Bring those chickens home to roost!

Don’t be a chicken! When the Chicken Challenge’s unique chicken canvas artworks go on auction in June, make sure you bid high enough to take one home and support orphaned and vulnerable children in the process.

Entries are open for the 2020 Chicken Challenge and people are already getting their creative juices flowing to transform beautiful hand-crafted, 3-D chicken-shaped canvases into unique works of art. The submission date for completed canvases is on 15 May.

Now in its sixth year, the Chicken Challenge is a fundraising initiative in support of Hands at Work in Africa, a non-profit organisation based in Mbombela that assists vulnerable and orphaned children in Southern Africa.

“In its founding year in 2014, 67 chickens were on display, generating around R30 000. Since then, the Chicken Challenge has grown from strength to strength, with 101 chickens returned and auctioned last year, raising R83 126 for Hands at Work in Africa,” says Reinette Fourie, Chicken Challenge founder and Nelspruit-based artist.

Reinette, who developed the Chicken Challenge with Karin Daymond and Marlize Meyer, says the challenge’s defining moment is its professional online auction of the transformed chicken-shaped canvases, which sees 100% of the proceeds being donated to Hands at Work in Africa.

This year’s online auction takes place from 26 June to 26 July, so pen the date in your diary now! A select number of chickens will also be exhibited at White River Gallery, from 11 to 26 July, and members of the public are invited to visit the gallery to see which chicken they want to bring home to roost.

Hands at Work in Africa

Hands at Work in Africa works across eight African countries, in over 60 communities, serving villages and slums and helping the poorest of the poor.

Burdened by the effects of HIV and Aids, extreme poverty and low or non-existent infrastructure, orphans and vulnerable children in these communities are in dire need of help.

Hands at Work in Africa mobilises and equips local men and women in these communities to care for the most vulnerable children around them.

The organisation’s goal is to create locally-owned ‘Life Centres’ in these communities – places of life, love and care which leave a community strengthened and sustained for the future.

Creating jobs and developing skills

The 3-D stylised chicken-shaped canvas was inspired by Polish sculptor Dariusz J Nowak and provides the perfect vehicle for artistic expression and interpretation.

The only people involved in the Chicken Challenge who are paid are the two crafters, Thembi Nkosi and Nhlanhla Mabunda, who make the canvases. The Chicken Challenge is organised and facilitated by volunteers and expenses are carried by donors and corporate sponsors.

Both crafters were trained by Reinette, who studied graphic design but worked mostly in puppeteering and developing craft products. Nhlanhla started making chickens in 2014 and Thembi joined him soon after. They have made about 800 canvases to date.

“Thembi excels as a master crafter and is now responsible for creating most of the canvases,” says Reinette.

Thembi lives in Mpakeni, near Mbombela, and works for Siphamandla, a home-based care organisation, in the mornings. In the afternoons, at home, she creates the chicken canvases. “Thembi is skilled, meticulous and efficient – her creations now take under an hour, from start (tearing up egg boxes) to completion,” says Reinette.

Her equipment is modest – a table, wooden mortar and pestle (usually for maize) and a handful of ordinary kitchen utensils. She uses a coffee tin on an open fire to boil the cornflour glue.

“She has honed her skills over the years and has chicken canvas-making down to a fine art. These canvases are exquisite works in themselves – perfectly executed every time,” says Reinette.

One-day exhibition at Trent Gallery

A selection of the chickens from the 2019 Chicken Challenge will be on display, for one day only, at the Trent Gallery in Waterkloof, Pretoria, on 5 March 2020.

On the day, you can view and purchase these artists’ bespoke art pieces: Gordon Froud, Ryan Loubser, Alex Hamilton, Danielle Jansen van Rensburg, Heidi Fourie, Griet van der Meulen, Ryan Jansen van Vuuren, Ayanda Nkosi, Mabette Vermaak and Betty Skosana, Hendrien Horn, Moné van Rooyen, Lesley Deysel, Karen Krumm, Valentine Mckey, Celeste Higgs, Anneke Ritter, Josef Fourie, Peruda Florit and Reinette Fourie and Andrew Larsen.

How to participate

Purchase your chicken canvas for R180 from Mopani Pharmacy (White River or Crossing Centre) or online at www.chickenchallenge.co.za.

Transform your chicken into a work of art and drop it off at either of the participating Mopani Pharmacies by the submission date of 15 May 2020.

For more information about the Chicken Challenge, visit Facebook @thechickenchallenge and @lowveldchickenchallenge. For more information about the exhibition at Trent Gallery, email Stuart at trent.art@gmail.com.