A year and a half ago, at the Lead SA Changemakers conference, a ceramic platter featuring a rhino was given to Advocate Thuli Madonsela. The story attached to it, and all of the other platters under #theplatterproject initiative earned Madonsela’s support, fuelling awareness around this non-profit organisation and their beneficiaries.
Battling end stage kidney failure, mother of three Di Wilkinson chose to do something useful with her time instead of wallowing in self-pity. She began painting endangered animals onto large bisque fired platters, which later became a powerful channel to support organisations in aid of wildlife conservation, education and organ donation.
To this date, despite the challenges of her condition, Di has painted an estimated 40 platters which are essentially gifts of thanks for donations. Raising almost R400,000 from her meticulously painted and very detailed platters, all revenue is funnelled directly to charity organisations such as Nkombe Rhino, Bush Babies Environmental Education, Kidney Beanz and the Wild Tomorrow Fund among others. “We don’t even have a bank account… so donors know that their hard earned money is not being wasted on admin expenses etc., but goes straight to the source of need,” explains Legh Wilkinson, daughter of Di and Platter Project team member.
Di, who has had no formal art training will sit for between 4 to 9 hours a day, depending on how well she feels, to carefully paint the chosen graphics onto each plate, admitting that leopards and pangolins are the most demanding to paint. “I maintain that you can teach someone to paint just as you can teach them any other skill... it's just practice, the more you do, the better you become,” she exclaims.
To add to the long list of names who have supported the initiative, Harry Foster and Elena Jo Duggan (3rd runner up and winner respectively of Master Chef Australia 2016) each call a platter their own. Meanwhile, the voice that Madonsela has given to the project on social media has given it legs.
The team’s belief is to work together to sustain the pulse of #ThePlatterProject, the pulse of those people battling chronic illnesses and lastly, that of our precious wildlife. “The last few years have been incredibly challenging, however, the tenacity and strength our mother demonstrates has inspired not only us (her three children) but many people globally,” Legh adds.