Today is Nelson Mandela’s birthday – 18 July. I chose today to share the story of this incredible woman, Di Wilkinson, because she has chosen to commemorate his birthday in her own amazing way.
I stumbled upon Di Wilkinson’s story on social media.
Hoedspruit, South Africa holds a special place in my heart. I spent many happy school holidays in that area as a kid. The Drakensberg Escarpment provides a dramatic backdrop to the mixed bushveld plains that stretch eastwards. The scenic Blyde River winds its way through the area bringing the waters from the escarpment down to these lowlands. Interesting rock formations abound. This unique mix of habitats supports a wide variety of flora and fauna. It is a place of orchards – citrus, mango and macadamia. It is also a place of game reserves and over the years has become a hub for conservation research and wildlife rehabilitation. There are a number of wildlife rehabilitation centres and orphanages in this area. I follow one of them, the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre, on social media. And this brings me back to Di Wilkinson of The Platter Project.
She is a wonderfully talented artist who produces these beautiful drawings. Most are inspired by the wildlife of Southern Africa but as I mentioned at the start, she is currently sharing a special print with a portrait of the great Madiba.
She “sells” these beautiful pieces – started on platters and is now mostly A3 prints. All the money you pay for her art goes to charity. Specifically charities focused on wildlife conservation, like the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre, and organ donation. A strange combination of causes to support, perhaps, but there is more to her story.
In June 2013 Di was diagnosed with kidney disease. Serious kidney disease requiring dialysis five hours a day, three days a week. Miraculously, in May 2018 she found a compatible donor and underwent a life-saving kidney transplant.
To think of all she has gone through during this time but not she has not given up on life, on her family, on her creativity, on her passion, on community. In fact to still have that generosity of spirit that shares her talent with the world and using it to support lives outside of her own…. Di is a truly an extraordinary woman!
And there will be more to her story too. She will be a partner, a mother, a daughter, maybe a sister, a friend – all those things that make us who we are. But I suspect if we asked her she would simply say she was an ordinary woman just trying her ordinary best in space she finds herself.
I find her creativity spectacular. I find her resilience inspiring. I find her care and generosity moving. I find her “voice” extraordinary.
Be well, Di Wilkinson 💚
Check out her beautiful work on Facebook – The Platter Project or on Instagram @theplatterproject.