Reinette Fourie involved local crafters in the Chicken Challenge from its inception in 2014, when she and well-known South African artist Karin Daymond and businesswoman Marlize Meyer launched the initiative.

The aim of involving the crafters was to network with artists to raise funds for a needy and valid cause. When the need at the Greater Rape Intervention Project (GRIP) was expressed by its founder Barbara Kenyon, the ball was set in motion.

Upskilling local crafters

Whilst the number of crafters involved in the initiative varies every year, two dedicated locals - Nhlanhla Mabunda from Tekwane South and Thembi Nkosi from Mpakeni Village - are still involved today.

Their initial training, in the making and sculpting of paper mache, was conducted by Reinette who has more than 40 years’ experience as a puppeteer in paper mache art. However, since then, Thembi and Nhlanhla have trained their own assistants.

Thembi is a care worker in Mpakeni Village, for which she receives a small stipend, and the making of the chicken canvasses takes up all of her spare time. Nhlanhla used to be a gardener, but showed much craft ability when he was given the opportunity. He is the backbone of the chicken canvas production and works four days a week.

“We hope to expand the production of 3D canvasses to become a sustainable business,” says Chicken Challenge committee member Reinette Fourie.

The making of the chicken canvasses, which takes three hours for one canvass, has enabled Nhlanhla to support his six-year-old son, Motivations Kylar Mabunda.

"The Chicken Challenge has been a life saver for me. It has brightened the right side of my brain and I have fallen in love with art. I now have many business ideas that can bring about change for other young and skilled people,” says Nhlanhla.

“It has also helped me a lot socially and financially. I now see things way better than before in terms of art and the world of sharing and giving to those in need. I am now a well-trained crafter and a good partner in the Chicken Challenge," he adds.

"I am a single parent and take care of five people. It is good because I use the money I earn from the chickens to by the things I need," says Thembi.

Supporting communities and bettering lives

Sappi Southern Africa is proud to be the main sponsor of the Chicken Challenge in celebration of its 80th year.

“Sappi, over our eight decades, has grown more than just trees. We believe in giving back to our communities and supporting them so that they can better their lives,” says Elsabe Coetzee, the Regional Communications Manager of Sappi.

“We are proud to be associated with the Chicken Challenge in particular, as the only salaries paid go towards the craft workers who are taught how to produce the chicken canvasses. The initiative thus ensures job creation and skills development in the local communities in which Sappi operates,” she adds.

Sappi also believes in supporting organisations like GRIP, which steps in to assist its local communities. It has thus commissioned eight well-known artists to complete chickens – one for each of its eight decades of operations. The artists are Ayanda Nkosi, Jo Roets, Rogerio de Andrade, Niki Daly, Anton Bosch, Margy Malan, Karin Daymond and Ardmore Ceramics.

How can you help raise funds for GRIP?

The Chicken Challenge is run by a dedicated team to assist GRIP, which supports victims of rape and abuse with things like care rooms in hospitals, police stations and courts, court readiness and home visits. The 2016 Chicken Challenge funds that are raised will be dedicated to care rooms within specific hospitals.

To help raise funds for GRIP you can bid online for the chicken of your choice. Around 200 artworks by people from around South Africa and a few abroad can be viewed by members of the public at the White River Gallery, Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre, from June 16 to July 11.

Online bidding opens on June 16 and bidders will receive notifications if they have been outbid or if theirs was the winning bid.

Gallery hours are 10:00-16:00 (weekdays and Saturdays) and 10:00-14:00 (Sundays and public holidays) 

Visit for online bidding details and further information,

email or contact Reinette Fourie at 083 312 9012.

Others bettering lives

Other local sponsors of the Chicken Challenge are Mopani Family Pharmacy, Nashua Lowveld, Lexus Nelspruit, Van Loveren Family Vineyards, MRA Insurance Brokers, Minuteman Press, Blue Cube Construction, Kingsbridge Communication, Maritz Fleming Financial Service, The White River Gallery, Sound Systems, Function Design, We are White River, Richard Wilson Photography, Touch Designs, P&E Energie, Magnolia, Mpact and Buco.

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Issue 83


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