Inspiring peace and love through the art of origami

Kyoko Kimura Morgan, who founded the NGO Origami for Africa in 2009, with Sibahle Qambata, a member of the Origami for Africa Youth Group, at an Origami workshop at the One World Festival 2018 held at the Paarl Arboretum in October. Photos: Supplied

Kyoko Kimura Morgan, who founded the NGO Origami for Africa in 2009, with Sibahle Qambata, a member of the Origami for Africa Youth Group, at an Origami workshop at the One World Festival 2018 held at the Paarl Arboretum in October. Photos: Supplied

Published Nov 19, 2018


During 2018 we have been celebrating the 100-year anniversary of the Japanese consulate in Cape Town. I am filled with gratitude and respect for our shared journey, going back beyond the centenary. Japan is lucky to have started its journey with Africa in one of the most beautiful and dynamic cities in the world.

The Japanese came to this juncture of culture in different periods and became part of the evolution of this land. Nameless ancestors may have gone through unimaginable difficulties in the old days, but probably all of them were overwhelmed by the gracious beauty of the Peninsula and lived by giving their love back to the community.

The Japanese community in Cape Town, currently 240 in total, has a strong affection for the city and its people. I met two amazing Japanese ladies who were both practitioners of origami in different styles. They share their love of the people in the Cape through origami.

Kyoko Kimura Morgan founded an NGO called Origami for Africa in 2009. She teaches regularly at schools on the Cape Flats, including at WesBank No 1 Primary.

Origami is a traditional Japanese art of paper folding. It uses many techniques, and flowers and animals can be created from a single piece of paper.

Kyoko says origami is not only fun but it also develops self-confidence in children. One becomes excited when a magical artwork is produced out of a plain piece of paper. Children feel good and proud of their accomplishment by showing the work to their friends or families and sharing their newly acquired skills.

It is also empowering as learners soon become teachers. Kyoko’s origami activities provide youth at risk with a sense of belonging, warmth and a stimulating environment and her vision has been reported in the media, both in Cape Town and in Japan.

Origami artist and yoga instructor Sanae Sawada.

In her origami session, Kyoko often tells the story of Sadako Sasaki and the 1 000 paper cranes. Sadako was exposed to radiation from the atomic bomb dropped over Hiroshima in 1945 when she was two. She later suffered leukaemia.

Sadako folded 1 000 paper cranes in her hospital bed, praying for recovery, but passed away aged 12. Saddened by her death, her classmates spread her story with the message of peace.

Kyoko disclosed to me that her late mother was also in Hiroshima at the time of the bomb and passed away due to cancer aged 50. That motivated Kyoko to work for peace.

Surprisingly, the very first origami book in English was authored in 1937 by a Scottish lady called Margaret Campbell, who resided in KwaZulu-Natal, and Kyoko has a copy of her book, Paper Toy Making.

Kyoko has also started a regular origami workshop at the Central Library on the first Saturday every month. Origami for Africa has expanded to Johannesburg. Kyoko’s passion is to spread origami among the children of South Africa and beyond.

The other lady is Sanae Sawada, a paper-butterfly artist and yoga instructor in Kalk Bay.

Her butterfly art is her innovation. Hundreds of her origami butterflies can be spotted in Kalk Bay, including the Olympia Café on Main Road. Beautifully coloured recycled paper (orizome method) inspires warmth and life.

Sanae has done numerous paper art-and-craft outreach projects in townships, including Masiphumelele and Ocean View, since 1995, convinced of its therapeutic effects.

She has formulated what she calls an “alchemy” of Japanese traditional paper art and the ancient wisdom of yoga to self-meditate, discover peace within and empower children.

Sanae also teaches yoga at various local schools, including St James RC Primary, a partner of the Japanese Grant Assistance of Human Security Grassroots Projects.

Sanae says; “Children in townships grow up in harsh circumstances and are exposed to violence, poverty, crime and neglect. Recognising that this reality should not define who these children are, yoga can bring healing and self-transformation, and helps empower learners to recognise the light.”

Sanae’s yoga is beneficial to children’s mental and physical development, spiritual resilience, as well as emotional nurturing.

Origami is also becoming trendy. Thanks to Sanae’s art and healing therapy, Forbes Magazine recently listed Kalk Bay as one of the 12 coolest neighbourhoods in the world. “The former fishing village of Kalk Bay is attracting more than just the local surfer community.

“Blanketed with quaint cafés, rustic fishing boats and colourful storefronts, this vibrant harbour neighbourhood is recently the talk of the city. Olympia Café, a standby for locals, is an ideal launching pad for a day of False Bay coastline exploration. An intricate origami installation created by Kalk Bay local Sanae Sawada decorates the walls of the iconic café,” it says.

Japan is a country with a culture of paper. Paper, called washi in Japanese, is used in many art forms. It is an interesting coincidence that Sanae’s paper artworks stand near to a house called Yokohama, which was built in 1906.

The papier maché house is inspired by Japan and is an iconic landmark in Muizenberg, which has stood firm against the Cape’s storms for over 100 years.

Naito is the consul of Japan in Cape Town

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