Robin Opperman

by Patrick Kiyemba from Pretoria

Robin Opperman is a living hero for the community of Kwazulu Natal in South Africa...
Local people in the new workshop of UMCEBO (from Robin)
Local people in the new workshop of UMCEBO (from Robin)

My hero is Robin Opperman, who is the founder of UMCEBO FOUNDATION. UMCEBO is an isiZULU word meaning "Treasure." UMCEMBO is a public non profit organization which was established and registered on 22nd May 2003.

UMCEMBO was born out of Robin Opperman's work as a special needs art teacher for 13 years. He has been running this organization for about 14 years. Robin started this organization after noticing, in the special needs school where he worked, that the skills of very talented people were being wasted. These students had no opportunity to develop themselves or to contribute to their communities.

Robin's work with students has provided a working model for UMCEBO. His efforts have led to a strong collaborative relationship with the community as well as various organizations and educational institutions such as National Department of Arts and Culture, Limpopo Arts and Crafts Association, Union of Jewish Women and Rita Marley.

Robin on top left  with some of crafters (from Robin)
Robin on top left with some of crafters (from Robin)

Robin Opperman's work has led to recognition of the UMCEMBO foundation by Local and International organizations like The MY HERO Project, SETA, UKZN Edgewood Cumpus and South African fashion. UMCEMBO aims to take this work further through the establishment of an art work place at ArtSpace Durban on Umgeni Road.

In future UMCEMBO hopes to expand inside their own building where individuals, students and organizations throughout Durban can collaborate in the workshop space in the development of unique arts, crafts and other projects. Basically UMCEMBO's work is to provide the creation of unique art work and functional crafts using a combination of reclaimed waste and other materials. The organization facilitates training, sharing of knowledge, skills and craft production skills. The organization has been offering learnerships, which have full National Qualification Frame work accreditation (NQF), and participates in various public and awareness-generating events which showcase UMCEMBO's project work.

UCEMBO facilitates projects in which local community people are encouraged to participate by bringing in their old beads, wool and other donated recyclable materials. In this informal setting, the sharing of knowledge and the transfer of skills takes place with rewarding results.
Large, free-standing sculpture pieces, using structural wire work, sewing techniques and paintings, are created through the use of shared skills and technical expertise.
Students and community artists and crafters design beautiful, unique mosaic panels, which speak of the lives and experiences of their creators.

Robin Opperman's vision of empowering the special needs individuals in his community, through UMCEMBO's fundamental principles (the sharing of skills, lending of materials and moral support, the encouragement of community visits and the acceptance of donations of recyclable materials), has resulted in a rewarding environment where participants learn to make, market and sell their work to the public. In this way, many previously marginalized people become artists and crafters who are truly independent and valued by the broader community, resulting in the enrichment of all.

Robin's hero is Desmond Tutu because he is interested in true fairness, justice and democracy. He speaks out against injustice, and Robin wishes we had more people like him on the planet. Robin admires people who think beyond themselves and their needs, and who want to work towards justice and a better life for everyone.

Page created on 8/20/2007 9:57:30 AM

Last edited 8/20/2007 9:57:30 AM

Related Links

Desmond Tutu - is Robin Opperman's hero! Here is a MY HERO story by LaDrea from Raleigh, USA

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Robin Opperman is a living hero for the community of Kwazulu Natal in South Africa...