South Africa: Doodling to make a difference

In South Africa, people gather to doodle, and auction their drawings, to raise money for the homeless.

Dozens of art-friendly Capetonians gathered recently in a makeshift studio overlooking a landscape of factories and ships. Some unpacked tin boxes with lush oil pastels; others grabbed blue ballpoint pens or stubby green pencils from tin cups.

Billed as “Acoustic Doodle” because of the live lounge singer, this was one of several gatherings held to generate images for a fundraiser called 1000 Drawings.

Sculptor Andile Dyalvane took a break from his nearby ceramics studio to join the group drawing sessions. “Drawing is my first love,” says Mr. Dyalvane. “It’s a bit refreshing to see people’s different styles and meet other artists.”

Three years ago, Paballo Ya Batho (Feeding the People), a nonprofit serving Johannesburg’s homeless population, needed a pickup truck. Taking inspiration from a New York event, David Chong decided to hold an art auction with lots of drawings for sale on one night.

Nobody would mistake the annual event for an evening at Sotheby’s.

Hundreds of drawings pegged to clotheslines revealed some very carefully rendered scenes, and a lot that were just, well, doodles. No matter. The sheets, roughly the size of a 5-by-8-inch card, were donated and then auctioned for R100 ($12.75). With no curation and standard pricing, the event democratizes the roles that normally characterize the art world.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates, hosted its own event this year, and discussions are taking place with organizers in Düsseldorf, Germany, and Amsterdam. An annual photo book features the whimsical drawings propped up in urban settings on the city streets.

“We capture the gritty side of the city that’s not in tourist books,” says Mr. Chong. “We always wanted to show what the cause is about. We photograph the drawings where the homeless guys sleep.”

While Chong is quick to point out that 1000 Drawings is primarily about aiding charities, he admits that the events are “amazing.”
As Dyalvane puts it, “If I can draw to help somebody, then why not?”

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