Green mandala crafted for greenbelt

Yonella Tofile, Marion Alexander, supervisor Angelica Tiemie, Shumikazi Mfeketho, Caitlin Von Witt, Fay Howa, Ricardo Abrahams and Eleanor Lewin. work on the project.

Work began this week on a mandala on a Constantia greenbelt.

Botanical conservationist Caitlin von Witt designed the mandala, which has the support of the City’s recreation and parks department and is partly funded by the Friends of Constantia Valley Greenbelts.

As a greenbelt river warden and the owner of FynbosLIFE, which helps to replace alien plant species with indigenous ones, Ms Von Witt said the project was an educational tool.

“It also encourages visitors to the greenbelts to learn about our natural heritage and the rehabilitation work being done on the Constantia greenbelts.”

The first step is for Expanded Public Works Programme staff to clear invasive (kikuyu) grass at Grootboschkloof greenbelt where it joins the bridge on Firgrove Way that crosses the Blue Route.

This took place on Monday June 4 and planting and signage should be complete by end of this month.

A mandala, or “circle” in Sanskrit, represents the universe in Hindu and Buddhist symbolism. Ms Von Witt’s 350m2 design uses the shape of a flower to exhibit indigenous plants in circular patterns.

“It’s about connections and bringing people together, including children, celebrating the link between the land, people and nature,” she said.

“Pathways will allow easy access to view the plants, with a central area for children to play. Educational signs will describe the plants and habitat.

“Hopefully this is the first of many such mandalas in the valley, as well as parks and schools further afield.”

It’s hoped that if the biodiversity mandala at Grootboschkloof greenbelt is successfully established, others will be created at each of the Constantia greenbelts, if funding allows.

River warden Marion Alexander says the mandala is the latest and most visible part of the Friends’ campaign to improve the natural environment of Constantia Valley’s greenbelts.

“We are seeing more people using the greenbelts, and it’s a great place to get to know neighbours. We encourage everyone to take their recycling to the depot behind Constantia Village shopping centre, as part of the funds raised go to projects such is this mandala.”

Ms Von Witt wants to see links between green pockets, creating natural corridors through the urban sprawl, connecting with nature reserves on the Cape Flats and the mountains

Fay Howa, who is the City’s representative for all nine greenbelts, said they helped to clear all alien vegetation from several parts of the greenbelt last year, including a wetlands area near Dennebosch Close.

Those areas had been re-planted with indigenous flora, most of which had survived the severe drought.

Mayco member for safety and security, and social services, JP Smith, said the Constantia Valley greenbelts had been the focus of many ecological rehabilitation projects, where alien plant species have been replaced with indigenous ones.

“These pockets of natural fynbos provide essential ecological corridors for the movement of animals and the natural distribution of plant populations,” he said.

Ms Von Witt hopes the mandalas, together with informative signage, will encourage people to reintroduce indigenous vegetation into their gardens to “provide natural refuge for all forms of wildlife throughout the valley”.

The Friends also help to maintain walking and cycling trails in the greenbelts.

“The more frequent use of these open spaces for all residents, visitors, cyclists, dog walkers, horse-riders and hikers will create a safer environment,” said Ms Alexander.

Contact Colin Walker on colinw@new.co.za to learn more about the Friends of Constantia Valley Greenbelts.