Artists make a living out of junk

Scrap metal, worn-out tires, animal skins, exotic seeds and stones appear as junk to the ordinary eye. But for member of the Mabvazuva Vibration Crafts Foundation the mere sound of junk can be equated to the signature on their next pay-check.

Mabvazuva Vibration Crafts Foundation members, Blessing Nyamunda, Ndukwani Simago and Chongleen Marange
Mabvazuva Vibration Crafts Foundation members, Blessing Nyamunda, Ndukwani Simago and Chongleen Marange

“We work wonders with junk. You can put me in any arid maize field and I can find material to make a beautiful art piece,” said Ndukwani Simango, founder of the foundation, which has eight members who specialise in instrumental design, mixed-media, prototype models and foot-works.

They create portraits, instruments, drawings and wares such as wallets, sandals and hand bags, ranging in price from $5 to over a $100. Pieces include the government’s Coat of Arts made in various scrap material, mbiras, models of architectural designs, wood sculptures and handbags made from rabbit fur.

The foundation is a member of the National Gallery of Zimbabwe and exhibits its work at the Mutare Art Gallery. Their most expensive piece was bought for $1,000 at the gallery. Mabvazuva Craft also exhibits at the annual Manicaland Show of Arts.

“We learnt the skill of transforming junk into art through poverty, having failed to secure employment. I came up with the idea back in 1999 but failed to put the idea into motion due to lack of funds. I finally made a breakthrough last year,” said Simango.

“But we are in constant battles with the Environmental Management Agency and National Parks over the natural resources we collect to use in our pieces,” he added. Simango appealed to the EMA to consider that, unlike panners, the craftsmen were putting unwanted natural resources to good use.

“We should be granted permission in writing to use natural resources to better our lives. Surely we can’t be equated to poachers and panners,” he said. He appealed to the local authority to provide a stand to establish a workshop – as the foundation is currently operating at his Sakubva home backyard and the space is limited.

The portrait specialist further revealed that they are also into animal husbandry and keep a total of 63 rabbits, where they derive skins and fur to use for their wares.

Post published in: Arts

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