It was a historic day at Disa Primary School this week as pupils, staff, parents and guests were invited to attend the unveiling of the school’s house shields.
In 2012, Disa’s four houses – Citrine, Aquamarine, Ruby and Emerald – were named by the school’s governing body. Together, the house names form the acronym “CARE”, which the school says is central to its educational ethos.
The shields are designed by Lubi Koorts, a veteran artist whom school principal Gerda van der Westhuizen met several years ago.
In front of a packed audience, Ms Van der Westhuizen explained it had been a long and emotional journey, but one that had enriched her own life as well.
“I met Lubi a few years ago. I sat in our boardroom and shared with her what we were about at Disa. I immediately felt like I had known this person my whole life,” she said.
“Whenever I’m in her company, I become calmer. She inspires me to become a better person. She poured her heart into these shields.”
For Ms Koorts, her own experience with the school had also been an emotional one.
“In August 2015, I was referred to the school to design the shields. At the time, I was caring for my dying husband, who I had been married to for 51 years,” she said.
“I explained my circumstances to Ms Van der Westhuizen, and recommended other artists to her, but she still asked to meet with me. My husband told me that I should go. When I met with Gerda, I told her I was interested, but it was impossible to start on the project at the time, but she assured me that I could continue at my own pace.”
At the end of that first meeting, Ms Koorts asked the principal to sum up Disa in one word, as that was pivotal to the design process. “I looked into her eyes, and she said, ‘care’.”
Ms Van der Westhuizen then sent her criteria the school had in mind, while she rigorously began researching emeralds and precious stones on the internet. “I also asked God to show me what care would look like in these shields.”
In March 2016, Ms Koorts’s proposal was accepted, and so began the painstaking artistic process. She settled on a stylised shield shape, which would be the same for all four houses.
More than a thousand diamond shapes were cut from Shweshwe fabric, and these would be used to fill the respective shields, signifying sparkling gems that occurred within each house.
The colours were also adapted to that of each house.
For the background, squares of different woven fabrics were sewn together, signifying the diverse cultures in history.
Ms Koorts sourced fabrics from all over Cape Town, either dipping into her own extensive “stash” or requesting silks and other materials from supportive friends.
The significance of the shields was not lost on anyone as each was unveiled to loud cheers in the hall, the pupils, in particular, recognising that whenever they participated in competition against one another they would now have a symbol to call their own.