Trash is Treasure

A few years ago, Gugu Zuma showed some bored kids in her community how to make wallets out of discarded tetrapak.

“They loved this and I thought why not make more things and have a Trashion Show?” she remembers. “I mentioned this to my friend and fellow Dargle Conservancy committee member, Nikki Brighton, and together we made it happen. The first show was not that well supported but after that everyone wanted to be part of it!  Some of them still use those wallets today and many make toys out of rubbish. I am so pleased because it stops the burning of rubbish.”

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Every year the creativity and committed effort of eco-conscious learners who participate  astonishes, but this year’s event (the fourth time) held in Howick on Saturday 9 June 2018 was truly inspiring.

r Zamahlubi Hadebe from Mpophomeni photo by Tania Kuhl

More than 200 learners arrived to showcase their creative use of waste in celebration of World Environment Day and World Oceans Day –

and to have as much fun as possible, because the best way to spread an environmental message is with laughter and infectious enthusiasm. For the learners from Enkelabantwana School in Boston it was the first time they had visited Howick or modelled on a runway. These things were already a treat, but they also went home with new attitudes to waste, determination to influence others and to make more craft from rubbish.

Lions River Primary - Amahle Nene, Londeka Buthelezi, Alwande Khumalo, Thato Hadebe, Spesihle Mhlongo
Amahle Nene, Londeka Buthelezi, Alwande Khumalo, Thato Hadebe and Spesihle Mhlongo   Lions River Primary School

Since the first Dargle Trashion Show, held in 2014, when a dozen children participated, the event has grown exponentially. This year, a partnership with the Water Explorer Programme meant schools from across KwaZulu-Natal were invited to astonished us with their trash-fashion.

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Misty Meadows School in Dargle encourages self-directed projects. Principal Cassie Janisch was delighted with the outfits the children made all on their own – inspired by princesses and pirates. Proud Kai Goodwin took home a prize for the best variety of waste material used in his costume and Jaydon Darroll was rewarded for his great effort.

Mackenzie Bolton and Nthabi Ziqubu of Misty Meadows
Mackenzie Bolton and Nthabi Ziqubu of Misty Meadows

Mjila School came all the way from Donnybrook. “We believe the Trashion Show fights poverty and unemployment. It develops craft skills, promotes critical thinking and maths skills,” commented the delighted teachers. “There are many things we can do with waste plastic – shoes, bags, dresses, hats and mats. This will help the rivers, because the plastics that fly into rivers affect the animals who live in that habitat.”

Yoliswa Manana from Muntuza
Yoliswa Manana from Muntuza

Blessed Luyanda School from Bulwer were impressed to see what other creative learners came up with and enjoyed learning more about recycling from the various stands in the garden.  Alondwe Nkweyama’s outfit was judged to be ‘on point’- a real fashionista and Sisanda Mzizi’s costume was pointed out for its attention to detail.

Zoe Duma of Blessed Luanda
Zoe Duma of Blessed Luanda

The Meander Chronicle’s Nerissa Card joined the team judging the very difficult Junior School Girls category. There were 108 entrants in this category! Sthembile Magwaza of Singakwenza, Tinks Fowler, Nomfundo Mnyeni and Lindiwe Phikwane did an incredible job choosing the 20 best creations from all that loveliness.

Abigail Neethling from Northdene in Durban
Abigail Neethling from Northdene in Durban

Jesse and Hannah Zunckel in their spectacular Swan Lake ballerina tutus were Nomfundo Mnyeni’s favourites “The girls really put waste to good use constructing beautiful, creative and wearable outfits – even with matching hair bands and ballet shoes. I adored the bubble wrap petticoats.”

Jesse and Hannah Zunckel
Jesse and Hannah Zunckel

Indhya Sheman’s mum drinks a lot of tea, which means there are lots of used teabags in her house.  She dried them out and sewed them together with metal and plastic to create a particularly unusual outfit.

Indhya Sherman
Indhya Sherman

Ziyanda Ndlela a teacher from Mpethapetha Primary, a deep rural school, was stunned. “Oh my word, what an amazing experience,” she exclaimed.  “It was really overwhelming to see what can be done with waste. My heart is deep into this, I will do so much to teach about saving the environment and be part of the movement of world changers. We are already thinking about next year’s outfits. I think we will organise a Trashion Show soon with neighbouring schools.”

Wandile Nkomo and Minenhle Buthlezi of Saint Chads
Wandile Nkomo and Minenhle Buthlezi of Saint Chads

Danielle Mouton of Oasis Prep looked fabulous in her folded paper finery as did the entourage from Kings School.

Danielle Mouton of Oasis
Danielle Mouton of Oasis

Jezelle John from Rustic Manor Primary in Durban thought it was an amazing day. “I got to see so many creative things and realised there are some really talented people out there. It was fantastic to learn that people sell products made from recycled materials and make a living from it. I will spread the message about recycling to my friends.” Imaan Alladin, in a dress made of chip packets was pleased she attended. “My dress was very uncomfortable, but I won a prize with my friends Leah Naidoo and Miah Pillay. We must recycle so that the plastics don’t end up in the stomachs of fish and cause their death.”

Imaan Alladin and Leah Naidoo Rustic Manor
Imaan Alladin and Leah Naidoo of Rustic Manor

The kids from Thembilihle Primary in Howick had been preparing for weeks (with a little help from Darryn Tucker of the MMEP).  Using unconventional materials, such as two litre plastic bottles and old electric fans they created eclectic and unusual costumes.  Darryn comments “They knew the sort of competition they would be facing from last year, so really stepped up their game. They had a fantastic time as well!” Onele Nondo won for her balloon ballgown and Zuziwe Sibiya for her good use of materials, and a fabulous handbag.

Zuziwe Sibiya from Thembilihle
Zuziwe Sibiya from Thembilihle

Other Junior Girl winners, who received prizes of iPhepha paper bead necklaces, Water Explorer hats, patchwork fabric pencil cases made by Meriel Mitchell, glass water bottles, banner pencil bags from E’Yako Green and skipping ropes made from plastic bags by Singakwenza, were: Angelina Pillay from Scottville Primary for Best Hat,

elina Pillay of Scottsville Primary
Angelina Pillay of Scottsville Primary

Nolwazi Bhebhe, also from Scottsville, for her magnificent umbrella made of bottle tops and her CD necklace; Elihle Dlamini from Inchanga Primary for her well-constructed dress;  Nosihle Ngcobo from Mphephetha for her lovely flowers cut from tissue boxes;

Nosihle Ngcobo
Nosihle Ngcobo

from Muntuza School in Estcourt,  Nokwanda Hlongwane won for her wedding dress, and Sphelele Mbele won for her traditional Makoti outfit.

Sphelele Mbele in Zulu traditional
Sphelele Mbele in traditional Zulu garb

Kyra Pearce from Northdene in Durban made an outfit that was very wearable, as was the dress Thobeka Ngcobo from Howick West Primary created. Nosipo and Nelly Mnikathi from Mpophomeni were delightful in their matching black and white dresses with beautiful skirts and necklaces.

Nosipho and Neli Mnikathi form Mpophomeni Enviro Club
Nosipho and Neli Mnikathi – Mpophomeni Enviro Club

Little Zama Dlamini of Masongo Primary stole the show in her South African Flag ensemble made mostly from pencil shavings!

Zama Dlamini from Masongo Primary
Zama Dlamini from Masongo Primary

Karen Zunckel judged the Junior Boys Category alongside Vusi Hoyi, Londiwe Xulu and Antoinette McInnes.   They awarded prizes for Rock Star (Sifundo Ndlovu of Nonqanda Primary), Fantasy ((Aphelele Mncwabe of Oasis Prep), Traditional Attire (Lindelwa Mtshali of Muntuza Primary), Smarty Pants (Fezokuhle Nzimande of Phumelelani Primary), Most Colourful (Lungelo Malinga of Phumelelani Primary), Best Shoes (Mpilwenhle Mthalane of Entelabantwana Primary), Best Accessories (Spesihle Zondi of Inchanga Primary). “This is a star-studded showstopper that gets better and better every year. We had such fun and will definitely be back next year,” said Karen, with Vusi Hoyi adding “The highlight was seeing the amount of effort the participants put into their outfits and the choice of materials they used. The hard part was deciding who should win!”

Judges Vusi Hoyi and Antoinette McInnes
Judges Vusi Hoyi and Antoinette McInnes

Themba Zakwe, who along with Lindokuhle Mshengu, Mandy Crooks and Jane Linley-Thomas, judged the High School Girls class, was pleasantly surprised by how creative the girls were with their designs and presentations. “Each girl brought their own flair, with their personalities coming through so clearly in their dresses. As incredible as this was, it made judging quite challenging because the bar was set so high. My personal favourite was Asanda Malinga who wore a blue and white ‘makoti’ inspired dress that was certainly runway ready. I had fun and the message about the importance of recycling and re-using items was reiterated throughout the day.”

Lindokuhle Mshengu was surprised at how difficult the task of judging was because the creations were so excellent. “My favourite things were watching learners on the catwalk and chatting to them about how they came up with their creations because reduce, re-use, recycle are issues close to my heart.”

Nokwanda Hlongwane from Muntuza
Nokwanda Hlongwane from Muntuza

Mordan Robertson impressed with her use of old fashion magazines to make her pleated evening dress.  Nosipho Mlambo who attends Jabula High School  in Lidgetton was ‘best dressed’- her accessories included bracelets, earrings and shoes.  Siphokazi Mkhize from Mpophomeni High School wore a traditional outfit, with a shawl that really impressed. Jane Linley Thomas thought that Amahle Sokhela’s high fashion look was something that Nicki Minaj the American-Trinidadian rapper would wear! Fellow Shea O’Connor learner, Nokwazi Madondo, used bubble wrap and newspaper to innovative effect. Larissa van Wyk from Grace College caught the judges eye with her attention to detail – she even had a zip to ensure her frock fitted perfectly. Ashlee Rock, also from Grace College, used discarded towing strap, milk bottles and denim bows to create her show stopper.

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In the grounds of the Howick Hall, the Pink team had been sharing the importance of re-usable and bio-degradable menstrual products with participants. Pink generously donated the prizes for the High School girls – pretty, locally made washable pads and a menstrual cup. These will go a long way to helping reduce the impact used menstrual products have on our rivers and environment. Lucky winners in this category also received a bar of local, handmade Rondavel soap. Larissa “ccccc “  Ashlee “ccc”

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Fashionista and DJ, Jane Linley-Thomas of East Coast Radio told the crowd that she had found the perfect jacket amongst all the ensembles to wear to the Durban July.  “Hey, why don’t some of you fabulous trashionistas come to the July?” she asked.

Jane Linley Thomas is entranced by the trashion
Jane Linley Thomas is entranced by the trashion

The audience was entranced.  “The children are so talented and their imagination knows no bounds. I cheered, clapped and cried and wished I could ululate!” enthused Yvonne Munk. “I really enjoyed the wonderful colours, the friendly people and the great organisation. The children were fabulous and brave.  It was a good to forget all about the problems and realise that nothing is trash – everything is useful,” said Wendy Mkwanasa. “The show was quite something – uplifting and inspiring,” added Penny Rees.

amantha Koen of Kings and Nhlakanipho Makena Nhlanhleni Primary
Samantha Koen of Kings and Nhlakanipho Makena of Nhlanhleni Primary

There can be little doubt that youngsters these days understand completely that things cannot stay the same if humanity is to have any chance of surviving on this planet.

They know that 2500l of water is used to make just one t-shirt and that 4kg of Co2 is generated in the process.  They know that clearing rainforest to grow food for cattle to make cheap leather shoes is a bad idea. They know that only 4% of waste in Africa is recycled.  They know that we are using far more of the Earth’s resources than it is possible to replenish.

r how much water shoes

So, what do they do? They gather garbage, dive into recycling bins and pick up sweet papers outside tuck shops to turn into fabulous fashion – otherwise known as trashion. In the process they influence their families, neighbours and friends to view waste differently. “I am sending a message that people must reuse trash to make something useful because my feelings about littering are sadness and disappointment. I am inspired seeing lots of others who favour using waste to be creative.”  Asanda Malinga told us in her couture gown.

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Clearly the Trashion Show was a spectacular success. Not only for the kids – there were plenty of adults who got into the spirit of things too!   For the first time we awarded prizes for adults.

Bongekile Ngcongo came all the way from Folweni, south of Durban. Bongekile is an active member of the Wise Wayz Water Care Programme working on clearing rivers and streams of waste. She gathers all the useful trash – including discarded jerseys – washes and unravels them and crochets the reclaimed wool into useful garments.  How gorgeous is this striped dress modelled by Gugu Shinga?

Bongekile Ngcongo and Gugu Shinga
Bongekile Ngcongo and Gugu Shinga

Kevin and Karen Zunckel won meals from Rocket Cafe for their outfits too, making great use of pet food bags. Njabulo Mwelase, Nuyiswa Nzimande and Samkelisiwe Ngcobo from Midlands Community College (MCC) strutted their stuff with style – all winning copies of Mnandi a Taste of Mpophomeni – donated by Mpophomeni Conservation Group.  “MCC was privileged to take part in the phenomenal Midlands Trashion Show today. We were blown away by the most amazing clothes made from waste materials. We learnt that the ladies from our ECD Class can not only make amazing outfits, but model them too! We shared our learning resources made from waste with so many eager minds. We have realised that there is no excuse, no matter how under resourced, for ECD centres and ECD practitioners, not to have a section in their classrooms for fantasy play, including dress up clothes.  I am planning to take this forward as one of our workshops with the ECD Practitioners.  I saw the most amazing hats and glasses! There should be no excuses! We met awesome Midlands NGO’s all working together to support education and the environment,” enthused Rebecca Wakeford, Director of MCC afterwards .

Trashionistas from Midlands Community College
Trashionistas from Midlands Community College

Adult category judge Nicole Stroebel (in a magnificent cat food packaging hat) declared Simangaliso Dlamini’s stylish outfit “utterly fabulous!” – and his moves on the dance floor thrilled everyone as well! Antonia Mkhabela looked as if she was about to attend a Royal Wedding in her elegant suit and hat.

Mark Liptrot, Sustainability Manager for Afripak, assists with judging each year and always wears stylish rubbish. This year he really impressed as even his belt was made of scrap material!  He received a gift voucher from Steampunk Coffee for his efforts.

Mark Liptrot
Mark Liptrot

Nonkanyiso Dladla from Shea O’Connor Combined School told us, “I have developed a love of art. Trashion has helped me to reveal the hidden talent I have for design.   Through my new passion I want people to know more about this amazing Earth we have, how saving our precious resources is important and that it is up to us individually to make the change.”

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Nelisa Ndlovu the Social Worker for Khazimula Children’s Home thought the show this year was fantastic because there were more entrants from other areas and she believes that it is good for children to participate. “I realize that when children are on the stage they feel ownership, confidence, and important for what they are doing. That is great.” Neli also loved seeing Jane Linley-Thomas “East Coast Radio is my favourite station.  I like her voice especially when she laughs!   She understands all types of people and sounds generous. It was my first time seeing her and that was awesome.”

Katie Robinson of the charming Lemonwood Cottages beside the mist-belt forest in the Dargle Nature Reserve offered to host Jane for the weekend. She brought along her family and friends and they had a wonderful time. Well, who doesn’t in Dargle?

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In the High School Boys class, Blessward Chataika won an E’Yako green school bag for his interesting hat, saying “Trashion Show you are a star because you are cleaning the world. In future I hope that almost the whole world will be following me to make beautiful things from trash. My message is – keep re-making clothes from waste and you will become a celebrity.”  Brynn Parr won for the most wearable and colourful outfit, Gareth Edwards for his clever use of a sack and Zolani Ntombela for the best use of discarded shopping bags.

Brynn Parr Grace College
Brynn Parr from Grace College

Antoinette McInnes, owner of E’Yako Green, who donated many of the prizes, told the audience “Waste can be a tremendous resource and has created all kinds of opportunities. It’s a precious alternative source for depleted natural resources. It can be recycled into products such as packaging and piping. E’Yako Green runs a profitable business upcycling waste PVC billboard into unique and creative promotional products such as conference bags, school bags, travel wallets and many more. Merging commercialism with sustainability is the new world order!”

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Garth Johnstone of The Meander Chronicle judged the hotly contested wire car competition, with Barry Downard.  The prizes of Solar Jars were donated by Pauline Holden of Dargle Conservancy.  Thabiso Ngcobo from Corrie Lynn Primary provided his own music and won a prize for being the loudest taxi!

wire car
Wire Car by Thabiso Ngcobo of Corrie Lynn School

Also from Corrie Lynn, Nqobani Mpangase had the best suspension. Zolani Ntombela made the best wheels and Siyamthando Nxumalo (both from Shea O‘Connor) won with his technical details. Garth said “These kids deserve a lot of credit for the ingenuity in making these vehicles, which actually work.”

Thembelani Mkulise of Corrie Lynn and his wire car
Thembelani Mkulise of Corrie Lynn and his wire car

Official Photographers Tania Kuhl and Ian Dickinson could hardly focus their lenses with all the excitement, but fortunately did manage to capture the gorgeous images used in this story.  “It was our first Trashion Show so we weren’t quite sure what to expect and then…BOOM! We were blown away by the level of creativity, the resourcefulness and the vibrant personalities that the stars of the show presented. Underneath the laughter and rubbish outfits was a strong environmental message that was appreciated by all – recycle and re-purpose. Think before you buy. A well-organized event that proved to be a fun Saturday outing for all ages. Our only regret is that we didn’t make outfits of our own so we are looking forward to next year’s show for an opportunity to try our hand at trashion-design.”

Thobeka Ngcobo from Mpophomeni
Thobeka Ngcobo from Mpophomeni

The Trashion Show has always been powered by volunteers – the generous Midlands community who make magic things happen.

Thank you Leanne Pelzer and Jenny Goddard for making kilos of popcorn and cutting up bags of oranges, Gugu Zuma, all the local celebrity judges, the DUCT Enviro Champs from Mpophomeni and Shiyabazali who assisted with setting up and winding down, Zandile Sikhakane, Zihle Msimango, Darryn Tucker and Gail Osborne from MMEP, Eidin Griffin the inimitable compere, Barry Downard for designing the advertising poster, Charlene Russell for building the Musical Wall from rubbish, Ntombenhle Mntambo for the vetkoek and salad, Bridget Ringdahl and Julia Colvin of Water Explorer for enthusing so many schools, and Nikki Brighton who put it all together.

Sanenhlanhla Vilakazi plays the musical wall
Sanenhlanhla Vilakazi plays the musical wall

Prizes valued at R9500.00 were donated by Pink Menstrual products, Rondavel Soap, Dargle Conservancy, Water Explorer SA, Mpophomeni Conservation Group, E’Yako Green, Singakwenza, Meriel Mitchell, Rocket Café and Steampunk Coffee. Thank you all so very much for your support. A big thank you to Lemonwood Cottages for generously hosting Jane and her entourage during the very busy Comrades weekend, when all accommodation was fully booked.

Hat by Tehila Pillay of Northdene Primary
Hat worn by Tehila Pillay of Northdene Primary

See all the photos here.


Dawdling through Dargle

It is the first day of a Meandering the Midlands cycle tour (organised by Spekboom Cycle Tours) and thankfully the Dargle mist and mizzle has faded and we are greeted with clear blue skies and gorgeous wintery light. Perfect for exploring the Dargle Valley.

Christiano and Simone, our German visitors, stand gingerly beside handsome Friesian horses (instead of their bicycles). The Midlands is fast being discovered as a place offering cycle tourists not just trips focused purely on the bike and the end destination, but rather journeys filled with unique cultural and natural experiences. One of these forms the start to our trip – a Horse Play session masterfully facilitated by well-known horse guru, Carlene Bronner. Unlike the simple react and response mechanisms of a bike, our guests will spend the next hour discovering the art of  horse communication using subtle body gestures as a cue for gentle persuasion. Although the couple confess that they were not familiar with handling horses, it was amazing how, with new found respect and understanding, they quickly eased into the experience and had their horses eating out of their hands (admittedly the tufts of green grass may have helped).


After a hearty farm-cooked breakfast, we hopped on our bicycles and headed for the Nelson Mandela Capture Site using quiet country back roads. As a local South African, who has pored through each page of the ‘Long Walk to Freedom’, Julia felt well versed in the life and times of our Tata Madiba and was rather surprised that the museum tour at the capture site offered many more fascinating insights into the life of our great statesman. Brilliantly guided by the enthusiastic Ayanda.  Under no circumstances were we allowed to ride down the path to the impressive sculpture of Mandela’s face. “After all” quipped Ayanda, “it’s not called a long walk for nothing”.

cyclist at mandela capture site

We then made our way through a network of forest paths to the Caversham Mill restaurant overlooking the Lions River. Tucking into a well-deserved signature trout dish, we marvelled at the thought that once this great valley was a royal Zulu hunting ground abundant with lions and elephant. On shooting the last lion of the region, this river was ironically named Lions River.

Later after climbing up through the hills of Lidgetton, we enjoyed panoramic views of the Dargle valley. Authentic Italian wood-fired pizza washed down with Lions River craft beer at everyone’s favourtie Il Postino Pizzeria was a fitting end to our day. Bellisimo!


On our final day we welcomed the opportunity to gently warm up tired legs with a stroll through the Dargle mist-belt forest lead by its passionate and knowledgeable custodian, Barend Booysen. With Barend’s charming stories of Zulu myths, local legends, and impressive botanical knowledge of these indigenous trees, the secrets of the forest were revealed. It is inspiring to hear how a group of Dargle landowners had taken stewardship into their own hands through the formation of Dargle nature Reserve under the Biodeiversity Stewardshipo Programme. Short term gains in destructive cattle farming and other agricultural practices needed to be sacrificed for the long term survival of these rich and biodiverse forest and grasslands.


“For me the highlight of the walk was spotting the Samango monkeys playing in the Cape Chesnut trees”, beamed Simone. Samango Monkeys are the only true arboreal monkeys left in South Africa. Unable to adjust their lives to the rapidly changing world. If we lose these precious pockets of Afro-Montane forest, the Samangos could disappear with them too.

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Leaving Dargle behind, we headed across the hills to the cycling mecca of the Karkloof Valley – a network of world class trails. We selected the well-marked 15km Falls loop that swept us through the plantation on immaculately sculpted paths to the iconic Karkloof waterfalls. The beautiful falls in full flow provided the perfect backdrop to our final picnic spread of local Midland’s cheese, cured meats, artisan bread and cold beer.

“When we signed up for a bike tour, we did not know what to expect” remarked a satisfied Christiano. With all the cultural, ecological and historical diversity the Midlands has to offer, as the Spekboom Tour’s logo says, “expect the unexpected”.  In Dargle, that is certainly true.

Spekboom Cycle Tours is a member of the Dargle Conservancy and donates part of profits from these tours to Conservancy Project. Why not join one?  Find out more here.


Foraged Fashion

People across the planet cleaned up beaches in celebration of World Oceans Day in early June, but there are no beaches in the Midlands.

The least we could do was prevent more plastic from entering our rivers, and ultimately oceans, by turning foraged finds into fabulous trash-fashion!

On the banks of the uMngeni River, the Howick Agricultural Hall exploded with colour and catcalls as 120 learners strutted their spectacular stuff.  Everyone was astonished at their creativity and imagination – each outfit was unique and used a vast array of foraged materials – coke cans, feed bags, paper cups, onion sacks, discarded CDs, old newspapers and juice cartons.

r Trashion Show by Des van TonderErica Brown, who has attended all the events, since the small beginnings at Corrie Lynn School in Dargle a few years ago, commented, “I thought the first one with just 15 kids was fantastic, but it gets bigger, better and more amazing each time. A sensational show!”

audiencePart of the waste extravaganza was a musical wall built from rubbish. Cleverly constructed by Kings School teacher, Charlene Russell and friends, from discarded bicycle wheels, coffee cans, repurposed plastic pipes and cake tins.  This was a great hit with the kids and kept them entertained as more and more taxis rolled up filled with creative and enthusiastic children.

r rubbish music - photo by Des van TonderThere was a parade of wire cars with prizes awarded for the best delivery van, the best woman driver and the best wheels. The country kids took the top honours with Abahle Zuma from uBunye in Impendle being awarded best driver for his wire car, while Thabiso Ngcobo of Corrie Lynn took the prize for best steering.  The award for the best Box Car went to Nhlakanipho Duma of Jabula Primary in Lidgetton.

wire car wheelsInnovative technology lessons facilitated by the MMEP in local schools, use waste materials to teach this subject.   Learners proudly showed off their 3D models of houses with water tanks, furniture, cars and model laptops.

18922517_10154442178527117_8148491108822798722_oShea O’Connor Combined School from Nottingham Road stunned us with their inspired creations and took home many of the prizes. Siphesihle and Akhona Mchunu made great use of multiple types of waste to create their original outfits.

r Spesihle Mchunu and Akhona Mchunu from Shea OConnor school by Des van TonderThe teams of judges had a challenging task, but thoroughly enjoyed chatting to the learners about their creations and admiring the details up close.

judging accessories by Des van TonderNoluthando Mnguni looked splendid in her traditional isixolo (hat) made of waste card, while Mpo Chinowe’s sunglasses and earrings caught the judges eye. Asanda Malinga’s Nike branded outfit attracted a lot of attention as did Nonkanyiso Dladla’s bridal gown.

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Grade 11 learner Nombulelo Ndabezitha designed many of the outfits and looked particularly stylish in discarded poly-propolene packaging with red bottle top accents.  One simply never knows what treasures you will find at the recycling centre (or in the gutter).

Nombulelo Ndabazitha from Shea OConnor by Nikki Brighton

From Misty Meadows School,  Dineo Ziqubu created a froth from old newspapers for her ballerina skirt, Gina Rayner wore a clever coke can combo and Yaelah Sharpley got a special prize for her outfit as a character from the movie Frozen.

r H Mthabiseng Zikhubu of Misty Meadows School by Lynne Garbutt Zandile Sikhakhane, who accompanied learners from Impendle, says the were so surprised to see the ‘out of this world’ outfits created by other schools.  On their way home, they started planning their 2018 creations! One parent commented afterwards that she thought waste was meant to burnt, but now she has changed her mind.

trashion hat by Des van tonderThembilihle kids, who put a lot of effort into their costumes, had a great time despite feeling a little overwhelmed by the vibrant occasion.  Siyabonga Nyawuza’s outfit with cardboard hat got a special mention and Zaziwe Sibaya’s ensemble was declared ‘Wow’!

Zaziwe Sibiya from Thembilihle by Lynne GarbuttHannah Zunckel of Laddsworth delighted everyone with her pirate costume complete with cutlass made from an HTH bottle and cardboard.

Hannah Zunckel - the pirate by Des van TonderTo keep energy levels up there was fresh popcorn to snack on (in folded newspaper cups) and in-season oranges, while everyone mingled and admired the displays. Singakwenza showcased their trash toys and clever ideas for early childhood development tools using waste. iPhepha Beads displayed beautiful paper bead jewelry made from discarded calendars.  A Grandmother from Bruntville, inspired by her grandson’s trashion creations last year, started her own business crocheting bags from waste plastic and brought along her wares to show off.

handbag and popcorn by Des van Tonder

Children from Khazimula in Lidgetton entertained the crowd with energetic traditional dancing which encouraged everyone in the audience to get on their feet for a final twirl to Brenda Fassie’s hit song Vulindlela.

18813974_10154442184857117_1699982416700682985_nNikki Brighton of Dargle Conservancy pointed out that every minute one big rubbish truck of plastic waste is dumped into our oceans – so there is a lot of plastic floating about, entangling wildlife, being eaten by mistake by fish and birds and breaking down to form an invisible toxic plastic soup.  Scientists estimate that in 30 years’ time, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean.  “We are celebrating creativity today, by not using new materials, but by scavenging waste – keeping it out of our rivers and giving it a new life. Thank you everyone for caring about the planet we share with so many other creatures,” she said.

r trashion sistasThandolwethu Khanyile couldn’t wait to get home to tell her mom she was a Trashion Star. “When I am older, I will open a fashion shop with my own brand of clothing made of trash and encourage everyone to take care of the environment,” she said.  Vice-principal of Shea O’Connor School and proud teacher of these eco-conscious kids, Antonia Mkhabela, added “I wish all schools would do trashion because this is where environmental education becomes real. It develops creativity, critical thinking and new skills.”

antonia and Shea OC teachersThis year the Trashion Show was a collaboration between Dargle Conservancy, Mpophomeni Conservation Group and Midlands Meander Education Project.  Upcycled, earth friendly prizes were sponsored by E’Yako Green, Singakwenza, Pink Menstrual Products, Meriel Mitchell and Mark Liptrot.  Many thanks to everyone for contributing to the success of the day.

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Spirit of the Midlands

Ultimate Frisbee – The Beautiful Game

Twice a week a motley crew of Midlanders gather to play Ultimate Frisbee on the fields at Lions River Club in Dargle.  As the sun sets, artists, architects, photographers, farmers, shoemakers, students and IT-types aged between 16 and 56 dash across the 100m field, deftly flicking Frisbees.   Sure, things get competitive sometimes, but never at the expense of fair play, respect between players, adherence to the rules and the joy of playing.

While Ultimate Frisbee might not be a sport that you are familiar with, it is growing fast and may be included at the 2020 Olympics. The game is non-contact, combines speed and grace and at least three women must be included in any team of seven.


Dedicated player Ryjin van Wyk “The culture of Frisbee is a beautiful thing. It appeals to those who have not played competitive sport before, are not keen on being battered.  The spirit of the game is what counts most, so it brings out the best in people.”   Ryjin was a pro-footballer for a while and remembers how, no matter how good the game was, the moment the whistle blew the teams separated and headed for the change room. In Frisbee, once the game is over, the teams form a tight circle with arms linked and discuss the game.  “Here we tell the opposing team what they excelled at, and the winning team will share tips on how to do better. Then we unanimously choose a man of the match.”

Rjyin van Wyk and Gerrit Blyleveldt - Lions Ultimate Frisbee - by Louis Bolton
Rjyin van Wyk and Gerrit Blyleveldt – Lions Ultimate Frisbee – by Louis Bolton

Self-refereeing? The rules are simple – contact with another player constitutes a foul. There is a 30 second window for those involved to discuss who gets the advantage, and then play continues. No one cheats – even at the top level where there is plenty of money involved.  Once a catch is completed within the ‘end zone’, that is a goal. The first team to reach 15 wins the game.

Lions Ultimate Frisbee by Louis Bolton
Lions Ultimate Frisbee by Louis Bolton

Last year, the Midlanders headed for Johannesburg for the Rocktober Frisbee Festival.  ‘We had cotton t-shirts printed with Love Lions and random shorts, but soon realised for a rag-tag farming crew we were pretty good!” remembers Ryjin. Since then, they have attended and organised several tournaments, with sixteen-year-old Lindo Mpangese from Curry’s Post being voted Player of the Tournament three times in a row!  Encouraging youngsters is an important part of the Lions philosophy.  Ryjin coaches a group of 7 to 12 year olds once a week, who are sure to take their place in the competitive team soon.


The Lions started eight years ago, with stalwarts James Jordan, Nick Crookes, Dael Lithgow and Kim Goodwin as the core. They fondly remember how Justin McCarthy (now deceased) tore his achilles tendon playing his first ever game!  Little doubt that Justin would be thrilled to see how the barefoot team has grown, with over 30 people playing twice a week and teams from across the country eager to come to Midlands tournaments where the fields are beautiful and the people are genuinely good.

Kim Goodwin plays Frisbee by Louis Bolton
Kim Goodwin plays Frisbee by Louis Bolton

In collaboration with the Pietermaritzburg based team The Long Donkeys, they have successfully secured the 2017 Ultimate Frisbee SA Nationals to be held in the Midlands.

Joburg based player, Sally Crompton joined in the fun at the MadHatlands tournament hosted by Lions River and the Long Donkeys recently and thought it was amazing (particularly the local, homegrown, homemade organic, vegetarian feast at lunchtime). “The Lions team has grown so much since the first time I saw them and is one of the few clubs in South Africa with a diverse range of players.  Some talented young players were pulling off the most incredible throws, jumps and layouts this past weekend – Lindo and Sbu have pure natural talent which deserves to be nurtured and Josh, Alex and Michael have a lot of potential. The club has a refreshing creative spirit – one that is both focused on Spirit of the Game, but also on the high-paced talent of their members.  I believe that the Lions and Long Donkeys will pull off something great in a green hills of the Midlands in May 2017.”

Keen for some fresh air and good fun?  Check out their Facebook page Lions River Ultimate or contact

Lions Ultimate Frisbee by Louis Bolton
Lions Ultimate Frisbee by Louis Bolton

Celebrating a Creative Community

In Dargle, beside everyone’s favourite pizzeria, il Postino have opened an Art Lounge.

This unique venue offers artists an opportunity to display their works and, according to curator, Kim Goodwin, is long overdue. “Although the Midlands is home to many artists, much of this creativity is not showcased locally,” he told us at the Opening on Wednesday 23 November 2016. Louis Bolton of Bolton Inc took the photographs. kim

The Art Lounge, rather than being run by a gallery owner, is a collaboration of passionate and supportive people working as a team to promote local art.

Chris Darroll, owner of il Postino adds “The art lounge is a long-time dream. Michael Mawsdley and I spent many nights conceptualizing this space where visitors can interact with the art. We have always had artworks for sale on the restaurant walls, now we have a dedicated gallery for both two and three-dimensional art from around the country”.  Michael, who designs under the well-known name of Viva Voce, has a workshop on-site, displaying his smaller pieces in baroque style glass cases while his bronze sculptures are featured around the gallery and restaurant.


For the summer of 2016/2017, the Art Lounge will feature bespoke art by Miranda Crooks, Elizabeth Balcomb and Grace Kotze.  Miranda will exhibit works derived from a combination of printmaking techniques including linocut, collagraph, screen print, etching and collage. Elizabeth is a self-taught South African artist known for her haunting figurative sculptures that explore and expose aspects of human nature. Durban based, Grace, loves the versatile nature of oil paint that offers never-ending possibilities of exploration.


Kim hopes that there will be opportunities to offer artists space to work and live in the Midlands too, to integrate and share in the creative culture of the area.  Featured artists would in turn attract collectors from further afield.  Miranda Crooks concludes “The il Postino Art Lounge has all the ingredients necessary to be a great success. Kim Goodwin is an avid art collector and supporter of local artists and with his input as curator I am really excited about seeing the artwork that will be flowing through the gallery from the many wonderful artists in our community.”  kim-miranda-michael

Jayne Darroll envisages the space will be also used for intimate dinners, art auctions and un-plugged sessions with musicians and poets. This is a special and unusual space, where everyone will feel welcome.


Dargle by Numbers

The Annual Game Count was resurrected in our valleys and hills in late June this year.  This time of year was recommended by Ezemvelo because much wildlife congregates on the pastures that farmers have planted (and perhaps irrigated) so they are easier to spot.  We didn’t realise that it would clash with a rugby match or that many people prefer to watch wild men on TV to wildlife on their farms!  Next year, we will host it on a Friday instead.

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Between 5pm and 7pm, Dargle, Lidgetton and Lion’s River residents wrapped up warmly and headed onto their properties to see who shares it.  Some sat quietly in the forest with a flask in hand, while others packed the kids in the car and drove along farm roads with eyes peeled. Afterwards, many people came down to the Lions River Club where EKZNW Honorary Officers, Alan Jack and Caroline Leslie were collating all the exciting sightings and Jeremy Barlow was serving scrummy soup and sherry.

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25 properties participated. Reedbuck, Bushbuck, Oribi, Duiker were the main sightings, with most people concluding that numbers were lower than usual.  Some lucky observers spotted a mongoose, a serval and a genet. Only 5 jackal, 4 porcupine, 2 rabbits and 11 bushpig were seen – we hope there are many more out there.

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At a presentation on Saturday morning, Neville van Lelyveld pointed out the three types of poaching that occur in our area Subsistence, Commercial and Syndicate and explained the differences.

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Brian Jones of SA CAN updated us on their work with anti-poaching and gave everyone who attended a free three month trial of SA CAN services.  Remember to call them with any incident of poaching – they cannot respond to all of them, however it is important to build up a record and if they observe a lot of activity in Dargle, they will focus their attention here.  083 799 1916.  You do not have to give your name.

The Stock Theft Unit of SAPS is now dealing with poaching and wildlife crime, so a really good idea to report to them as well: Warrant Officer DN Kay 083 778 0864.  Save these numbers in your phone now.

Later, on a chilly, moonless evening, Jenny Goddard was part of a small but intrepid group who joined Neville and Hayley van Leyleveld on a 2 hour guided game walk on the Sinclair farm.

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“Unfortunately the wildlife decided not to play ball, and other than hearing a group of reedbuck calling to each other in the dark, our only “sighting” was a stray cow that gave us a massive fright when she appeared in our midst from no-where!  Neville’s interesting anecdotes, the information he gave us on poaching, and his immense knowledge of the flora and fauna of the Dargle kept us intrigued during the walk. We certainly came away very much the wiser.”

On Sunday morning, Katie Robinson hosted a Track, Scat and Snare walk on Lemonwood.

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Due to recent logging activity there was not much animal movement so the group proceeded through the boundary fence onto Iain Sinclair’s property.  First we came across Jackal scat that contained scrub hare and vlei rat fur enabling us to see clearly its natural diet. To everyone’s excitement we found Great Spotted Genet tracks and scat and later, a print in the mud from a Marsh Mongoose – two creatures not often observed.  We also found Bushbuck, Reedbuck and Spurwing Goose tracks during our walk on a really lovely sunny day.


Many thanks to Neville and Hayley van Lelyveld for their enthusiastic efforts to make our Game Count weekend a




Trashionistas Unite to Save the Planet

Recycling is not really going to save us from extinction,

but at least it demonstrates that one is conscious of the unnecessary waste we all produce.  Re-using rubbish may seem quaint now, but there is little doubt that with natural resources already over extracted, mining dumpsites will be the norm in future.  Midlands youngsters are already set to make the most of discarded treasure.


Nearly 50 learners gathered for the Glam Green Occasion of the Season – the annual Dargle Trashion Show – last weekend.  There were coffee cup ball gowns and feed bag suits, plastic packet shorts,  and dog food frocks.   The creativity was nothing short of astounding and everyone had a fabulous time.


Vice Prinipal, Antonia Mkhabela of Shea O’Connor Combined, was startled when she asked her learners to register for the Trashion Show and 63 put their names down!  This school has an impressive environmental ethic and we were thrilled to host the 28 learners whose outfits had impressed Antonia the most.

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Louis Bolton, Celebrity Photographer, had everyone pose before the show began – many of these photos are taken by him. Other photos by Lynne Garbutt and Nikki Brighton.

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Girls and boys strutted their stuff on the ramp, created from farmyard fencing and bunting made from discarded magazines, on the lawn of Lion’s River Club.

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Compere, Eidin Griffin drew attention the tiny details – the earrings, shoes, handbags and trims which may have gone unnoticed in the swirl of colour.

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Maningi Duma (Grade 1 and Kings Primary) stole the show with her exhuberant pasta packet hat and sunny personality.

Celebrity Judges Trayci Tompkins, Andrea Abbot and Caro Richter were entranced and created lots categories to ensure that everyone was rewarded for their ingenuity.

r celebrity judges Trayci Tompkins ZULU LULU, Caro Richter Meander Chronicle,  Andrea Abbott Journalist Country Life

There were The Dapper Lads, The Beautiful Babes and Junior Trash. Prizes were sponsored by Eyakho Green – who give new life to waste, turning advertising banners into bags and shoes and satchels.  Meriel Mitchell made lots of pencil cases and shopping bags from fabric scraps too.

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“What a wonderful event you created. I’m so glad I was there! I met wildly talented and just plain nice people and fell in  love all over again with the creative and inventive creatures scattered around the Midlands,” enthused Caro Richter of the Meander Chronicle.


Mr Recycle, Spesihle Mchunu  (Grade 10 Shea O’Connor School), was their choice for a special prize of a solar lantern for his exceptional costume, topped off with some impromptu dancing!

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Ted Rayner and Sisi Mlalazi (Misty Meadows School) made a dashing couple.


Principal of Misty Meadows, Cassie Janisch said “We had an absolute ball at the Dargle Trashion Show.  I think the effort made by all the participants was fantastic! We are already looking forward to next year… My boys have got some ideas for wire cars from watching the experts this morning.”

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Zandile Sihkahane who facilitates the Sustainable School Programme in Impendle (supported by Dargle Conservancy) was completely inspired. “I wish to do the same thing in Impendle. I have shown the children how to make many things, like wallets, from rubbish, but getting them all together for a competition is a very good idea. We will be here next year.”

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The joint Best Outfits in the Beautiful Babes category was worn by Ashley Nkosana (Grade 8) who had spent hours cutting old plastic bags into strips and weaving them into cloth, and Silindile Zigubu (Grade 11) who wore a tailored dress made of white sacks, decorated with fabric flowers retrieved from the rubbish bin, with bag and shoes to match.

Thandolethu Khanyile’s bottle top detail on her blouse and impressive hat earned her a couple of prizes in the accessories category.

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Sbongile Ndlovu (Grade 12 at Shea O’Connor) works part time in the local tuck shop so collect all the discarded chip packets to turn into her frothy frock.

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Akhona Mchunu had made a delicate parasol (that opened and closed) with discarded sticks and plastic. Really impressive.


Thenjiwe Ngcobo, Principal of Corrie Lynn Primary,  said her children had enjoyed the gathering and had learnt a lot from seeing and hearing what the others had done. “Sharing ideas and skills encourages us all because everyone does things differently.”

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Maureen Mabizela, Principal of Dargle Primary “There was such excitement at school on Monday with everyone sharing their stories. Thank you for inviting us to be part of such an adventurous educational brain development activity!”.  One of the Dargle parents who attended, Thenjiwe Dangazela, said she was sorry that she had not participate before – we will certainly see her at the 2017 event!

Mr Dlamini a teacher at Shea O’Connor was delighted that his his kids were able to put classroom learning into action “The real way to learn!” he quipped. He couldn’t help doing an impromptu dance with little Thandolethu in Grade 3 in her winning outfit.

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Dargle pupil, Nhlanhla Zuma, was very striking in his yellow ensemble. He had made a wire car too which had the ‘best steering’- earning him two prizes!

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Winner of the most colourful AND fastest wire car was Kwandokuhle Ndlovu. Kwandokuhle was the uber cool designer behind many of the glamorous outfits too.

kwandokuhle and car

Judges Barry Downard and Iain Meyer decided that Brandon Chatilsa’s car was the most powerful 4×4.  Jas and Lily Goodwin won the best economy class, Ayanda Mhlongo took the prize for the most technical and Lusanda Zuma got a special mention for his rear cooler box while Syamthanda Mkhize’s car had the best detail.

The Dargle Drag Race was a speedy affair! With Jesse Chantunya entering a Kings classmate, Wandisa’s, car as he couldn’t make it.

wire car kids

An actual recycled husband was spotted in the audience!

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Iona and Luncinda Bate made masses of popcorn and oranges for all the participants to snack on. Iona commented “Huge congratulations, a huge success and such a great turn out. The outfits were amazing and it was gorgeous to see all the girls so proud in their dresses!” Pat Draper suggested to Shea O’Connor Principal, Nicholas Nxumalo, that he encourage everyone to wear Trashion to the Matric Dance rather than spending a fortune of buying an outfit.

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When Antonia Mkhabela got home, her phone kept ringing with parents calling to thank her for organising the excursion for their children who had arrived home with huge smiles and lovely prizes “The parents were so excited, saying they did not think that trash could make such a huge impact. They told me that this has changed their perception about rubbish.” she reported with a grin.

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Gerhard le Roux was pleased he had come along. “I my eyes they were all winners! They were really proud of their creations.It was great to see the excitement. What a fantastic project.”

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Stylish Trayci Tompkins had great fun participating as a judge “The Trashion Show sure is bringing out the creativity in all! Loved seeing the different interpretations and use of recycled ‘waste’.  This is an event that is growing into something quite special.”

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Andrea Abbott, who wrote the Country Life article about last years show and really got the kids inspired when they saw their pictures published, has the last say “I enjoy myself immensely. The children are  wonderful; so confident and creative yet not for a moment holding high opinions of themselves. I wonder if they have any notion of how good they are? To see their designs and talents is to be inspired. Looking forward to Trashion Show 2017!”

As much as 2700 litres of water is used to make a cotton t-shirt and  even more to grow and manufacture a pair of jeans. With water becoming a scarce commodity,  we should all be rethinking our wardrobes – before you toss a packet, cup, bag, roll, hanger or can.



Dargle Trashion Show

July fever gripped Dargle last weekend. Eager boys lined up their wire cars for the inaugural running of the Dargle Drag Race, while local lovelies showed off their individually designed creations.


Members of the Nxamalala Enviro Club, facilitated by Gugu Zuma and supported by Dargle Conservancy, have been finding new and creative ways to use waste.  Crisp packets litter the landscape of many Midlands villages, tetrapak is often burnt and plastic bottles bob in wetlands.  With no municipal collection out this way, the youngsters who are passionate about protecting their environment, came up with fun ways of using the resources that others throw away.

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Nhlanhla Zulu and Nkanyiso Zondi arrived early, their colourful car freshly polished and rearing to go.

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Wandiswa Ndlela of Corrie Lynn School posed in the Autumn light for the paparazzi before the crowds descended.


Press, Celebrities and Trashionistas from across the Midlands arrived for the event of the season – from as far afield as Hillcrest and Mooi River.


Stylish Percy Duma from Dargle School tested out the suspension on his shiny gold car along the Petrusstroom Road. Later in the day, he won the prize for Best Car (a wind up torch).


Luyanda Madlala has always loved making wire cars, with scraps of wire, tops of tins and plastic tubs.  His articulated truck today featured two trailers – ideal for carting horses to the races! He lined up with the rest of the field waiting for their moment in the limelight.

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Nhlanhla Zulu polishes his shoes every morning before school and cleverly used the empty tins as wheels. He was Runner up in the Best Car category.

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Okuhle Zuma clearly really loved his car and received a special commendation for his creativity.

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Dargle locals were really impressed and thoroughly enjoyed their July morning in the sunshine (sans gin and tonic, unfortunately). “I am completely amazed at what these kids have created. Very impressive.”  said Brenda Grant.  “This was the most fun!” added Gilly Nelson, “I was determined not to miss this event.”

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Little Sphumelele Mpungase stole the show with her cool catwalk manner and bright blue wig.  Eidin Griffin, Master of Ceremonies couldn’t resist twirling with her!

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The details on Brandon Shateke’s outfit were gorgeous – sweet wrappers rolled into stars and spotted coffee cups as coat tails.  All foraged from the recycling bins at school apparently.  Brandon said afterwards “I feel really motivated by this event. The concepts of reduce, reuse, recycle make more sense now. It is our responsibility, not someone else’s, to clean up the planet.”


Lyuanda Madlala from Nottingham Road won the prize for the best accessories – with a marvellous mask, waistcoat, fabulous hat and a splendid handbag.


Lindokhuhle Skhosana was resplendent in white, cleverly accented with colour. Her outfit created from feed bags, plastic waste, bottle tops and danger tape.


Lindokuhle was part of a creative team of eight from Shea O’Connor School in Nottingham Road who have been working late nights and over weekends to complete the stunning outfits.  Smartly dressed, Kwandokuhle Ndlovu, designer extraordinaire, was terribly excited to showcase his creations.


Master of Ceremonies, Eidin Griffin chatted to him about his work. “Sometimes, I can’t sleep – my head is so full of ideas. My mom is so pleased to see that the effort I have put in is being appreciated and has earned me the Best Designer Award today.”


Antonia Mkhabela, Life Science teacher at Shea O’Connor School, was full of praise for their efforts.  “I am so pleased to see them using their science and technology knowledge effectively and critically, also showing responsibility towards the environment and the health of others. These are exactly the sort of learners that the CAPS aims to produce – young people who can apply knowledge and skills in ways that are meaningful in their lives.”


Gorgeous Wandisa Ndlela from Nxamalala was the overall winner in the Best Outfit category.  Her grandmother, Deli Zuma who had helped her stitch the costume, was thrilled.

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Then it was time for the Drag Race – the red flag dropped and off they dashed.

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The winner was the late entry blue car that had come up from far along the Petrusstroom road.  Young Nqobani Mpangase happily took home a wind up torch.


For the celebratory feast afterwards, the Bate clan (Lucinda, Iona, Eunice and Emily) sliced fresh, bright oranges and popped plenty of popcorn, served in beautifully made newspaper cups.

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Principal of Corrie Lynn School, Thenjiwe Ngcobo, where the Trashion Show was staged had a lot of fun. “Next year it will be even more interesting” she promised. Plans are already being made for a gala event to coincide with the Dargle Local Market on 3 July 2016. Start planning your trashy outfit  right away!


“What a splendid July celebration!”  said celebrity judge Brandon Powell before dashing off to watch a little Wimbledon and the actual Durban July on TV.

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